Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some Web Subscription Doesn't Work

The WSJ created a successful model to keep its print subscription alive by putting its web content behind a wall. The NYT is planning the same thing. But will it work? It clearly hasn't worked for Long Island's Newsday. "Only 35 users have signed up to access Newday's web site since they put up their $5 a week paywall three months ago." If that number seems disturbingly low, it is. But is it a surprise? Is Newsday delivering unique information that a web surfer can't find elsewhere? I doubt it. Hence, the low number. For the NYT and others that build a pay wall, the content must be unique, exclusive, and demonstrated to be of perceived value for the user. WSJ has done it with unique business news content, exclusive interviews, branded columnists, and valuable knowledge. Aligned with its print, it became the best combination of print and web.

And while that number is low, it could be argued that Newsday is primarily used as a retention tool by Cablevision within its market. It's cable customers enjoy free web access while its competitor, Verizon Fios, and their customers must pay. Has that improved Cablevision's leadership in the market? It certainly can be positioned that way and help to explain why the number of paid subscribers is so low. More important for Newsday is to announce the number of unique and page visits to their web site, as well as gross ad revenue. That would certainly help to clarify its value.

Still there should be many more Fios customers that also read Newsday and would enjoy web access. Perhaps a better job of marketing the Newsday web subscription is required. Let's hope there is a brighter web future for Newsday.

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