Hindery, Brill Want to Help Make Journalism Pay

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A trio of media executives, including Leo Hindery and Steven Brill, have formed a venture aimed at helping online news organizations get paid for their content at a time when ad revenues are plummeting.

Journalism Online LLC, also co-founded by former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, envisions an electronic-commerce platform that news sites could incorporate that would collect payments from consumers.

Hindery, the former top cable operation executive, is managing partner at Intermedia Partners, a media industry investment firm whose holdings include Sportsman Channel, Gospel Music Channel and various outdoor-sports magazines. Brill's past ventures include Court TV and the journalism-industry magazine Brill's Content.

Brill told The New York Timesa consumer might pay $15 per month for access to all Web sites in the Journalism Online network.

Individual publishers would also set their own policies about paying to see their content, with Journalism Online collecting the money, the venture said in a news release.

The Times and Paidcontent.org reported the venture hopes to have a product ready as soon as this fall.

"The website will provide a way for publishers of quality journalism to charge whatever they believe is a reasonable amount for their content in ways that are seamlessly convenient for readers," Hindery said in the venture's release. "The only condition of participation is that the publishers have to charge for some portion of their content. They can do this while also offering the first portion of all articles for free, or by making a certain number of articles free each month for potential customers to sample, or by employing any other strategy they choose to balance the prospect of online circulation revenue with the need to maintain traffic and advertising revenue."

The venture also would attempt to sign licensing deals with "intermediaries such as search engines and other websites that currently base much of their business models on referrals of readers to the original content on newspaper, magazine and online news websites."

Attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson are advising the venture, and the law firm of Boies Schiller has been retained to assist in negotiations and provide counsel.

Brill said in the release the venture has begun talks with most major newspaper and magazine publishers and some online news organizations.

"We've all heard some people say that Internet journalism needs to be free because other less-valuable content is free," Brill said in the release. "But we believe Americans know that advertising alone can't support quality journalism - and the truth is that it never has. The irony is that by using the Internet publishers of newspapers and magazines have dramatically improved the quality and breadth of their journalism with online updates, video reports, blogs, data analyses, and specialized beat coverage. The problem is that, with rare exceptions, they are getting paid nothing for it."  

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