March 1, 2009

Hearst papers to ration free Web content

Hearst Corp. says its U.S. newspapers will hold back some printed content from their free Web sites as online advertising slows sharply industrywide.

Just how much print newspaper content Hearst will keep off its free Web sites has yet to be determined, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. Cablevision Systems Corp. said last week it plans to turn the free Web site for its Newsday daily into a subscription site.

Exactly how much paid content to hold back from our free sites will be a judgment call made daily by our management, whose mission should be to run the best free Web sites in our markets without compromising our ability to get a fair price from consumers for the expensive, unique reporting and writing that we produce each day, Steven Swartz, Hearst Newspapers president, said in a staff memo obtained by the Journal.

The financial impact is unclear because there are no existing comparable models. But many newspapers have seen their online advertising slow sharply or shrink while most sell less than half -- and some far less than that -- of the available ad slots on their Web sites, the Journal said.