More than 500 newspapers sign up for online news charging scheme

NEW YORK - A US company called Journalism Online has signed up hundreds of as yet unidentified newspapers and online news outlets to use its e-commerce system for charging readers to access online content, which it is intending to launch this autumn.

The Journalism Online e-commerce system will offer a single account for users to access all the publishers' websites and a range of payment options from pay-per-article, day passes and monthly and yearly subscriptions.

The company expects its system to generate extra revenue from the 10% most engaged users on any particular publisher's website. It projects this revenue boost at between $50 and $100 per subscriber, so a website with 1m monthly visitors "could over time expect to earn new revenues of $5-10m".

Journalism Online has not said which titles are on board but claimed to have letters of intent from almost 180 daily newspapers and 330 non-dailies, which boast 90m monthly online users between them.

The news follows last week's announcement by Rupert Murdoch that newspapers in Australia, UK and US would start charging for content.

Journalism Online was founded in April by Steven Brill, the journalist and journalism lecturer at Yale; Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal; and Leon Hindery, who heads the media industry fund InterMedia Partners.

They say they are acting to meet "the urgent need for a comprehensive, immediate plan to address the downward spiral in the business of publishing original, quality journalism".

They promise publishers that they will decide what content they charge for and how much to charge.

Also under consideration is a plan to sell annual and monthly subscriptions to Journalism Online, which would allow users to pay one fee and have access to all of the Journalism Online members' content.

It will also act as a repository of best practise in online publishing so that media outlets can see what strategies are working best for building circulation revenue while maintaining traffic to support advertising revenue.

Brill said: "By creating a platform of flexible hybrid models for paid content that maximises online advertising revenue while creating a new revenue stream from readers, Journalism Online has helped shift the debate over charging for online news from 'if' to 'when and how'."

In an interview with DailyFinance.com, Krovitz was asked whether Journalism Online has signed up any news sites attached to TV news networks such as MSNBC.com and CNN.com, which are two of the top three online news destinations, according to Nielsen.

Crovitz said: "Just to be fair to everybody, we can't acknowledge any particular ones [yet], but we are talking to ones like those."

Brill and Crovitz also said they have yet to be rebuffed by a potential affiliate. "The harshest answer we've gotten hasn't even been, 'No, let's wait and see,'" said Brill. "The harshest answer has been 'Let's get together and talk'."

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