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Inquirer editor says you're going to pay for this

This was buried in a much longer, interesting story from Editor and Publisher, but if Inquirer editor Bill Marimow had his way, you would have needed to swipe your Visa card before reading this:

Then there are those like Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow, who feel readers should pay for all of their online news, just as they do in print. "If someone does not subscribe to the newspaper, they should pay a fee to subscribe online," he declares. "If you want to read a story, you ought to pay. Someone, either the reader, the [Web] audience, or advertisers have to pay if we are going to provide this content."

The article quotes a number of news executives, and it's clear that the highly respected, double-Pulitzer winning Inquirers newsroom boss is a bit out on the limb on this particular issue -- most of those quoted think that there may be some types of articles that some readers would pay a fee to read, but those stories are fairly limited, such as NFL football, perhaps, or highly localized neighborhood news or data. The polar opposite of Marimow is down in Tampa:

The whole idea of charging for the Web "is delusional," declares Janet Coats, editor of The Tampa Tribune. "People have lost their minds. They need to have a cold cloth on their heads and go lay down for a while."

For Coats, a more aggressive approach to getting online ad revenue is the answer: "We have spent 15 years in this industry getting newsrooms to change. By God, they have changed. How much have things changed on the ad side?"

The problem is that readers won't pay a lot -- a recent study found that half of Americans wouldn't pay for online news under any circumstance and those who would didn't want to pay more than $5 a month, about a week's worth of over-the-counter Daily News. But advertisers can't easily support online news, either, because the Internet is balkanized into thousands of information sites -- lucrative 20th-Century ad rates were only because monopoly or near-monopoly ownership of a large printing plant and a fleet of trucks that made newspapers the only easy way to reach a metro area (when businesses like department stores were also more localized.) I think the news itself will survive and maybe flourish from brand-new outfits and a handful of innovative old ones, but it's going to be very hard work involving a smorgasbord of things -- partnering with news non-profits like ProPublica, smartly developing content that people might actually pay for, sponsoring special events like seminars and other outside-the-box things that folks would actually part with their money for.

People want a magic bullet, a deus ex machina to come down in fix this thing -- but it's not there.