About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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January 28, 2010



Mark, we agree that the Newsday-Cablevision situation is unique, and thus may not say a lot about how other paywalls will or won't work. However, even with the way that Newsday and Cablevision lowered the value of their web site and the expectations for their paywall by making the site a throw-in for your cable or newspaper, I think it's still a stretch to say that it's working fine.

For one thing, I don't recall anyone predicting that web-only subscriptions would be counted in the dozens. If that's gravy, it's barely a spoonful. To have only 35 subscribers from the 25 percent of Long Island (a rather populous island) is actually a powerful, stunning rejection of the value of the site by people asked to judge it on its own merits.

And I have seen no figures on either the increase (or slowed decrease) of subscriptions to the print edition or Cablevision. So, even by their standard of lowered expectations, we have no reason to proclaim this as working.

I blogged my differing view of the Newsday-Cablevision spin: http://bit.ly/b0wEKA


Thirty five is weird. http://tinyurl.com/ydtbh64


I'm going to have to agree with Steve on this one. They've effectively convinced 0% of their remaining addressable market that their content is worth paying for. Given any standard web conversion rates, that is poor.

Also, the 25% of non-Cablevision Long Islanders is a fairly large and statistically significant group. I think we can extrapolate that Newsday would be completely screwed if they didn't bundle. People simply aren't wiling to pay for it. Rather than force it down people's throats, it might be better to focus on the digital property and transform it into something that people want.

With regards to the site design, not only is it terrible, their conversion funnels are very poorly designed. Almost as if they don't want any new online subscribers. More here: http://blog.newscred.com/?p=239

Kevin Bauman

I also have to disagree with the assessment Newsday's strategy. Basically what Newsday has done, is cut off a bunch of current, and potentially future viewers, given the content away for free to Cablevision subscribers, and made an additional $9,100.

This is success? They were already giving the content away for free. Now they're just giving it away free to fewer people.

Unless they can attribute a significant increase in Cablevision subscribers to the Newsday pay wall, I'd say this is the very definition of failure.

Mark Potts

Thanks for your comment. Where Newsday.com wins is through higher advertising rates. It can deliver local advertisers a well-defined local audience. Thats a far more attractive sell, at higher CPMs, than what it could offer when readers were coming from all over (and by identifying readers through their cable and print subscriptions, the site can target advertising even more sharply, further increasing rates). The business plan is not to make money from subscriptions; its to make it from higher ad rates.

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