Newsday’s shangri-la

Newsday says it’ll soon start charging for content on its website, “making news gathering capabilities a service to our customers.”

Sounds like the kind of scheme that would be cooked up by a newspaper that’s owned by a cable company.

Cablevision, Newsday’s parent, is used to charging for everything — just like all cable companies are. They charge for various movie channels, premium channels, pay per view movies, you name it. But here’s a scoop that’s apparently escaped Cablevision — news isn’t a commodity anymore. Few people pay for information, unless it’s of such a specialized nature (think ESPN insiders)  that you can’t get it anywhere else.

Cablevision  is also ignoring recent history. Newspapers once tried to charge for web information, but found they could make more money providing content online free and selling ads around that content. Now that the industry is in a tough spot, newspapers are looking for every way (as they should) to increase revenue.

But this isn’t it. Here’s one unanswered question: Why would anyone pay for one bit of information from Newsday when they can get information, free, from a number of different sources in the New York area?

I love reading Newsday online. Until they start charging. At that point, I’ll be happy to spend more time with the New York Daily News and New York Times.

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