A few weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer shared a 24-hour special offering six months of digital access for a dollar. Seemed like that was a one-day only type of thing, but this hit the inbox around 8:45 Tuesday morning:

It’s National Dollar Day, Philly! To celebrate, here’s unlimited access to Inquirer.com, The Inquirer App, and e-Edition for just a buck! This generous offer won’t last long, so tap below to save right now before it’s gone.You’ll also get exclusive content, premium sports coverage, Inquirer columnists, political analysis, restaurant reviews and more.

All for just $1 for 6 months! 

After the six months, it’s “$5.49/week, billed every 4 weeks. No commitment, cancel anytime.” You do have to call them on the phone though, which is annoying.

But yeah, second time in three weeks they’re offering this subscription. Basically giving away the product at this point, so you can’t help but wonder if there’s something more to this. Something obvious that we’re missing. Are they just looking to push subscription numbers any way they can do it? More subs = more sessions = hypothetically more eyeballs on the display ads and video pre-roll (the commercials that run before a piece of footage begins). You could theoretically convert some folks if they like what they read. Throw them a super-cheap get-in price, then they stick around. Some people have also mentioned the idea of collecting data and using it for whatever.

The most simple explanation, of course, is that they’re hoping you sign up and forget to cancel. You read Jeff McLane during football season, then when February comes along, you’re dinged a couple of times on the credit card before remembering that you took the six-month deal back in August. That’s what the Maestro thinks is going on here.

I asked around but didn’t get much concrete information other than a source saying that “subs are terrible right now.” Sometimes orgs will try to artificially inflate subscription numbers for various shareholder reasons, but the Inquirer is a non-profit going through a multi-year shift in approach here, both editorially and business-wise. It’s not like they’re some publicly-traded company trying to trick Wall Street via smoke and mirrors.

Whatever the explanation, the optics continue to look strange. They’ve been doing this for years now, just throwing various promotional sign ups at you, and the cost gets cheaper and cheaper every time. It started with something like 54 weeks for 54 dollars, then it was six dollars for six months, now it’s one dollar for six months. The product has certainly changed since the “Buildings Matter, Too” fiasco, and ensuing purge, but there are a lot of legitimate writers over there still practicing actual journalism and not activism, so the subscription remains worthwhile.