Why are old news more expensive than new?

In January, Dan Gillmor wrote about the idea that newspapers that currently charge a premium for access to its article archives will open the archives to the public “free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins”. And last year, Adam L. Penenberg in Wired questioned the rationale behind New York Times charging $2.95 for old news while today’s news are free (or at least some articles are free on the web).

When you think about it, the Times may have it backward. It charges $1 for the latest news in print, and offers it free over the Web, but for old material demands $3, which is three times the price of an entire newspaper.

Another example of “creative” pricing of media can be found at the site www.buyandread.com where you can purchase archived copies of primarily Norwegian dailies, but also a few Swedish like Upsala Nya Tidning. Purchasing Upsala Nya Tidning in the store will cost you 12 SEK (€ 1,33) but a PDF of an old copy will set you back 18 SEK (€ 2,00) which is a 50% premium for a product that is:
– old
– already produced
– distributed at a lower cost (close to free)
– has no cost for printing
– competes with the free archive on www.unt.se

The contribution margin for an archived copy should logically be many times higher and allow for a lower price, even at a much smaller volume. It would be interesting to hear what kind of revenues UNT bring in via buyandread.com.