Turning Points in Journalism: When Big Newspapers Decided Readers Wouldn’t Have to Pay for the News

In 1995, big newspapers decided they should make digital readers pay for a newspaper’s news. James O’Shea, former editor of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, described what then happened in his book, The Deal From Hell.

When the Internet was just heating up, a number of newspaper executives realized the possible threat to revenues. This was the era of “Information wants to be free!” So the biggest metropolitan newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Knight-Ridder, the Tribune Company, Times Mirror, Advance Publications, Cox Enterprises, Gannett, and Hearst, got clearance from their antitrust lawyers to meet and they hammered out a plan to form an organization, the New Century Network, that would pool their content and place it behind a paywall.

You would have had to pay to read well-reported stories from the best newspapers.

But the members of the organization couldn’t get along. The egos were too big. They couldn’t decide who would make decisions. New Century Network broke up and newspapers started giving away their content free.

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