If Newsday is the benchmark, The New York Times is in trouble.

I’m used to filing away random stats while listening to sports radio, but I didn’t expect then to involve newspaper readers. But then I learned that Newsday has accumulated 35 subscribers since James Dolan (who also owns Madison Square Garden and the hapless Knicks) bought the publication and decided to put all the paper’s online content behind a paid firewall. That’s right: 35 people in three months.

Let’s state the obvious up front: Dolan is a terrible businessman. He’s the same guy who refused to fire Knicks coach Isaah Thomas even after he was found by a court to have sexually harassed one of his employees. So it’s not really a surprise that he’s driving another business into oblivion.

I think the Newsday story is relevant to the broader question of whether people are willing to pay for content. And my guess is yes–if it’s good content. The Freemium model isn’t about free; it’s about moving people from free services to premium (paid) ones. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Business Journals, and a few other select newspapers are likely to survive as online publications because they’ll figure out price points and revenue streams. And because, unlike Newsday, they have something we want to read.

Photo by wili_hybrid (Flickr).