Friday, February 27, 2009

Struggling Newsday To Try Charging Online Readers

The owners of the venerable New York newspaper Newsday, hard hit by the recession, online competition and recent debt, are going to try and generate fresh revenue by charging online readers for access to its website and content.

Newsday thinks it has a shot at success because it is now owned by a cable TV company, and some bundling of options could help attract reader/viewers.

Problem is, online readers are in the habit of seeing content on sites like Newsday for free. Other papers have tried this model, and most have not been successful, including The New York Times, which did make some money a while back on its Select subscriptions for certain features, like the high-profile columnists, but didn't like the accompanying backlash.

Newspapers are in trouble, obviously, and their dilemma is ours, too: we need the vetted, professional news that only a Dan Bice or Dave Umhoefer can generate.

That is why I expect newspapers to survive, but through smaller and fewer editions; mergers and combinations (the Capital Times morphed into an online entity, plus two weekly hard copy supplements delivered with the Wisconsin State Journal, for example); and perhaps fees for speciality content, like Packers Plus-type sections.

I could even see the Journal Sentinel moving their popular Brewers and Packers beat writers to some sort of a separate fee/subscription, capturing people willing to pay for expertise the way other readers pony up for investment news and insider opinion on financial websites.

What's facing newspapers is obviously a big problem for a culture that functions best when it is informed, and is certainly a 'worst-of-times' burden internally in too.

And not only in dailies' newsrooms, because younger generations are using smarter phones for entertainment and news along with music.

I don;t think Newsday's experiment will succeed. Why buy access to its website when the New York Times and nearly all other news websites are free?

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