Newsday Pay Wall Experiment Failing

newsday-screencapNewsday‘s experiment with putting its content behind a pay wall isn’t going so well.

In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?

So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com?

The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.

[…]

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.

Now, to be fair, the figure is artificially low.

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.

And the paper’s publisher doesn’t seem upset.

“That’s 35 more than I would have thought it would have been,” said Mr. [Terry] Jimenez to the assembled staff, according to five interviews with Newsday staffers. “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.

So, 35 people paying is more than the zero from three months ago.  Super.  But . . .

In December, the web site had 1.5 million unique visits, a drop from 2.2 million in October, according to Nielsen Media Online.

Presumably, a loss of a third of one’s Web traffic will cost more in advertising revenue than the $9000 grossed from these subscribers? Then again, it would appear that the paywall decision is the least of the new management’s boneheaded moves.

And, my word, this has to be the worst newspaper website design I’ve ever seen.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bill H says:

    I don’t know how typical I am, but I spend a whale of a lot of time on the web, and I’ve never even heard of Newsday. I suspect their potential is a lot smaller than the NYT, and $5/week is an ungodly high rate to be charging for “what the hell is Newsday?” I’m not sure I would be all that quick to suggest this as a signal of what will happen to the New York Times.

    That being said, I doubt that paid subscriptions on the Internet are going to be a smashing success.

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