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Brill, Crovitz, Hindery Launch E-Commerce Venture For News Business

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imageThe news business has problems and entrepreneur Steve Brill, former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz and cable guy-turned-investor Leo Hindery, Jr. think they have the answers. The three are founding Journalism Online, LLC, funded with an undisclosed amount by Hindery’s InterMedia Advisors, LLP, to provide news publishers with content-based e-commerce, data sharing for best practices and other revenue-generating solutions. (The photos show Crovitz, Hindery and Brill from left to right.)

In an interview with paidContent, Crovitz stressed that Journalism Online isn’t a consulting group and plans to offer products to publishers as well as work with them on strategy. Plans call for Journalism Online to be in the market with at least one e-commerce product by the fall; options include an all-you-can-read solution. They hope to work with newspapers, magazine, online-only publishers — in other words, anyone looking for a way to make money with news online. Crovitz said they have already held discussions with a number of publishers. Those conversations have included issues like what kind of e-commerce platforms they want to have, what they are willing to charge. (The company has since posted a detailed press release.)

Crovitz added: “We’re not saying everything should be behind a pay wall, not any more than we’re saying everything has to be free. … One of the opportunities is to help news publishers find those content services that for their brand will just justify the hybrid model.” The hybrid model didn’t work for Brill when he tried it in the earlier part of the decade by merging trade publications in an print/online effort at *Primedia* called Media Central. (I worked for two of those media outlets, and CableWorld.) Why should it work now beyond the few sites already offering premium/free hybrids?

For one, says Crovitz, he thinks publishers are ready. “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.” He listed, and

In an interview, Brill said he and Crovitz are co-CEOs for now but he envisions Crovitz winding up as the one who runs it. Brill also said news industry veteran Merrill Brown is working with the company as a consultant. Well-known litigator David Boies and Ted Olsen, a former U.S. Solicitor General, are on the board of advisors.

Brill detailed some of his thoughts on how to accomplish this in a memo about how to save the New York Times that wound up on Romenesko this year and reads like a prospectus for Journalism Online, including:

— making the headline and the first paragraph of every story free to preserve search results.

— Micropayments of 10 cents to read a full article or an all-day pass for 40 cents.

— A monthly pass for $7.50

— An annual pass for $55 with print subscribers getting the first year of full online access free, but possibly moving to 50 percent of the online price.

— Charge people 5 cents to forward an article unless the recipient already has a subscription. (This option isn’t mentioned in the venture’s initial offerings.)

4 Responses to “Brill, Crovitz, Hindery Launch E-Commerce Venture For News Business”

  1. I'm looking forward to seeing this system go live.

    Are there going to be standards that would exclude poor quality publishing from hiding behind the payment system? How will you work with search engines that aggregate your content into a feed for easy consumption?

    I'm a programmer in online publishing and I hope there is a simple API that would allow for an easy integration with a site.

  2. As a professional writer / photographer, it pains me to say this, but it's never going to work.
    I already have far too many resources of news online to look to for info, so why would I pay for more?
    There needs to be a quantum shift in how existing news and publishing people think about the future. The big change is that the cost of publication is now $0.00.
    Does that mean that we're all out of work? No. People still want to read good features and good writing / photography. They just want it delivered in a different way. You guys would be better off spending your $$$ on a REALLY good iPhone app that delivers your content and ads in ways that people will accept.

  3. As the estimable Mr. Knott Cerius rightly points out there is far too much information available and much of it is of such dubious quality we would not want to pay for it until we had assured ourselves it was worth reading.

    This means news and op-ed blogs would have a lot of brand building to do before they could attract worthwhile revenue.

    Secondly the web is still virtually security free so we would need to be able to assure ourselves that sensitive personal data was adequately protected before parting with account details.

  4. U. R. Knott-Ceirius

    First of all, I won't use it because I suspect I will have to pay online. If some hacker named 'mikeyy' has a HISTORY far wider than Twitter and, even more important, exposes what level incompetant site creator can rise to before being BBQ'd, I'm OUT

    Secondly and maybe most importantly, there really is Too Much Information already and other places to look for similar documents.

    Call the time! 8:55 local, STILLBORN