Everybody's talking about thinking about charging for content

The evidence continues to pile up that this will be the year newspapers start charging you to access their digital content. The latest news: Journalism Online, the e-commerce start-up created to help publishers monetize their websites, now says that more than 1,000 publications, including both print-based and digital-only titles, have signed on as affiliates. "There's a remarkable consensus among publishers that, if they do their jobs right, they can generate subscription revenues from roughly the 10 percent most engaged online users," Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and one of Journalism Online's co-founders, told me recently.

But scratch a little deeper and it becomes clear that publishers, while deeply curious about the idea of charging consumers for digital access, are also deeply ambivalent. For starters, those 1,000-plus Journalism Online affiliates haven't signed binding contracts yet, just "letters of intent," which, as Staci Kramer recently pointed out, don't obligate signatories to anything more than information-sharing.