Trib’s Jack Fuller — Time to Pay the Piper

(by Staci Kramer, guest blogging the ONA conference from Evanston, Ill): No surprises but a smooth look at online economic reality from Tribune president Jack Fuller, who opened ONA’s 4th annual conference with a warning about giving content away. He should know — Fuller estimates that he has signed off on online-related expenses netting out to $600 million. “Eventually someone will have to pay the piper,” said Fuller, predicting that news sites will move to a model at least paid in part by the subscriber. (The Trib’s is already charging for access to some coverage.) Offering free content from the start “may have been our biggest mistake… We all did it.” Compounding the problem: much of that “free” content is expensive to produce. He said free online content may not be siphoning readers away from newspapers completely but that online is cannabilizing print in terms of frequncy of use. Instead of reading the paper seven days a week people are picking up the print edition less and going online in between. — Staci D.Kramer in Evanston, Ill.