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Given the state of the news industry, what with print on the brink of death and all, we should probably figure out how to make money online. An article appeared on poynter.org last Friday, saying that between five and 15 publishers will soon start restricting website access to customers, integrating Journalism Online‘s paid content model. They’re hoping no one will notice. Steven Brill, co-founder of Journalism Online, told Poynter that users wouldn’t experience a perceptible change, so the audience (and advertisers) won’t be scared away with a seismic shift toward the paid model. All of the publishers are integrating free and paid content.

The paid content is like shopping by catalogue: you don’t get more than a brief teaser till you purchase. One system charges for some articles and not others, effectively ranking the news that’s fit to buy. You can even return items, should you experience news buyer’s remorse.

Chances are, this model isn’t going to work. Why would customers—er, readers—respond to a slow development toward paying for piecemeal news online, while there’s an entire universe of free content out there? For that matter, there are existing, portable, pre-assembled content packages ready for purchase. They’re called newspapers.

If I’m going to pay for the news, I want to get ink on my fingers.

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About the author

Katie Hewitt was the Head of Research for the Spring 2010 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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