King of Broken Promises Wants You to Trust Him

Media entrepreneur Steven Brill has been failing pretty much constantly for the past 11 years, and repeatedly broken his word in the process. But he's turned the corner with his new startup, he swears! Just don't ask for specifics!

Brill's latest venture is a completely unnecessary company offering internet micropayment software, which already exists, to newspapers, which emphatically should not be buying it. It's one of the stupidest ideas we've ever encountered. But! Brill says he has letters of intent from 506 newspapers, right in his pocket. "This is a pretty good milestone," one of his partners told PaidContent.

Yet when PaidContent asked for names of a few of these customers, Brill's Journalism Online Inc. clammed up, "after weeks of promising a list." So observers must decide for themselves whether to trust a businessman who...

...Didn't live up to his word on what he was selling. Customers paid $200 for a year-long Clear membership but were left in the cold when the company closed down, even if they'd had only a month of service delivered. "Senior creditors," meanwhile, got dibs on the company's remaining assets.

...Didn't live up to his word on customer privacy. Brill told customers of his last failed venture, the "Clear" airport fast-pass program, that their personal information would be locked behind "two levels of password protection." Then a laptop with personal information on 33,000 Clear customers mysteriously disappeared, and it turned out the data was unencrypted..

Do newspapers really want this man asking consumers to whip out their credit cards? We'll see!

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times did some digging and found several large publishers have NOT signed on with Brill, including:

  • Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal)
  • McClatchy Co. (30 daily newspapers)
  • Tribune Co. (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, etc.)

Gannett Co., with 84 daily papers, declined to comment to the Times.