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Newsday‘s Pay Wall Experiment Yields Disappointing Results

newsnews234.jpgNo matter how you try to sugarcoat it, trying to make people pay for online news content isn’t easy. And Long Island daily Newsdayalready dealing with its fair share of negotiation problems between owner Cablevision and its staff — may now have to come to terms with the fact that its decision to put a $5 a week/$260 a year price tag on its site was a bad move.

According to John Koblin in The New York Observer, only 35 people have subscribed to pay for the site. And while it’s easy to mock those numbers, we’re more interested in why: is it because the people who pay to subscribe for sites usually do so in a national context (while Newsday is a local paper)? Is it the high price tag (or the hole in the pay wall)? Or is it that the content that Newsday puts out could be found elsewhere for free on the Internet? Or, most likely, is it because everyone who would read the content on Newsday‘s site can already access it as a subscriber of the print edition or a Cablevision customer?

Update: A spokesperson from issued FishbowlNY the following statement:

“Millions of Cablevision customers in the New York tri-state area and 75 percent of Long Island households, including all Newsday home delivery subscribers, now have exclusive access to at no additional charge. Internal research shows that Newsday’s Web site is an extremely popular new benefit to hundreds of thousands of Long Island Cablevision households.”

Read More: After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday’s Web SiteThe Observer

Previously: A Hole In Newsday’s Pay Wall, Sees Pay Wall-Induced Drop In Traffic , Newsday Staffers Vote Against Cablevision’s “Horrible and Unprecedented” Proposal

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A Hole In Newsday‘s Pay Wall

newsday.jpgCablevision‘s decision last October to put their Long Island paper Newsday behind a pay wall led to a lot of skeptics raising their eyebrows. After all, most newspapers that have tried charging for their online content have been major news organizations like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, or niche publications like entertainment trade mag Variety.

And so far, the prospects have seemed grim: has seen a major dip in traffic, both from month-to-month and compared to last year, which has led to the paper having to issue statements to calm jittery advertisers. Newsday itself is currently in tense negotiations with its editorial union, which is expected to have to take a 10 percent pay cut. And to make matters worse, it was just discovered that ex-Cablevision subscribers using inactive accounts have been able to bypass the $5-a-week fee through a loophole in their service plan.

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Pay Walls And Advertisers: Do News Orgs Have To Choose?

wsj222.jpgWhen Long Island local newspaper Newsday decided to put its Web site behind a pay wall earlier this year, it seemed like an obvious conclusion that there would be less people visiting the site. If you start charging for a previously free item, your consumer-base is going to drop.

If this seems like common sense to most people, did everything in its power to convince the media that the 34 percent dip in its traffic once it enacted a pay wall was due to anything but the obvious $5 a week premium charge.

So why all the denial? still keeps advertising on its Web site, which creates two potential revenue streams for the publisher. Unfortunately, without readers swiping their cards for the site, Newsday‘s advertisers aren’t getting what they paid for in potential consumers.

Read more Sees Pay Wall-Induced Drop In Traffic

newsday1042.jpgCommon sense would seem to dictate that when you start charging online readers for access to your content, you’ll see a major decrease in traffic. Obviously, not every reader is going to take out his wallet when you start putting previously free articles behind a pay wall.

Yet, Newsday, which recently started charging $5 a week for to non-subscribers, is looking for any other answer besides the obvious one.

November saw a 34 percent drop in traffic from the month before for the site once it put up a pay wall, and a 35 percent decrease from last November. But Newsday is claiming that last November was a fluke, just an unusually high month of online traffic caused by the 2008 presidential race and murder of a local teacher.

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Newsday Columnist Takes A Stand Against Paid Content

3814467826.jpgWe’ve known since February that was going to be put behind a paywall so its parent company Cablevision could see if any of that Wall Street Journal magic could rub off on them and actually get users to pay for online content. Two weeks ago, the company announced its payment plan: $5 a week for full access to their online edition, unless you were already a subscriber to the Long Island paper or its parent company’s Optimum Internet service. And considering that Newsday‘s most recent circ numbers have fallen 5.4 percent, Cablevision can use all the extra cash from the publication it acquired last year that it can get.

But not all writers agree: Saul Friedman, a columnist at Newsday for over a decade, quit the paper last week in protest of the publication’s paywall, which went into effect last week. Friedman’s column in the paper, “Gray Matters,” dealt with the topic of aging, ironically something that print journalism can’t seem to find a way to do gracefully as more and more consumers turn to the Internet for free content.

Friedman’s full memo about his reasons for leaving, posted on Romenesko, after the jump.

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Newsday Prepares To Go Behind Paywall Next Week

newsday1022.jpgCablevision-owned Long Island paper Newsday is preparing to go behind a paywall on October 28.

Although Newsday announced plans to charge for its online content earlier this year, we just noticed a note about it on the site this morning.

Access to will be free to current Newsday subscribers as well as those who get their Internet access through Cablevision’s Optimum Online, and the site is currently asking all visitors to register before the paywall goes up. Anyone else will have to pay $5 a week for limited access to the site, and there will also be an e-edition option that will cost $19 for a four-week subscription to $195 for a year.

Newsday has made a number of changes in recent months, updating its logo and front page and revamping its Web site. Last month, the paper’s publisher Tim Knight resigned from his post, and Terry Jimenez, the publisher of amNewYork, the free paper also owned by Cablevision, was appointed to take his place.

Earlier: Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle To Start Charging For Online Content