The P-I currently has 129,563 daily subscribers who pay $234 a year. Should the same number of people—whether or not they currently subscribe to the P-I—donate the cost of a subscription, annual revenue would be $30.3 million.
...is not gonna happen. And I say that as a subscriber to the P-I, a lifelong reader of daily newspapers, a newspaper reader headed to a marriage counselor the day after the P-I ceases publication. (I want to switch our subscription over to the last local daily standing, Frank's Seattle Times, and the boyfriend won't have it—not after the Bush, McGavick, and Rossi endorsements. He won't have Frank's Seattle Times in the house; the Sunday Frank's Seattle Times, which you have to get with your P-I subscription, like it or not, goes straight from the porch to the recycling bin.)
Those of us who still subscribe to a daily paper aren't just buying the news. We're buying the experience, the rituals, of taking a daily paper. We're paying to hear the thud on the porch in the early morning, we're paying to have the news placed in front of us without our having to download it—it's there, unavoidable, every day, on the porch. Skip a day, and it's still sitting there, waiting for us to read it or recycle it. A newspaper is not just another website we have to remember to check out every day. We're also paying for the feel of the newsprint in our hands, the ink on our fingers, and, yes, we're paying for journalism—the castrated daily variety (objective journalists! family newspaper!)—but all of it's old news by the time it hits the porch. But it's old news a form that you can fold and mutilate, carrying around with you, leave on the back of the toilet, or on the bus, write on, news you can skim not scroll through. All of that plus journalism is worth $234 a year for rapidly shrinking group of dead-tree-news fans. But I'll switch to the Seattle Times—and risk divorce—before "subscribing" to a P-I website that offers me the news but not the newspaper experience.