On object lesson in walls

I wanted to read about the news that former online publisher Steven Brill, former Wall Street Journal online exc Gordon Crovitz, and former cable exec Leo Hindery had teamed up to to create a company to enable news companies to huddle behind a wall and charge for their content.

I went to the Wall Street Journal site to read about it. But the damned site keeps forgetting who I am. So I got just a few lines and yet another pitch to subscribe, nevermind that I already had. Even though I have paid for the Journal – the only site I pay for (for now) – it wasn’t worth the effort even to remember my username and so I went to the New York Times and then to Reuters and then to Paid Content to read the story (PaidContent, a blog, did the best job). I knew they call covered the news thanks to GoogleNews.

The irony is painfully obvious: A pay wall stopped me from reading about putting up pay walls and I had no problem detouring around it to read free (and better) accounts.

Therein lies the challenge to this effort to put together content cartels. It takes just one guy to ruin the party. Best of luck to them but I predict it won’t work. Once again, this will not only reduce traffic and thus advertising opportunities and revenue but it will reduce Googlejuice (even if Google can search the paid content, it will get fewer links and clicks and thus less juice) and it will bolster competitors. I blogged recently that a wag at a meeting I attended wished newspapers would do just this because it would put them out of business sooner and open up opportunities to replace them.

I don’t intend to pay – nor do I intend to charge. And, by the way, I have decided not to renew the Journal. I get more and better media coverage elsewhere. Today is just a case in point.

: The press release just went up. It sounds eerily reminiscent of the doomed New Century Network.

It also sounds eerily threatening. After saying that the company will “will be to negotiate wholesale licensing and royalty fees 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” it adds that its hired guns include attorneys David Boies and Theodore B. Olson.

I’d also turn that sentence around: It’s the online news istes that base much of their business models on referrals of readers from search engines and other web sites.

(Disclosure: I remind you that I work in the link economy with Daylife and Publish2. In the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY, we will also flesh out pay models. My stand on that is obvious but let’s get real numbers – assumptions and ranges and experience – and have the debate in specifics.)