Brother, can you spare $4.99?

Staffers at the recently closed Rocky Mountain News, backed by three entrepreneurs, say they’ll start a news web site on April 23, provided some big “ifs” drop into their lap.

They’ll start the site if 50,000 subscribers join, and if they agree to each pay $4.99 a month, and if they pay it all in advance — roughly $60 per year per subscriber. If they don’t get those numbers, the effort dies.

So what does $60 a year get you? According to an AP story (see the link below), news will be free, while paying customers will get “extra features” that include access to certain blogs and columnists, as well as some mobile features.

This is not a tall order; it’s a gargantuan one. Getting 50,000 subscribers would be equal to about 25% of the Rocky’s final paid circulation. Why would anyone want to pay a cent for “extra features” when users can simply click over the to Denver Post and get whatever they need, free? I agree that newspapers need a new financial model. But that model isn’t going to work if one site is trying to charge while I similar site gives it away free.

I am not a fan of charging for the news — which is no longer a commodity — produced by major metros (Smaller properties are a different story; more on that some other time). Newspapers tried to charge years ago, and they dropped the fees because they could make more money charging advertisers for access to a growing audience. Things are bad, and media companies, trying to survive, are grasping at straws.

The Rocky didn’t survive, and some very talented journalists are trying to keep their craft alive. While my heart prays for success, my head tells me otherwise.

Read the AP story:


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