After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday's Web Site
By John Koblin
January 26, 2010 | 3:04 p.m
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.
That astoundingly low figure was revealed in a newsroom-wide meeting last week by publisher Terry Jimenez when a reporter asked how many people had signed up for the site. Mr. Jimenez didn't know the number off the top of his head, so he asked a deputy sitting near him. He replied 35.
Michael Amon, a social services reporter, asked for clarification.
"I heard you say 35 people," he said, from Newsday's auditorium in Melville. "Is that number correct?"
Mr. Jimenez nodded.
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.
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.
"We're the freebie newsletter that comes with your HBO," sniffed one Newsday reporter.
Mr. Jimenez was in no mood to apologize. "That's 35 more than I would have thought it would have been," said Mr. Jimenez to the assembled staff, according to five interviews with Newsday staffers.