Beginning Wednesday, most of Newsday.com content will only be available to subscribers of Optimum Online, Newsday, or those willing to pay for it.
Those who are not customers of Optimum Online or the newspaper - both owned by Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp. - will have to pay a $5 weekly fee. However, nonpaying customers will have access to some of newsday.com's information, including the home page, school closings, weather, obituaries, classified and entertainment listings. There also will be some limited access to Newsday stories.
Newsday described the move as one that would create a "pioneering Web model," combining the newspaper's newsgathering services with Cablevision's electronic distribution capabilities. About 75 percent of Long Island households are Newsday home delivery or Cablevision online customers or both, according to Newsday. Optimum Online customers total 2.5 million in the New York area, the paper said.
"We are excited about this model because in addition to a unique ability to immediately reach about 75 percent of Long Island households, we believe the hyper-local approach is right for Long Island," said Debby Krenek, Newsday managing editor and senior vice president/digital.
The new strategy comes as newspapers have been scrambling to replace the advertising-based model after years of steep revenue decline. Charging viewers for online content has been debated in the newspaper industry in the past few years.
Jack Myers of Jack Myers Media Business Report, a Manhattan-based economic research firm, said, "In the long term, it's a zero-sum game. Basically what you are doing is you are shutting off younger audiences from getting access and becoming fans of your content, so it strikes me as a pretty short-term protective measure that will be a great case study for the industry."
However, John Morton, head of the Morton Research Inc., a Silver Spring, Md.-based media consulting firm, said the current model of free online content is not a "rational model."
"Despite the false premise that has been floating around for the last 19 years, that information on the Internet wants to be free, [it] is just not true," Morton said. "People have always been willing to pay for information they have felt was useful to them."