Newsday.com saw another major drop in both unique visitors and page views in December as the site continued to charge people for unlimited access to content. But executives at the paper may have some sense of where the bottom lies.
In December, unique visitors declined 47%, while page views fell 32% -- both compared to December 2008.
In December, Newsday.com had 1.4 million unique visitors and 18.9 million page views, according to Nielsen. That was down from 2.7 million and 27.8 million, respectively, for the month in 2008.
December was the second full month where Newsday's policy of charging people $5 a week for unlimited access to the site was in effect. People who subscribe to home delivery of the paper, or receive broadband service from its parent Cablevision, do not have to pay extra.
The December year-over-year declines, however, were largely in line with what happened in November -- the first full month with the new pay wall. Unique visitors then fell 43%, and page views were down 35%.
Unique visitors last November were 1.7 million and page views were 18.6 million, compared to 3 million and 28 million the year before. (Newsday has said the traffic in 2008 was unusually high, partly as a result of the presidential election coverage).
The year-over-year falloffs are, of course, significant. But provided they do not accelerate markedly, executives may now be able to begin running long-term analyses on revenue impacts.
Newsday's decision to adopt a pay model last fall came several months before The New York Times announced earlier this month that it would institute one in 2011.
Newsday, the Long Island, N.Y.-area paper, veered away from the industry trend of free Web content on Oct. 28 with its $5-per-week plan.
Page views may be a more critical metric than unique visitors, since prices attached to ad buys are often attached to them. Newsday is betting, in part, that added revenue from subscription fees will offset any lost ad dollars that come from reduced traffic.
The newspaper has not released figures on how many people are paying for access to content, but a top company executive has said he does not expect the new pay model to "materially" impact revenues in the "near term." One reason: many people interested in the site also receive the paper at home or get Cablevision high-speed Internet service, the executive said.
Separately, Newsday employees rejected a three-year contract with 10% pay cuts, a longer work week and other concessions. The union local said Newsday, owned by Cablevision Systems, lost at least $7 million last year.