Cablevision'splan to start charging for Newsday's content online may not be as crazy as it sounds. Sure, when the company plunked down $650 million for the struggling Long Island newspaper last year, that was crazy. The company then wrote down the value of the paper by $402 this week, forcing its hand. Something needed to be done? The something: revisit that old, seemingly antiquated model of charging for content. Soooo, Twentieth Century you say? But maybe not.
Granted, due to budget cutbacks over the past few years Newsday is not the resource it once was. Never a great paper, it was nonetheless, a very good one and punched above its tabloid-format weight class — the home of Breslin and many (long-since laid off) well-respected reporters. As a news gathering source, it's been cut to the bone at this point, and ads are down. So Cablevision turned to the only place it could: charging for some online content. It's been tried elsewhere before and failed (remember The New York Times select?) but it could work this time.
The readers are already there using the paper's news service, they'll just be asked to fork over a fee. For it to work, the content has to be unique, of value, and not available elsewhere online for free. Seems like the idea would have worked better before the previous owner Tribune Co. fired scores of Newsday reporters and shut down bureaus, but on the bright side for Cablevision, local news and content that is not easily obtained elsewhere is the sort of thing that brought hometown papers subscribers in the first place.
Of course there are those, like blogger and sometime-Newsday contributor Craig Calcaterra who say: "Smell ya later Newsday, but I ain't readin' ya anymore!"