US newspaper installs $5 weekly charge for online access

NEW YORK - US local newspaper Newsday is to end free access to most of its website, making it available to people who subscribe to the print edition or to those willing to pay a $5 weekly fee.

Newsday has a wide readership although it is a local newspaper aimed at residents of Long Island.

Starting on October 28, access to Newsday.com will be restricted to those who have Newsday delivered to their homes, as well as customers of Optimum Online, an internet provider owned by Cablevision, which publishes Newsday.

Information available to non-subscribers will include classified ads, information on school closures, weather, obituaries and the homepage.

The adventurous move will be closely watched by publishers looking at ending free access to their online properties. It may be of particular interest to News Corporation — it owns a large stake in an internet service provider, in the form of Sky, and newspapers including The Sun, the News of the World and The Times.

The difference, however, is that Newsday is far more focused on targeting a local audience and less likely to be hit by lost traffic coming from outside the region compared to big national newspapers carrying big-brand ad campaigns. It has focused on delivering more local news by introducing features such as a post-code driven preference to deliver news specific to a reader's hometown.

Newsday says that nearly three-quarters of Long Island households are already either subscribers to Newsday or customers of Optimum Online. The newspaper has a daily circulation of 368,000. Combined weekly online and print readership is 1.6 million.

Terry Jiminez, publisher of Newsday, said: "We know this market, and through newsday.com will deliver a customisable service that enables Long Islanders to get the information they want and need as part of their daily lives.

"In addition to providing greater value for Newsday and Optimum Online customers, we also look forward to better serving our advertisers with new interactive services that deliver a more focused and engaged consumer audience for their products."

The newspaper was bought by Cablevision from the Tribune Co. in a $650m deal last year.

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