The New York Times is the largest news organization so far to use an online subscription service for its content. Smaller news outlets have been experimenting with similar metered models through a company called Journalism Online. Media veterans and entrepreneurs Steven Brill and L. Gordon Crovitz sold Journalism Online last week to printing services firm RR Donnelley & Sons Co.
Brill has said in the past that paywalls are a “nonevent for 85, 90, 95 percent of the people who come” to sites with subscription models enabled. Of course, he has a vested interest in getting people on the paywall bandwagon.
Brill, the founder of American Lawyer magazine and Court TV, and Crovitz, a former publisher of the The Wall Street Journal, launched the company in April 2009 along with co-founder Leo Hindery, Jr. Through Journalism Online, they developed a software system called Press+, which lets publishers charge for content in a variety of ways including day or week passes, print/online bundles, and monthly or annual subscriptions.
They hoped it would become the industry standard for charging for online content, but the company has only signed about two dozen small- and medium-size papers for the service. That client list includes The Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era (LancasterOnline.com) in Pennsylvania, The Fayatteville Observer (FayObserver.com) in North Carolina, and a Boston-based news site called GlobalPost.
Founded nearly 150 years ago, RR Donnelley has a customer base of more than 60,000 worldwide. Crovitz said that the purchase “will allow us to grow much more quickly than as a stand-alone company.” Thomas J. Quinlan III, RR Donnelley’s president and CEO, said of the purchase, “Press+ enhances our offering and opens new avenues for publishers to generate incremental subscription and advertising revenue.”
Crovitz and Brill will continue to manage Journalism Online and Press+. Financial terms have not been disclosed by either side, but Staci D. Kramer, Editor and EVP of ContentNext Media, estimates in a paidContent.org article that the figures could be “in the range of $35-to-$45 million, including possible earnouts.” The deal was brokered by the Jordan, Edmiston Group.
Source: “Media vets Brill and Crovitz sell Journalism Online,” Reuters, 03/24/11
Source: “Price Tag For Journalism Online Could Go As High As $45 Million,” paidContent.org, 03/24/11
Source: “Brill Sells Journalism Online to R.R. Donnelley,” Media Decoder (The New York Times), 03/24/11
Source: “RR Donnelley Acquires Journalism Online, LLC and Its Press+ System for Enabling Publishers to Enhance Revenues,” RR Donnelley news release, 03/24/11
Source: “Steven Brill sells Journalism Online,” Crain’s New York, 03/24/11
Image by Keith Ramsey/RambergMediaImages, used under its Creative Commons license.