Newsday paywall alienates prized columnist

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newspaper_small.jpgADOTAS – While a loud quadrant continues to argue that charging for online content is the only way to save newspapers and magazines (and possibly even journalism as a whole), the possibility that “paywalls” could alienate prized commodities of journalism outposts reared its ugly head over the weekend.

Saul Friedman, a popular columnist for Newsday, has severed ties with the paper over its new paid content policy.

Last week Newsday owner Cablevision announced that subscribers to the newspaper and its cable and Internet services would still be able to access the Newsday.com for free, but everyone else will have to lay down $5 a week to browse most of the site’s content.

Friedman, who penned the column “Gray Matters” about aging, was quite nonplussed as he explained in a letter to Poynter Online, Jim Romenesko’s media blog. Friedman is more interested in having his writing spread, something he feels Cablevision’s paywall will inhibit. Instead he will contribute to timegoesby.net.

This would not be the first time prized writers for a newspaper experimenting with paid online content balked: The New York Times allegedly tore down its paywall for its marquee opinion columnists after they complained about suffering readership.

As newsrooms are shrinking and bureaus are shutting down, it would seem that reporters and editors are more clamoring for paid content structures. But big-time columnists are magnets for readership. If Friedman’s departure is emblematic, than online journalism outfits considering paywalls may be forced to decide which sections of their staff are more important to please.

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