There has been much egg on the face of Cablevision after its pay wall plan for Newday.com was revealed earlier this week to have only 35 subscribers.
Tad Smith, Cablevision’s president for local media, reached out to Romenesko in an email declaring that the success of the pay wall initiative isn’t measured by the company in the number of people who subscribed to the $260-a-year service, but by “the change in unique visitors compared year over year in the New York metro area (our target audience).” And those unique visitors, according to Cablevision, have only decreased two percent in December 2009 compared to the same month last year. The slight decrease may be due in part to the fact that many of Newsday.com’s readers are Cablevision subscribers, and therefore get to read the site for free anyway.
Still, using a newspaper only to increase your subscriber sales isn’t anything to crow about, says Slate’s Marion Maneker:
“Either way, Smith seems to be declaring that Cablevision’s $632 million acquisition of Newsday was simply to add another freebie to Cablevision’s subscription bundle. This was every analyst’s worst fear when it was announced that the Dolans had the winning bid for Newsday. Instead of expanding the subscription base for the newspaper and increasing advertising inventory for the cable business (buy a local ad on Cablevision and get a newspaper and Web ad as value-add), they paid a premium for some local content.”
So Cablevision is using Newsday not just as a newspaper, but as a way to sweeten the deal for Internet subscribers to choose their service. But that’s not to say that Newsday would be better off had Rupert Murdoch had purchased the paper in 2008. Whose to say the site wouldn’t be behind a pay wall in that scenario?