Pay walls could feed free hyperlocal sites
New York Newsday will finish completion and implementation of its pay wall this week. For roughly 300,000 Newsday subscribers plus thousands of other Cablevision Internet subscribers, they change won’t mean anything. But for the millions of other residents of Long Island, millions of residents in New York City and transplanted New Yorkers throughout the country, the change will either mean forking over $5 a week, or finding their way to other web sites.
Newsday is the only major print publication, and Cablevision the only major media conglomerate on Long Island, so on paper Newsday may see this as an opportunity to capitalize on being the only big game in town, but it may open the door to hyperlocal web sites that can deliver the same news to web users. Patch.com, owned by AOL/Time Warner, is already looking to expand to Long Island, and Long Island Press recently updated its web site and is pouring as much content on to it as possible.
This also may signal an opportunity for weekly publications to increase their web presence to compete for advertisers with Newsday.
According to Editor and Publisher, Newsday lost 25 percent of hits from August to September (around the same time of its new web design), which brought with it new glitches with RSS feeds, SEO etc. Obviously the industry should track Newsday’s numbers over the next few months to compare the money lost on advertising due to lower traffic numbers and the money gained from web-only subscriptions.
From reading comments on blog posts about this issue, many out-of-staters may find themselves reading the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times. But watch out for the weeklies, hyperlocals and startups that will work to fill the void left by Newsday.
No one can blame Cablevision and Newsday for trying to make revenue, but there must be a compromise between business and service. There must be a compromise between making sure Long Islanders aren’t taking advantage of free news and not subscribing to the paper, and with transplanted residents that just want to follow their hometowns or favorite sports teams once in a while without paying $260 a year.