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Feb. 9, 2009, 11:14 a.m.

Brill’s content-selling plan

Must-reading for anyone keeping up with the resurgent meme of paid content is Steve Brill’s “secret” memo, published today on Romenesko, that offers his plan to save The New York Times by putting it on the path toward paid web content.

Though it sometimes reads like Lee Abrams with a spell-checker (How to charge for content? Charge for it!!), the plan is clearly articulated, if wildly ambitious:

Getting an average of just $1.00 a month (3.3 cents a day) from each visitor would yield $240m in new annual revenue. This is approximately equal to (it seems, from the Times’ financial statements) two thirds to three fourths of all of the company’s annual advertising revenue for all of its internet properties combined. And, of course, this online ad revenue would not disappear or even necessarily diminish if readers paid a small amount for online content.

“If” being the key word.

Elsewhere, Brill sounds an appropriate cautionary note, and stresses the need for a focus on the long-term picture:

…these changes cannot be made with the simple flip of a switch on some magical D-Day; they will require transition periods, testing, and patience. But they will also require determination, steeled by the realization that there is no alternative and that what the Times has done thus far to build a great online journalism product was not a mistake but a prelude to this logical next step.

The full memo is here. What do you think of its merits? Is this a workable blueprint for an orderly transition from paid print to paid online?

POSTED     Feb. 9, 2009, 11:14 a.m.
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