By Steve Outing
I’ve been getting some pushback on my previous blog item about Newsday’s decision to put up a subscription wall to its website content except for Newsday print subscribers and subscribers of Optimum Online cable/Internet service (same ownership). This actually is a good business model for Newsday because of its unique position, though it probably could not be duplicated elsewhere, the critics suggest.
Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Consider this: Instead of a “no trespassing, freeloaders!” subscription wall, what if Newsday.com had instead come up with a special Newsday membership program? It could include all sorts of goodies that I’ve written about before with news membership schemes: premium news content and services; free or discounted tickets, or preferred seating, to news-related public lectures or other events; free iPhone or smart-phone custom news app; and (most importantly, in my view) lots of killer discounts and free deals from participating Newsday advertisers.
The memberships are given free to Newsday print subscribers and Optimum Online customers. Others pay a fee to be a member (let’s say $5 a week, the same as the cost of a web-only subscription). The difference is that the current Newsday strategy is forced; the membership option is voluntary. That is, with voluntary memberships, anyone can view Newsday.com content in full for free. So if you live in Manhattan and want New York news online, you can find it at NYTimes.com, NYDailyNews.com, NYPost.com, or Newsday.com. With Newsday’s current strategy, most new Yorkers will stick to the other three newspaper websites.
AND, to make matters worse, the forced subscription program has cut Newsday off from Google and the traffic it can send, and reduced the paper’s influence in the world outside of Long Island.
With a voluntary membership approach, Newsday would be selling something UNIQUE: its membership program offerings. With its existing strategy, it’s trying to sell COMMODITY news content. That can’t work.