Newsday, the Long Island daily, has attracted just 35 online-only subscribers to its website since it was put behind a pay wall last October, according to an article published yesterday in the New York Observer.
While only a few dozen have opted for the internet specific plan, which costs $5 a week or $260 a year, that figure does not take into account the print subscribers and Optimum Online customers in New York who already have free access to newsday.com. Optimum Cable is owned by Cablevision; who purchased Newsday for $650 million in May of 2008. Newsday estimates that 75 percent of Long Island either has a print subscription or Optimum Cable.
In a statement to Paid Content, a Newsday representative explained the low figure, "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 newsday.com 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. 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."
The recent website re-launch for the paywall cost Cablevision $4 million. With 35 subscribers, they have recouped only $9,000 of their investment. Traffic to the website has fallen as well. Newsday.com had 1.5 unique hits in December, down from 2.2 million in October.
The number of online-only subscriptions was announced during a newsroom meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez in response to a reporter's question. "That's 35 more than I would have thought it would have been," said Jimenez to his staff.
While some might be quick to point to the example of Newsday just days after the New York Times announced its plan for a pay meter, the caveats make for a difficult comparison. However, a figure as miniscule as 35 is still worrying for many in the industry.