SF Gate Wants Your Credit Card

Chronicle looks to charge on line users for content

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    The wonderful teacher Jaime Escalante of "Stand and Deliever" fame might have a few words for the Chronicle's new approach to survival.

    To quote the infamous Jaime Escalante of "Stand and Deliver" fame, "Yup, that'll do it."

    In a move to stop the $50 million of annual bleeding, the San Francisco Chronicle is planning to start charging for "some" of its on line content on its popular Web site, SF Gate.

    Earlier this week the Chronicle's owners, Hearst, announced that the paper could shut down, if a new owner or a way to stop its losses did not emerge soon.

    The Chronicle lost $50 million last year and is off to an even worse start this year, according to Hearst. The main problem is advertisers are tightening their belts and increasingly diverting more money to the Internet as the economy continues to struggle.

    On Friday, the Chronicle and Newsday announced (there is no direct connection between the two papers except that they are both going broke like several other newspapers across the country) that they will start charging webbies to read "some" of its content on line. Just how much "some" is we have no idea.

    The move is not without precedence. Last year the weekly newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor (an awesome site for international news), unplugged its printing presses and began charging users to read its content on line as well as download pdf versions of the newspaper.

    Earlier this week the Rocky Mountain News decided to call it quits and pulled out their own unique on line strategy, by uploading a 21 minute documentary of the paper's last day to the front page of the site.

    SF Gate is one of the top ten visited news sites in the country. Not so sure that will hold true if users have to pay for the content. The New York Times went down the road the Chronicle is look at it. 

    The most popular news site on the web charged webbies up to $49.95 a year or $7.95 a month to read portion of its Web site but they abandoned that practice in 2007 partly because the paper did not project the growth of on line subscribers to grow as quickly as on line advertisers.

    The on line version of the paper drew 227,000 paying subscribers out of the 787,000 people who subscribed to the physical paper and generated about $10 million a year in revenue.

    “But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of on line advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com, in 2007.

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