Vikings fans: Will you pay $19.95 annually to chat with Star Tribune beat reporters, read the paper’s columnists and ex-Vike Matt Blair’s blog, and click through Purple postgame photo galleries?
The Strib has just announced pricing for its Access Vikings paywall, which will apparently kick in any day now. (No date is mentioned online.) For those not convinced of the team’s Super Bowl inevitability, there’s also a three-month, $5.95 option, which will almost get you through the regular season.
So, is it a good deal?
While the biggest problem remains — tons of competing stuff remains free — the Strib folks lived up to previous promises of affordability. The $5.95 price works out to two bucks a month, and the $20 yearly rate is a third below what the Strib charged in 2002, when its previous Vikings paywall collapsed.
Still, putting aside professional obligations, this not-quite fanatic fan is genuinely undecided about paying. I’m a print subscriber, so it would piss me off to fork over for any Reusse/Souhan/Craig content I already buy. I don’t give a damn about Blair’s blog; ex-player blathering is everywhere. I’ve enjoyed the beat guys’ chats, and the photographers’ shots, but there would have to be a whole lot of unique web-only content to justify another fee, even a low one.
Seven years ago, the Strib nabbed only about 1,000 Purple Plus subscribers; that would bring in a mere $20,000 at the new rate. Of course, officials hope for higher demand with the team playing well, but even 10,000 fanatics would only bring in $200,000 — perhaps 1 percent of the newsroom’s payroll.
But if nothing else, the price seems set as a real-world test of how well an obsessive-filled local niche can cash-flow. Which got me thinking about online sports content I do pay for.
I’m an ESPN Insider, but that comes bundled with an ESPN magazine subscription I bought my son. One of the best $10 I spent this year was for Major League Baseball’s iPhone App, which not only provides a season’s worth of instant scores, pitch-by-pitch charting and home/away audio, but nearly real-time video highlights and in some cases, real-time video of the games themselves.
Otherwise, I save my coin for Twins tickets, and haven’t forked out for a Vikings game in years. But there are 60,000 who beat a Metrodome path to see Zygi’s heroes, and countless more who wish they could. It will be interesting to see how the Pioneer Press, KFAN and others exploit the Strib’s newly erected turnstile, and whether the fans even care.