Today media executives Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz, and Leo Hindery, Jr. announced the foundation of their new company Journalism Online, LLC, which proposes to "quickly facilitate the ability of newspaper, magazine and online publishers to realize revenue from the digital distribution of the original journalism they produce." The company will work with all types of publishers--newspaper, magazine, online-only--to help make money with online news.
As print publications continue to fail and publishers seek to make a profit online, they battle a myriad of obstacles with the online forum: Will users be willing to pay for content that has thus-far been provided for free? How will publishers compete with free news aggregators like Google and the world of the blogosphere and citizen journalism? Once they charge for content, how will they maintain searchability and generate the traffic they will need to attract advertisers?
While publishers may have journalism and news expertise, many are at a loss as to how to continue their business in an unfamiliar forum, the world of the Web, and have not managed to produce a sustainable online business model. Journalism Online plans to capitalize on publishers' difficulties and offer them helpful products and strategies. According to Crovitz, several publishers have already expressed interest in Journalism Online and have begun discussions about e-commerce platforms and charges.
In the company's press release, it addresses some of the problems publishers face in generating revenue and claims that it will offer four key services. First, it will develop a password-protected website where consumers may purchase subscriptions and articles from multiple publishers and that will allow publishers to control charges. Second, it will market all-inclusive subscriptions for customers willing to pay one fee for all the company's publishers' contents and share revenues among publishers. Third, Journalism Online will negotiate licensing and royalty fees with intermediaries, such as search engines and news aggregators. Fourth, it will provide reports and feedback to publishers on which strategies will help build circulation revenue and maintain traffic to support advertising revenue.
Crovitz says he thinks that whereas publishers were not prepared at first, they are now ready to successfully attack the hybrid model of paid and unpaid online content. He said, "We now know a lot more about two things: Consumers are much more willing to conduct commerce digitally, [such as] buying music from iTunes, ringtones, virtual shields to play online video games. That issue that publishers thought people wouldn't pay for services online has changed. The other thing that has changed is there are models of what has worked."
"We're convinced that publishers are ready to take this step and that the journalists who work with them are anxious for them to do so," Hindery said. "Both groups now believe that they can and must receive fair value for their online work." Is Journalism Online the salvation publishers have been seeking? Will it be more equipped and innovative enough to tackle the online obstacles? According to the New York Times, media analysts remain skeptical as to whether ready-made charging tools like those offered by Journalism Online will succeed, while the company says that "the advantages are that publishers would not have to develop their own systems and readers could use a single system for many different publications."