After 3 months, Newsday's web site gets 35 subscribers

In October Newsday (a Long Island daily paper that was sold for $650 million) began charging for online access. The price is $5 per week. In three months 35 people have subscribed.
The web site redesign and relaunch cost the Dolans $4 million, according to Mr. Jimenez. With those 35 people, they've grossed about $9,000.

In that time, without question, web traffic has begun to plummet, and, certainly, advertising will follow as well.

After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday's Web Site

35

  1. 35 people x $5/wk x 3 Months x 4 weeks/month = $2100

    How did they magically convert that to grossing about $9000?

  2. Ouch and ouch again. The newspaper I work for has at least 9,000 online subscribers and that is for a paper with a print circulation of 30,000 daily. Note to the Newsday’s publisher: it’s called seppuku. Look into it and take your ad director with you. Honorable, yet newsworthy. That doesn’t happen all that often.

  3. My first thought was to go to Newsday and see what their website says, but I’m at work and can’t remember my password, nor care enough to bother recovering it.

  4. Charging for anything but premium content on the web is futile. News will never bear a premium – there will always be a free source for public information.

    People will pay for non-public (insider) information or for what they consider to be premium entertainment (see: cable TV). However, even these may largely die out. Production value of free content is constantly improving. I believe we will reach a point where there is sufficient high-quality free content that pay content is smothered. People only have so much time in a day to fill with media consumption. As the quality of content increases and the amount of high-quality content increases, the incentive to pay disappears. People will consume increasing amounts of free content until there is no time left to consume any pay content.

    The premium information model faces a different problem. It only takes one paid subscriber to disseminate the premium information and the value drops to zero.

    I think the future of pay-entertainment will be limited to things that are prohibitively expensive or time-consuming to be done for free (such as feature-length movies) or experiences with built-in scarcity (such as concert or theatre performances).

  5. $5 a week? I could get a real ink and paper newspaper for less if I subscribed to it, and I would feel more satisfied. I guess they decided to charge their cover price for their online subscriptions in spite of not needing the cost of publishing and distributing?
    I’d also be curious if some of those subscribers are people who refer to it for work purposes? Or people who know someone at the paper?

  6. >>> “Given the number of households in our market that have access to Newsday’s Web site as a result of other subscriptions, it is no surprise that a relatively modest number have chosen the pay option,” said a Cablevision spokeswoman.

    According to the article, there’s a lot of “free” subscriptions that come with having a cablevision contract or other affiliations, and they didn’t expect many direct subscribers.

  7. I think part of the problem is that $5 a week is an absurd amount of money to charge for web access to one newspaper. $5 a MONTH, fine. Even $10 (or $9.99) a month. But for $5 a week—over $20 a month—I can get a real paper delivered to my house.

  8. Got to go *local*. I look to Pojoaque News as a great example of successfully re-imaging newspapers. It writes to / about the Pojoaque Valley (on the Nambe river north of Santa Fe, east of Los Alamos, south of Espanola, New Mexico) and advertises for biz in the region. It seems to be working out well — it’s small, but it’s profitable. (I’m also partial to it because my grandad’s poem “Threads” was published there last September…).

  9. From the article:

    “Of course, there are a few caveats. Anyone who has a newspaper subscription is allowed free access; anyone who has Optimum Cable, which is owned by the Dolans and Cablevision, also gets it free. Newsday representatives claim that 75 percent of Long Island either has a subscription or Optimum Cable.”

    So, if their reps are to be believed, 75% of the population of Long Island already has free access to the restricted area(s) of the Newsday site. Puts that 35 in a new light, no?

  10. Note that the print subscription, which costs less than the online-only subscription, includes online access. It’s a pricing model designed to drive people towards print subscriptions, and it’s not surprising that few people would chose the online-only route. It’s actually weird that anyone would chose the online-only route.

  11. Oh, geesus, you’re putting me in the decision of defending a small part of Newsday and Cablevision’s business decisions and operations. But it must be done, as this is a quite misleading story.

    As a result of Cablevision purchasing Newsday, all Cablevision subscribers and Newsday print subscribers have free online access. That represents a reported 75 percent of all Long Island residents, the market for Newsday.

    If you don’t subscribe to Newsday or get cable, you’re probably very unlikely in the readership target for Newsday anyway. So why would you pay? You’re reading the New York Times or USA Today.

  12. When did the newspaper industry decide free was a bad model? I mean, can you imagine if the TV news industry decided to charge you for watching?

      1. Sure, people paid for newspapers for 150+ years, but they’ve gotten TV news for free for at least 60 years now.

        Times change, and business models either adapt or disappear.

  13. “But for $5 a week—over $20 a month—I can get a real paper delivered to my house”

    for that price i get 1 months of dsl service. said service provides the whole internet why would i pay that much for reading a single newspaper?

    fun fact:

    here in Greece (where we are all cheapscates and we pirate everything) is in course a weird revolution that no one seems to have noticed.

    newspaper sales are down, music sales are down and dvd sales are down. so here is what they came up with. all newspapers come out with 2 DVDs a day for around 2 euros. i own more than 500 ORIGINAL licenced DVDs that came free with the paper. including LOTR extended and the Matrix Trilogy. Sunday papers include a music CD too and/or a book . and i am not talking about old public domain films or back catalogue music. one popular greek songwriter released his brand new album bundled with a newspaper (that paid for the exclusive) without surcharge.

    strange that Cory never reported on this.

      1. only that here they are giving away cd-dvds since like 2002. this is not a famous artist experiment aimed to piss off big labels but a regular matter of fact business. everybody does it. not everybody as in every hipster but as every major (and less major) paper and magazine. actually nobody buys a giftless paper or magazine anymore (those are free). if you check an average newsstand in Greece it is more of a mini market.

        mags and papers offer anything from free cds to free cellphone chargers, ipod cases, tshirts and various other paraphernalia. i got a free leatherman-type multitool with a magazine (focus).

        around here its common use to expect a free gift with your dead tree paper.

        i got all seasons of black adder in dvd in a slick case for 4 euros total (actually bought 2 sets of that), and the LOTR trilogy for even less. all legal. and i have the photos to back it up in case you think i am BSing you . copyright is something stupid westerners pay for. if we Greeks can get blockbusters for almost free why pay for iTunes? and why can’t you get what we have since forever?

        1. Prices are incredibly low in places like Greece, India, China, South America, etc primarily because of the incredibly high rates of piracy in those (and other) places.

          Studios figure they may as well get a pittance compared to the “Western” sales in those regions than nothing.

          1. you say it as it if was something bad instead of how things should be everywhere. if prices can be extremely low here they can be low everywhere.

            even though they are not actually low. new cds cost 25euros and console games 50-60 so we are actually in line with the euro zone. the newspaper offers are the only difference.

  14. You get it for free if you’re a cablevision subscriber? Make it 34 then. I’ve been wasting $5 a week for the past couple months.

  15. For those saying you could get a “real” paper for that price, the problem here is that there are people who don’t want a “real” paper. I don’t. I HATE newspapers. I hate having to deal with the giant sheets of paper, the newsprint rubbing off in my hands, somebody stealing it off my lawn/porch/mailbox, and the hassle of storing and recycling it. Then there’s the idiocy of having sections printed that I never read — the stocks section, the obits, etc. It feels so wasteful. And there’s nothing sadder in the world than an unread newspaper … the day after most of its content was relevant.

    That said, I agree $20 a month is too much for a news subscription — but I’d say so regardless of whether it’s electronic or physical.

  16. Some folks are pointing out the large number of free subscriptions. Indeed, I have one since I get the dead-tree version of the paper.

    But I think that misses the point.

    They invested $4 million, have cut their page views which hurts their advertising and, in the end it has brought in a pittance of subscriptions.

    They could have saved the $4 million, kept their page views and advertising up _just by doing nothing_. Maybe the $4million could have been used to keep some of the columnists and reports who I find myself missing.

  17. The biggest problem with the site is the fact that it’s so badly designed and bloated that it’s almost unusable. They went overboard with the “Web 2.0” I went from checking it 2-3 times a day to 2-3 times a week.

  18. Newsday already gives away access to their online site to all subscribers of the print version of their paper as well as to many Cablevision subscribers. They also had the highest circulation numbers for all suburban newspapers in the US and the 11th highest circulation numbers overall in the US in 2009. Because of this, measuring the success of their online version is a little more complicated than comparing their investment with their pay-per-week subscriptions because that does not take into account the number of traditional subscribers that they might have retained as a result of offering access to their website as a value-added freebie.

    I’d agree that $5 per month for access to a paper that is primarily of interest to two counties in NY seems excessive (I wouldn’t pay it anyway), but making that content exclusive may help them make site access a more marketable part of their traditional newspaper subscription or cable TV sale. I can just imagine their sales pitch now: “By subscribing now, you’ll also get access to Newsday Online and save over $250 per year!”

    They’re mostly a regional paper anyway….I can’t imagine anyone outside of Long Island being willing to pay even $1 per month for access, much less $5 per week.

  19. As I understand it, newspapers aren’t directly charging for the newspaper, they’re charging for distribution. Their advertisers are the customers and the product is their readership. Similarly, TV news isn’t free, it requires you to buy a TV first.

  20. I hate, hate, hate the Newsday paywall.

    I also think I can shed light on why anybody from off of Long Island would want to get past it: New York Islanders coverage. Katie Strang of Newsday has the best access to the team and the all around best coverage. In many cases, it’s the only place to find out what’s going on unless someone posts an update to a third party blog.

    So…yeah. If you’re a former New Yorker who is masochistic enough to root for the Islanders, you’re basically screwed. Not, you know, that I’m bitter or anything.

  21. Pfft. I didn’t even use the Newsday site when it was free. It was terrible, hard to search, and not nearly as effective as paying the $.50 at the newstand so I could flip through and find what I wanted.

    As a former Long Islander, I do occasionally miss Newsday, since it was the paper I grew up with, so I’ll pick one up when I’m really missing it. However, so many cities have FREE papers, that its easier to just pick one of those up. In NYC, (and, I just discovered, in other big cities like Philly) there is the Metro, which I enjoy. It gives me just enough news about whats going on in the city to keep me happy, coupons for places I’ll use, and a decent cross word to keep me entertained on the train. For free. And then if something really interests me, I can just get a more in depth article on line.

    And 5$ a week is excessive for an online version of a paper. If I got the paper every day in print, its about 3.50$ a week, give or take, and lots of people don’t even read it every day. Heck, I’d rather spend that 5$ for the weekend New York Times.

    Or, you know, we could all just go to the library, borrow THEIR copy of the paper for free and read it there. Gotta love the library.

  22. Don’t forget that Long Island is one giant suburb of New York City, and Queens and Brooklyn, being on the geographic island of Long Island, are two of the five boroughs of New York City. That’s a lot of subscribers, but I think for most of them, they’d prefer to get the dead-tree edition.

    And zio_donnie… A Greek talking about “you Westerners”? Isn’t that like a tree root talking about “you leaves”? :D

    1. “A Greek talking about “you Westerners”? Isn’t that like a tree root talking about “you leaves”? :D”

      hah. you see we love to point out that we invented the western world, but we do not actually want to be part of it if it means paying for stuff. in that case we pull out our proud oriental heritage of paying less possible for anything unless it is a status item in which case we will pay double for it.

  23. “As a result of Cablevision purchasing Newsday, all Cablevision subscribers and Newsday print subscribers have free online access. That represents a reported 75 percent of all Long Island residents, the market for Newsday.”

    No, only Optimum Online customers get access; cable TV-only customers are shut out.

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