Newsday’s not-so-bold pay gambit
At first glance, Newsday appears to be making a bold move by becoming the biggest newspaper to date to start charging for most of its content on the web after giving it away for free for years. But the move isn’t really that brave.
The newspaper is hedging its bets by taking advantage of its unique position as a division of the predominant cable television provider on Long Island by continuing to give free access to the newspaper website to those who not only subscribe to the print edition but also use the cable service to access the Internet.
This neat trick is beyond the capabilities of most other publishers, who generally don’t own the cable systems in the markets they serve. Other newspapers should take this into account in the event they are inclined to emulate the Newsday experiment. On the other hand, this idea may provide a good reason for enterprising publishers to take the manager of the local cable system to lunch.
As reported here in one of the last free articles at Newsday, the paper plans to start charging users $5 a week for access to its website unless they subscribe to the print edition of the newspaper or access the Net through the cable service provided by its parent, Cablevision Systems.
The combined reach of its newspaper and cable TV businesses means Cablevision already penetrates 75% of the homes in the service area, according to Newsday. It will be interesting to see if this initiative helps Cablevision rope in many stragglers.