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35 Subscribers Just Can't Be Wrong

Mike SteffanosFriday, February 12, 2010
By Mike Steffanos

In November I wrote a piece about the Dolan's decision to charge $5 per week to access Newsday's website for anyone who wasn't a print subscriber or a customer of the Cablevision's Optimum Online cable internet (also owned by the Dolans).

I knew I wasn't going to be paying $260 a year for the five minutes a day I spent on Newsday.com. I sincerely miss Ken Davidoff's baseball stuff and David Lennon's terrific beat coverage, but nothing that has happened in the last two months has caused me to reconsider for a second. The cost was far above the value I placed on a few minutes a week reading those guys.

Still, I recognize that other folks would make their own decision on the perceived value of accessing Newsday's online content, and I thought that Newsday.com would attract a fair amount of subscribers, particularly from among folks in the paper's coverage area who didn't have Newsday delivered nor cable internet.

Sure enough, in only 3 months the Dolans have managed to entice 35 people to part with 5 bucks a week for access to the site.

That's right -- 35.

Out of a local New York metropolitan area population of over $18 million -- about 1/16 of the population of the entire country -- and millions more who live elsewhere but maintain ties to the area, Newsday has managed to attract a paid subscriber base smaller than my old High School home room (good old 327).

I know some people out there are convinced that any newspaper looking to charge for its content is simply being greedy, but I'm not. Advertising -- whether in print or on-line -- isn't paying the cost of gathering and reporting news, and I doubt that there will be much professionally reported content available for free ten years down the road. Where the New York Times is heading next, all the others will almost undoubtedly follow in due time.

I think the Times' proposed pay for content model is better thought out than Newsday's was. They're going to allow visitors a certain amount of free articles every month, then beyond that they will have to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. The Times hopes that allowing a certain amount of free visits will preclude a drop in traffic and a subsequent loss of ad revenue.

Traffic to Newsday.com has dropped considerably since they began charging a fee. According to the same New York Observer article quoted above, the number of unique visitors to the site dropped from 2.2 million in October to 1.5 million in December -- roughly a 33% drop. I doubt if the $5 a week from the 35 subscribers will offset the advertising loss.

So the Times' model seems to make more sense, although it remains to be seen how many articles per month they are willing to serve up for free and how much they will charge beyond that.

I enjoy spending a few minutes a day reading the Times' Mets content, but I don't think it's good enough for me to pay for, especially considering that your only choice once the free content is passed is a one-size-fits-all charge similar to Newsweek. The price tag they choose to put on a subscribing might make sense to someone who spends a lot of time on the site, but I doubt that it will make sense for someone like me.

Again, I fully understand the need for major news gathering entities to figure out how to pay the bills going forward. It's simplistic just to say that I'll only frequent newspaper web sites that don't charge for content, because it's likely that everyone is going to have to charge eventually. Still, in a world that offers ever more flexible choices in how we obtain information, I doubt very much a one-size-fits-all pricing model will be workable for anyone.

Baseball is still be a couple of months off. In the meantime, don't forget our friends at Ticket Solutions for Knicks tickets, Nets tickets, Rangers Tickets, Islanders Tickets and Devils Tickets too.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

Comments (3)

mike, just a thought with the coming of pay for info websites, would mets.com charge for access in the future?of course with fred and jeff in charge, my guess is that they would offer a "tiered prices" feature for access, like they do at their ballpark.all "platinum" subscribers could read the entire story, "gold" subscribers could read 80 per cent of the story, right down to a fifth tier of "value" web subscribers who would be redirected to a partially obstructed story website where u could get a met article missing one word every other sentence.

I'm just enjoying watching the dinosaur old media try to stay relevant by charging you for information online....when you can get it for free at web blogs. I'll pass, for a variety of reasons. The digital age has left the old media horses behind, and good riddance.

I can stand cablevision so its weird to me to kinda defend a little.. Well not defend but show a different view - For what its worth....

I think they want to use the website as some sort of 'gift' or freebee included in signing up for maybee a year of cablevision. I mean it would never be a reason for me but im just throwing that out there... I recently switch to directv and the pic quality is great if you like HD...

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