Because we do plenty of news aggregation and analysis here, we’ve watched with great interest the early-stage trend toward the imposition of subscription fees for access to newspaper web sites.
Recently, we engaged in a very brief, and mostly cordial, Twitter debate with Bob Glauber of Newsday regarding the potential dangers of placing content behind a pay wall, given the oceans of free content on the Internet. Even if the experiment generates sufficient revenue to offset the lost advertising revenue, traffic — and thus influence — will plummet.
But with newspapers like the New York Times also following suit soon and with certain publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, implementing the program successfully, perhaps the cat isn’t so far out of the bag that it can’t be jammed back in.
Then came today’s report from the New York Observer that, in three months, Newsday has sold a whopping 35 online subscriptions.
That’s 35. For a major newspaper in New York City.
So why has the Wall Street Journal been successful? Probably because most of the subscriptions are coming from places of business, with the expense not coming out of anyone’s pocket.
Bottom line? We’ll be able to easily give away free one-year subscriptions to PFT for many, many years into the future.
UPDATE: Apparently, Newsday isn’t really a New York City paper, but a Long Island operation. Which makes the decision to put its content behind a pay wall more surprising, and the outcome of the experiment less.