New Yorker contributor and media entrepreneur Steven Brill now says 1,000 newspapers have signed "letters of intent" to explore charging for their content, twice as many as a month ago. These aren't meaningful numbers. But Brill needs them to be.
Brill's letters of intent commit newspapers only to sharing information and talking with his company, which wants to sell them micropayment technology. In terms of technology, this is a long-solved problem, but Brill is trying to conjure something more: A consensus that everyone take the jump at the same time. No publisher wants to be charging while his print competitors are still giving away his "premium" content for free. Brill's mission, then, is to make paywalls seem imminent and inevitable, one press campaign at a time. He should hope publishers don't ask too many questions about his plan.