How much does a San Francisco Chronicle subscription cost?

The San Francisco Chronicle charges for subscriptions. How much does a subscription cost? This is an impossible question to answer, even for current subscribers. The Chronicle advertises several different prices for new subscribers.

The only public information the Chronicle shares about its permanent subscription rates raises more questions than answers.

Chronicle pricing

No one at the Chronicle has ever read through this section.

  • The digital-only rate is $34.50 per week, which means that it is about twice the price of getting the Chronicle delivered to your house every single day.

  • If you get the Chronicle delivered, you can get a free digital subscription so you if you want a digital subscription you should opt for delivery.

  • The "home delivery" prices are listed twice and you have to look particularly close to figure out that one of them includes a digital subscription.

  • No one is paying, or going to pay, $34 a week for digital access to the Chronicle!??

I only started looking into this because after three years, the Chronicle decided to more than double the price of my subscription, from $149 a year to $358 per year. The terms of service say that they are supposed to notify me when they change the price ("We will notify you of any changes if the regular fee for your subscription changes from what was stated at the time of your initial order."). They sent no notification, the first I found out was on my credit card bill.

How much I paid for
the Chronicle

I then tried to find any public information the Chronicle had posted about its subscription pricing, whether they had announced recently that they were raising their prices to invest in the newsroom, anything.

The only thing I found was that FAQ page that says a digital subscription costs $34 a week. This is the only public information anywhere that the Chronicle offers about its rates. There is no notion of a "subscription plan." I couldn't really believe this, so I called the Chronicle customer service line. They confirmed that the Chronicle could decide at any time to charge you $34 per week, or about $1800 per year, for a Chronicle subscription, and anyone who got a lower price than that was just lucky to have it.

By contrast the New York Times clearly shows the introductory price and the standard price.

The Washington Post also clearly explains how much you are going to pay.

By contrast someone at the Chronicle must have looked at my 3 year old subscription and decided I should pay more and charge me for that, without any notification, or justification, or even explanation that "this is the rate most people are paying."

Anyway, if you are a Chronicle subscriber you should be aware that:

  • The Chronicle can and will change the price of your subscription at any time

  • According to the Chronicle, everyone who buys a subscription is getting a discount from the $1800/year rate, and should feel lucky.

  • The Chronicle will not tell you why you're paying the rate you're paying.

Liked what you read? I am available for hire.

3 thoughts on “How much does a San Francisco Chronicle subscription cost?

  1. Seamus

    Thank you for all the info. I too had a suscription of 149.00 for years but today they raised price to 359.00 without any notification. They say they sent email which I never received. However I called and told them I was going to cancel if new price was charged so they gave me the old suscription for the year. I just need to watch out at renewal date every year!!

  2. Anthony L. Barreiro

    Thanks for doing this research. I just got my annual bill for a digital subscription to the Chronicle. Last year I thought twice about paying $207.48 for a one year digital subscription. This year it’s $360.36! Almost a dollar a day for a digital subscription. I want to support my local newspaper, but at some point I’m going to cut them off.

  3. David Fairley

    I just got off the phone with the Chron. Previously I’d paid $101.45 for a 2-year subscription. I asked why they were suddenly charging me $360.36 for one year. After some back and forth, the person on the other end offered me a $155 annual subscription. We’ll see.

    There’s something pretty shady about this. Are they thinking that other subscribers will unthinkingly pay the much higher price? Given that the top US papers charge less, you have to wonder.


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