How can daily newspapers — those protectors of the public trust-turned-sexy Wall Street darlings with titillating profit margins — make money on the Internet? That's the question every ink-stained corporation with a ticker symbol has been trying to answer.
The St. Petersburg Times, a fat cash cow raking it in under the precarious auspices of the nonprofit entity known as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, believes the answer is to offer its online archives for free in order to generate page views. Eyeballs, of course, mean advertising revenue.
The Tampa Tribune takes a different approach. The Media General Inc. newspaper wants to make money off you — that's right, beloved reader, you! The Trib charges casual readers and loyal subscribers alike $1.95 per article for the privilege of reading the newspaper's archived words of wisdom. Now, you may be thinking that $1.95 is cheap, considering the insight you could attain from reading such Parker Street literary titans as Judy Hill and Martin Fennelly.
You see, the Trib's business plan is flawed. The newspaper didn't consider that taxpayer-funded library systems would be giving away the goodies.
On the Pasco County Library System's Web site (power.pasco.lib.fl.us), the library offers the Trib's archives back to 1990. The cost? Nada. However, the Web site requires users to enter their library card number to access the archives, which means you have to be a Pasco County resident or somehow obtain a library card number. (E-mail [email protected] if you have a number, please.)
Even if you don't have a friend in that glorious U.S. 19 metropolis known as New Port Richey, you can still pick the Trib's brain at absolutely no cost to you. Visit one of the library branches in either Hillsborough or Pinellas and cruise over to the Newsbank computers, where you can not only search and read the Trib's archives for free, but also e-mail those articles to yourself for comfortable home reading.
To make it fun, keep track of the number of Trib articles you've received from the libraries, tally up the cost at $1.95 per article, and e-mail Publisher Steven M. Weaver at [email protected] to inform him just how much money you've saved thanks to your friends at the Planet.