Stanford Professor Joel Brinkley offers this idea to save newspapers:

    The newspaper industry should ask the Justice Department for an antitrust exemption that would allow publishers to collaborate on a decision to begin charging for their Web sites. No paper would have to charge, and each paper could determine its own price. But if most papers in a region — San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, for example — began charging for Web access at more or less the same time, many readers would likely subscribe.”

Here’s a link to his entire op-ed. Brinkley became a visiting professor in Stanford’s Department of Communications in 2006 after a 23-year career with The New York Times. He’s a Pulitzer winner and the son of the late TV anchor David Brinkley.

SF Press Club News


  1. Anonymous said…”Notice that the most liberal papers are the ones hurting the worst!”

    The only two conservative papers I know (the Examiner and the Washington Times) are hurting too. Each has a deep-pocketed owner (Examiner–billionaire oilman Anschutz, WashTimes–Rev. Moon’s Unification Church) who probably doesn’t care how much these papers lose as long as they remain conservative mouthpieces.

  2. Google is the one profiting from newspapers being online. If newspapers were to stop Google from linking to their stories, the value of Google News would be nil. The newspaper industry, putting on a united front, should commence negotiations with Google for a share of their ad dollars from Google News. If Google doesn’t cough up enough money, the papers should stop Google from accessing or linking to their material and either seek a better deal with Yahoo or create a news site of their own.

  3. Yes, it is possible to put your life on the line reporting on beachside photos of Barack Obama. It’s also possible to pretend this is the sort of journalism people will pony up for.

  4. Hmmmmm. News is “just the steady stream of the pseudo-informed”? That’s rather flippant, considering there are lots of journalists out there putting their lives on the line to bring the news to people who need it. According to the year-end report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists died in Iraq this year. But, hey, that’s a big improvement. Nearly three dozen were killed there last year.

  5. Paying for news only appeals to those in the news business. No one else thinks most of the news in any newspaper is worth spending any time reading. It’s just the steady stream of the pseudo-informed reflecting their desired take on people and events of little consequence.

  6. Newspapers had little competition in print, maybe one or two nearby papers. Usually, though, they had a geographic monopoly. SF was an exception with the Chron and Ex. Then, when the Internet started, they apparently decided to abandon their monopolies and jump into a marketplace with thousands if not millions of competitors. Now newspapers are dying because they can’t make the kind of money online that they did when they were strictly a print business.

  7. Taste is wrong in saying people won’t pay. The Wall Street Journal’s pay site works because it delivers specialized information to a niche audience that wants it. News sites won’t attract paying customers if they serve up what is available for free. But newspapers could charge for local news — where else will people get it but from local papers?

  8. Newspapers need to slam Google up against the wall, stick a knife up to its sleazy throat and demand money. How? Get all of the papers in the country together (again, an antitrust exemption is needed) and get them to block Google’s robots from searching their sites for stories. Block Google on a certain date. This would drive Google’s stock down and force them to offer newspapers something similar to the “re-transmission concent fee” TV stations get from cable and satellite companies.

  9. The New York Times’ attempt several years ago to charge for access to its Web site may have been premature. In the early days, newspapers merely posted their newspaper content to the Web; there wasn’t much there that wasn’t already in the morning newspaper. Newspaper Web sites these days are better staffed, and they are much quicker to post breaking news and to update developing stories. In addition, it’s now easy for readers to weigh in with their comments — in recent weeks, some SFGate stories have racked up hundreds of reader comments within a few hours. If more newspapers quit publishing seven days a week, I bet even more readers will migrate to the Web, and they will be more willing to pay a subscription fee.

  10. We have to agree with Anon above… no one has done well with pay per view online papers, not the NYT, the IHT, the FT, the Washington Post, no one.

    People will not pay. End of sentence.

    There are other proven ways for newspapers to monetize online content and traffic, but it will be difficult to match up offline revenues.

    The one good part of his proposal as the part about papers working together.

  11. I think the New York Times has proven that asking people to pay for online news doesn’t work. And even if the major papers were to get an exemption from antitrust laws and pull this off, there would be too many competitors (TV, smaller papers, AP) that wouldn’t go along.

    Thanks for reminding me that Brinkley was apart of Stanford’s communications faculty. It seems all of the big names in journalism are at Berkeley, and I’m always left wondering why Stanford has really nobody worth mentioning — except for Brinkley, I guess.

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