Pay old-media execs to help you charge for new media

April 14, 2009

Three of the traditional media world’s brightest stars have a bright idea: Start a consultancy to help old-media companies charge for their content online. (And announce the venture in an old-media publication.)

From The Wall Street Journal’s website on Tuesday afternoon:

A trio of media executives is starting a firm to guide efforts by newspapers and other publishers to charge for content posted on their Web sites as advertising revenue tumbles.

The venture, Journalism Online LLC, is being led by Steven Brill, the founder of the American Lawyer magazine and Court TV; Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal; and cable-television veteran Leo Hindery.

Crovitz, who was unseated when Rupert Murdoch bought his paper and given a column instead, told the Journal that charging for online content won’t solve all the problems facing newspapers and other information purveyors on the Internet, but it would do some good. He also said that Journalism Online LLC would make money by sharing revenue from consumer payments and licensing fees. No word from Hindery (now in private equity after selling TCI to AT&T and running Global Crossing before that company hit the skids) or Brill (one existing magazine, one defunct one).

UPDATE: Crovitz told us that publishers — not all of them newspaper publishers — are in talks about whether to use the system. He wouldn’t name any, however. (And another UPDATE! Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Chief Brian Tierney says his papers aren’t ready to sign up yet, but they are interested in talking more about it.)

How does it work? Crovitz said some publishers could charge annual or monthly subscriptions, and possibly per-article payments. The system also could allow a comprehensive monthly fee for access to all publishers who use the system. The New York Times quoted Brill as saying $15 a month is a possible price, but Crovitz said that it’s too early to say yet.

The New York Times and other papers are trying to figure out ways to make people pay for the news they get online after several failed experiments. Mostly, they spent the last decade and more doing exactly the opposite. Now, thanks to the Internet eating their lunch, newspapers and other old-school information providers are facing a loss of advertising revenue, paying subscribers to their print editions and, well, their entire lives. At this time of financial distress, their thoughts naturally turn to how to make more money.

Here are some other details on the project from the NYT’s own article:

  • The company has a board of advisors that includes two of the nation’s most prominent lawyers, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general of the United States.
  • The company also plans to negotiate licensing and royalty fees with search engines and news aggregators for the use of the publications’ work, and has retained Mr. Boies’ law firm, Boies Schiller & Flexner, for that work.

(Photo: Reuters)

2 comments

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[...] worth the effort even to remember my username and so I went to the New York Times and then to Reuters and then to Paid Content to read the story (PaidContent, a blog, did the best job). I knew they [...]

All publications, not just newpapers, who give readers news that we can use in our everyday lives, is worth paying for. Propaganda, moral postulating and information on how to spend money will not do the trick.

Posted by Ly Griffin | Report as abusive

[...] worth the effort even to remember my username and so I went to the New York Times and then to Reuters and then to Paid Content to read the story (PaidContent, a blog, did the best job). I knew they [...]

At last with that model the consumer has a choice of whether to buy the intelligence or not. Bloggers, on the other hand, are paid for out of companies’ marketing budgets when adverts are displayed on their pages, which pushes up the shop prices of all the goods advertised on that page, for all consumers, whether we like it or not.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive