When I first moved to Silicon Valley, the
newspaper of record was the San Jose Mercury News. Everyone read it. It did a great job covering the local startup scene, and had some fantastic columnists and writers. But, one by one, those top notch writers left for greener pastures or to start their own things (such as Matt Marshall starting VentureBeat, which came out of the experimental Silicon Beat that he and Michael Bazely created while at the Merc). Then, of course, Knight Ridder came under all sorts of Wall St. pressure and got sold (and some of the papers then were quickly sold again). In the last few years, there's been fewer and fewer reasons to actually read the Merc, and I haven't looked at the paper (or the website) in probably a year or two. That's quite amazing since it used to be one of my first stops every morning. But, these days, all of the news that I used to get from the Merc can be found online from better sources with better writers. Back in March, I was on a panel discussion with a business editor from the Merc, and he and I got into a somewhat heated discussion on the wisdom of charging for news online. I told him that it made no sense, and he insisted that it could work. Apparently, he knew what was coming.
Media News, the current owner of the Merc, has announced that it's now going to start charging for online access to the paper
, which seems like a move destined to fail dismally (and quickly). Already it's difficult to come up with any good reason to read the Merc online when it's free
, and suddenly they want people to pay for it? All of the info that the paper provides is better provided elsewhere. It's difficult to see how they think that any significant number of people will actually pay to subscribe to the online version that's a tiny shell of what was once a great newspaper.