Three months ago Long Island’s Newsday, the 11th most widely read newspaper in the country, shifted their website to pay-to-read. The number of paying subscribers so far: 35. New York Times, are you watching?
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. Hellville, indeed. 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.