Pros and cons of digital newspaper subscriptions

The author switched from a paper to a digital newspaper subscription. Find out the benefits and details involved.

To paraphrase "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes, I was tired of my paper subscription to the Boston Globe; it had had too many problems for too long. Missed or delayed deliveries, papers lost in the snow (of which we've had no shortage in New England this winter), and the annoying need to schedule vacation stops/restarts for delivery made the experience cumbersome. My wife and I are both from New York State so when we visit family canceling the paper is just one more step in an endless list of chores.

Furthermore, I didn't like the explosion of circulars (especially around the holidays) or the wasted sections of the newspaper which I never read. We recycle, but it seemed crazy to pull out half the paper and immediately dump it in a bin. Yes, I sometimes keep the paper for painting projects or lighting the firepit, but that's what drop cloths and kindling wood are for.

On the other hand, my kids and I like reading the comics at lunch on the weekends, and I kept the paper around in case they needed to reference it for school. These two factors kept me on the fence, then I finally realized these are silly reasons to cling to paper - gocomics.com has plenty of free comics available (and we all have tablets to read them on) and my kids do all their research online anyway.

The decision

So I decided to cut the cord and switch to a digital-only newspaper subscription. I'd be able to read the paper on any computer, smartphone or tablet, and instead of paying $32/month it would only cost $3.99 per week. In fact, since I had to cancel my existing account and open a digital-only account I could benefit further from the introductory rate of .99/week for the first four weeks. Score!

One quick phone call and the deal was done. I enrolled in the new digital subscription online and within a few minutes had access to the subscriber section of the Globe site.

Exploring the interface

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Image: Scott Matteson

The Globe makes it easy to find material of interest and read it online; sections are laid out horizontally across the top of their page.

Accessing the site on my smartphone browser is possible, though it's a bit clunky.

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Image: Scott Matteson

For ease of access I can navigate to the sections of the paper which interest me (hint: technology):

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Image: Scott Matteson

It's also possible (for PCs and mobile devices alike) to access the "epaper" version of the site at epaper.bostonglobe.com which is a digital replica of the actual printed newspaper. Here's how it looks on a full-sized monitor.

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Image: Scott Matteson

And here's how it looks on my smartphone, which displays a mobile-friendly interface:


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Image: Scott Matteson

The Globe provides an even more comprehensive way to access their news stories, however: the Boston Globe epaper app, available for both iOS and Android. The app provides a full copy of the newspaper on your smartphone or tablet; you can flip pages, go directly to sections of interest and schedule the automatic download of content so you can read the paper without requiring internet access (such as on a car trip).

I installed the epaper app on my Samsung Galaxy S5 and fired it up:

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Image: Scott Matteson

Granted, the screen size makes it a bit difficult to read the entire page at once, but of course you can zoom in, zoom out and use their features section to locate stories of interest.

Reading the epaper on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is a much better experience than on my smartphone. Here's how it looks when I browse all pages:

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Image: Scott Matteson

As with the site itself, I can access the contents to pick and choose my reading material:

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Image: Scott Matteson

I enjoy book reviews, and a recent article about several art books was displayed on my tablet with crisp text and vivid images:

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Image: Scott Matteson

My eyes have been kicking around for 40+ years, so they appreciate when I zoom in on segments of the page I'm reading, which is a breeze to perform on my tablet:

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Image: Scott Matteson

And, of course, the lunchtime ritual of reading the comics remains fully intact in my house.

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Image: Scott Matteson

No looking back

Making the switch to a digital paper subscription was a great idea with almost no drawbacks. I can read the paper anywhere (I brought my tablet to the pool recently, whereas before I would have had to lug the paper around), I don't have to wait for a carrier stuck or delayed in a storm, and I've already seen a big drop in the amount of material we recycle. I have even found that I'm more interested in online articles and spend more time reading and less time hurrying through the paper, thinking "I've got to finish this paper before bed." The Globe lets you keep downloaded issues on your devices indefinitely, as far as I can tell, and recent back issues are also available.

I applaud the Globe for their forward-thinking approach to content delivery. They make it easy and fun for people to read their articles in a digital format, with a fair price that establishes the value of the content while keeping the customer engaged. It shows that the switch from print to digital media need not spell out doom for large newspapers that remain tech-savvy and committed to evolution.

There's just one hitch to a digital only newspaper, however:

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Image: Scott Matteson

How the heck am I supposed to write on my screen?

Oh well, I guess there are crossword puzzle and Sudoku apps out there, too.

By Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.