By Katherine NoyesRoughly a year ago we saw OKCupid begin accepting Bitcoins as payment for its digital subscriptions, and last week what appears to be the first major US newspaper to follow suit did as well. The Chicago Sun-Times announced on Thursday that subscribers can now use Bitcoins to pay for their print and digital subscriptions, thereby continuing what the newspaper calls its “digital first” strategy.”Our goal is to keep the Sun-Times current and evolving with changing technology,” said Jim Kirk, the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief. “Accepting Bitcoin payments is one of many ways we are working to stay digitally focused.”
Following its tests with a Bitcoin paywall in February, the company is now using the Coinbase platform to enable its handling of Bitcoins. “Coinbase seamlessly helped us through the technological integration of accepting Bitcoin payments,” said Julian Posada, the paper’s executive vice president of marketing and strategy. “Their simple process is easy to work with, and we are pleased by how quickly our subscribers could begin paying in Bitcoin.”As of Monday, the exchange rate is one Bitcoin to about US$446. We tested out trying to purchase a daily-delivery subscription with the Sun-Times, normally priced at $227.88 annually, and were instructed to send 0.50976756 BTC as payment. Both a QR code and a link to Coinbase were included as options for enabling that payment.It was just a few months ago that eCommerce processor WorldPay predicted that credit and debit card processing will make up less than half of online transactions by 2017, giving way to alternative payments like bank transfers, direct debits, e-wallets, mobile payments and alternate currencies like Bitcoin. Bitcoins have, of course, been the subject of considerable controversy of late. On the other hand, there are considerable advantages to be had using them — perhaps most notably the fact that transaction fees can be lower than 1 percent.