Philadelphia papers will charge for Web news

Elton John and Bernie Taupin might have to consider rewriting “Philadelphia Freedom.”Brian Tierney, chief executive of the company that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, plans to begin charging for news online by the end of the year, he said in an interview with a local Fox TV affiliate.

“I think by the end of this year we’ll starting doing what a lot of other newspapers are looking at doing and charging something for it,” Tierney said. “We can’t spend $53 million on newsroom costs and give it away on the back door in terms of things. There will be a small charge for that.”

When asked by Fox 29′s Steve Keeley when such a charge would go into effect, Tierney said “by the end of the year.”

Tierney also said he plans to take on Google over possibly getting money for Philadelphia Media Holdings from its content that resides on the search engine’s site.

Tierney discarded a move to an online-only product, saying that his company needed print journalists to be profitable. He also said he expected to be printing newspapers for the next 20 years.

Lots of newspapers are trying to find ways to get people to pay for the news that they put online, but so many papers have offered free Web access for so long that no one is sure that anyone will keep coming to the sites.The upside: They might make some more money if people feel like they can’t get the news they need and want anywhere else. The downside: If fewer people start visiting the website, advertisers will start demanding cheaper rates online. And it’s not like people will necessarily go back to the print edition either. Print ad sales are plummeting because people are going online for news, and there’s no guarantee that people will reacquire a print habit if they decide that they don’t want to reach for their wallets every time they log on.On the other hand, newspapers don’t have a lot of options. In the case of the Philly papers, Tierney’s company is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings. With the company’s life on the line and a $53 million newsroom to run, what’s the harm in trying?And here’s one other thing to think about: Newspaper publishers are loath to discuss whether and how to charge. If they show up in a room and do that, they run the risk of being accused of collusion by the Justice Department. Should one or two papers do it, and then another paper should happen to start doing the same thing… where’s the proof of bad behavior? Prepare to see more of this, and soon.(Photo: Philadelphia’s William Penn shows off his Hockey colors. Reuters)

Hey buddy, don’t knock my newspaper!

The 24/7 Wall Street blog’s list of newspapers that it teed up as going out of business this year is making a certain group of people rather unhappy — the people who run those papers. Two of them are so hopping mad that they have aired their complaints to the public.

You can read the whole list on 24/7 Wall Street, but here is what it said about:

New York Daily News:

NY Daily News is one of several large papers fighting for circulation and advertising in the New York City area. Unlike The New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, and Newark Star Ledger, the Daily News is not owned by a larger organization. Real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman owns the paper. Based on figures from other big dailies it could easily lose $60 million or $70 million and has no chance of recovering from that level

Saving newspapers: The PR campaign

Brian Tierney doesn’t dispute that U.S. newspapers are in trouble; he just wants to know why they can’t tell the good side of the story. That led to this article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper he owns along with a group of investors:

The pundits and cynics who believe that newspapers are dead are dead wrong.

So says a small group of newspaper executives who this month organized an ad hoc group to alter perceptions and get the facts out…  Dubbed the Newspaper Project, the grassroots effort includes the CEO and publisher of Philadelphia Media Holdings, Brian P. Tierney. [And executives from Parade, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc and others --ed]

Acknowledging that the newspaper industry faces challenges, the group roundly rejects the notion that newspapers have no future.

Newspapers, more dead than read

h-bomb.jpgMonday brings a fresh wave of despair to the newspaper world as sagacious authors in various media outlets let us know that the economy and the neglect of good citizens are threatening the survival of print journalism.

First up is media columnist David Carr in the New York Times, who wrote on Monday about Sam Zell, Brian Tierney and OhSang Kwon, all of whom bought into papers and have found out that the old devils aren’t what they used to be:

The industry may not be touching bottom any time soon. Last year, overall newspaper revenues dropped by about 7 percent, pushed along primarily by the secular change of readers and advertisers fleeing to the Web. And publishing, along with many other kinds of businesses, is now staring at a full-bore recession, led by the credit crisis that is fanning out across the economy.