By the Numbers: Newsday’s Epic Fail

The population of Nassau County on Long Island, N.Y., was 1,356,729 as of Jan. 1, 2008, and the population of neighboring Suffolk County was 1,508,602, for a Long Island total of 2,865,331, according to the Long Island Power Authority 2008 Long Island Population Survey.

Cablevision Systems-owned daily newspaper Newsday had a weekly circulation of 377,500 as of 2009, according to its entry on Wikipedia.

It seems reasonable to assume that not every single person represented in the Long Island total of 2,865,331 either subscribes to the newspaper or to the cable operator’s Optimum Online high-speed-data service, which would mean that they would receive online access to free-of-charge.

Yet The New York Observer reported that the total number of people who signed up for online access to Newsday at $260 per year was a shockingly low 35.

The Observer added that redesigning the Web site to accommodate the pay wall cost some $4 million, and the 35 subscribers will only bring back around $9,000 in revenue — not exactly bang for the buck.

And the Observer cited Nielsen Media Online figures in reporting that totaled 1.5 million unique visits in December, down from 2.2 million in October.

Newsday editor Debby Krenek told paidContent 75 percent of Long Island residents receive the newspaper’s Web content free-of-charge as the result of subscribing to the paper or to Optimum Online, adding that local readers “are more engaged, they spend more time on it, view more pages. If we provide information, things they want and will be engaged with, it will make up for the out-of-market traffic.”

Newsday also emailed the following statement to paidContent:

Millions of Cablevision customers in the New York tristate area and 75 percent of Long Island households, including all Newsday home-delivery subscribers, now have exclusive access to at no additional charge. Internal research shows that Newsday‘s Website is an extremely popular new benefit to hundreds of thousands of Long Island Cablevision households. Given the number of households in our market that have access to Newsday‘s Website as a result of other subscriptions, it is no surprise that a relatively modest number have chosen the pay option.

Newsday also countered the Nielsen numbers cited by the Observer with comScore data putting local unique visitors at 607,000 in December — up versus November but down from 649,000 in April and 672,000 in May. The newspaper added that users are returning more frequently and 67 percent of post-launch traffic is from the Long Island DMA, up from 53 percent in the first half of 2009.

Still, it’s hard to get past that number: 35?