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Newsday Stakes Its Future on Digital Strategy

Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge Says Local Focus, Better Targeting Key to Turnaround

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NEW YORK ( -- Cablevision may have laid off 100 employees at Newsday, the recently acquired Long Island, N.Y.-based daily newspaper, just last week. But Tom Rutledge, the media company's chief operating officer, laid out an ambitious digital strategy designed to reinvent the newspaper's coverage and distribution model.

Tom Rutledge
Tom Rutledge
"Our thinking is that Long Island is a somewhat unique area, and at the same time very distinctive. It has its own point of view about locality," Mr. Rutledge said at the 36th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. "It has an opportunity to serve a unique local market that's part of a big DMA [designated market area], so our focus is to make it a local destination and abandon trying to be everything to everyone. We can provide great news coverage to local communities and do it in a professional way."

Mr. Rutledge noted that Cablevision products, which include Optimum cable, phone and internet service as well as Newsday, currently serve 80% of Long Island residents, so there's potential to do something broader with Newsday across the entire Cablevision footprint. Mr. Rutledge suggested that Newsday would be better served by a subscriber-driven business model combining print and cable TV to distribute local news to subscribers, creating a new cost-per-thousand-viewer model to reach highly targeted consumers.

Technology could provide growth
"Our goal is to do something nobody else is doing, which is turn around [a print product]," he said. "We have the ability to replace direct mail with targeted advertising, with technology that's just being deployed. Obviously we have to move markets with a long, historic infrastructure, but down the road we see a lot of growth."

Cablevision also has a growing property in Rainbow Media, which saw a 13.6% revenue increase in third-quarter 2008 on the strength of original AMC series "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" and the recent acquisition of Sundance Channel.

"Although they're subject to all the macroeconomic forces everyone else is up against, they have wings behind their back in terms of audience growth," Mr. Rutledge said.

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