[CORRECTION: Newsday will charge $5 a week. The original version of this post had incorrectly said $5 a month.]
If I want to read my old newspaper online, I'll have to pay $260 a year to do so.
Newsday announced today that it will charge that amount to access its content on Newsday.com. The subscriber model is effective next Wednesday.
"We are excited about this model because in addition to a unique ability to immediately reach about 75 percent of Long Island households, we believe the hyper-local approach is right for Long Island," said Debby Krenek, Newsday managing editor and senior vice president/digital, said on its website.
The $260-a-year price point represents $5 a week, which equals the paper's seven-day home subscription plan. The newspaper said most content of Newsday.com will be accessible only to those who subscribe to the print newspaper or Optimum Online, or those who are willing to pay the fee.
Some online content that will remain free includes the home page, weather, obituaries, classified ads, entertainment listings and school closings.
Newsday is the first major newspaper to take this step. Every newspaper in the country has been struggling with lost revenues in print advertising, citing the fact that more people are going to their websites to access news and information than paying for a print version. Other newspapers, most notably The New York Times, are considering some type of pay structure for their websites.
The announcement comes the same week that Editor & Publisher released its monthly website rankings in which Newsday registered a 25 percent drop in traffic from the previous month.
The argument against a move such as this is that consumers will probably become more selective in the websites they choose to read, especially during difficult economic times. Very few people will be willing to pay hundreds of dollars a year to read more than one or two newspapers online. This would reduce the traffic to all newspapers overall.
For instance, typically I visit Newsday, The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO, my local paper and about four or five others each day. If each started to charge $260 a year for access, I only pick one to read (which one I don't know).
The other argument is that a paywall could reduce nation exposure and limit links to your site. This is not so much a concern for Newsday as it has for years placed its primary focus on local reporting.
What will be interesting to see is how the public reacts to pay news sites. No one knows if consumers will accept it at a level that makes it a success for media outlets, or if consumers will -- after years of free access -- equate it to paying to bring your luggage along on a plane trip.