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Steve Brill's Journalism Online venture signs 500 newspapers

August 14, 2009 |  9:53 am

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Journalism Online, a startup created to help publishers charge for digital content, said it has reached preliminary agreements with 506 newspapers, magazines and online news sites that reach more than 90 million monthly visitors.

Representatives of the venture, whose founders include Steve Brill, creator of CourtTV, and Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, have been meeting for months with major newspaper and magazine publishers, who have grown increasingly interested in charging for online content as traditional advertising revenue plummets.

"The scale here I hope indicates to people that there's a real change going on, and there is an accelerated trend among publishers to move toward the paid model online," said Crovitz, who for more than a decade ran the Journal's online site, which now boasts more then a million online subscribers.

The venture remained curiously mum about which news organizations will use Journalism Online's commerce platform to begin charging for select digital content. Several publishers said they had not signed on with the venture, including Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal; the McClatchy Co., the nation's third-largest newspaper company with 30 dailies; and the Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The Gannett Co. Inc., publisher of 84 daily newspapers, including USA Today, and The New York Times Co., refused to comment.

The idea of newspapers charging for online content has been swiftly gaining momentum.

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch told investors last week that the company will be charging for content on "all of our news websites." 

The New York Times, which had abandoned an earlier experiment with charging for premium content, such as newspaper columns, is researching how much readers would be willing to pay for online content.

Journalism Online said its technology would give publishers flexibility in how they charge for digital content, including collecting monthly subscriptions or micro-payments for individual articles. Its estimates that a website that attracts 1 million monthly visitors could reap additional annual revenue of $5 million to $10 million.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Printer stands next to his 1824 Columbian press. Credit: Larry Sharkey/Los Angeles Times

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