Earlier, I linked to Steve Brill’s “secret” memo to the New York Times urging them to start charging online readers. Brill suggested, at one point, “a new marketing campaign …’you get what you pay for.’” Here, TJ Sullivan of LAObserved suggests a sort of “you don’t get what you don’t pay for” approach that he hopes might convince readers of all online newspapers to pony up:

Now is the time for newspapers to do something proactive; time for them to demonstrate what life would be like without them.


It’s time for every daily newspaper in the United States, in cooperation with the Associated Press, to shut down their free Web sites for one week.

Yes. Shut it down. Blank screen. Nothing.

Of course, news would still be reported daily in every newspaper’s printed product. No editor, or reporter or publication would dare shirk their watchdog responsibilities. This isn’t about stopping the presses.

But the Web? People can do without news on the Web for a week. They won’t like it. They’ll complain about it. But, that’s exactly what has to happen before they can be expected to care.

Pulling the plug gets their attention.

So, here’s the proposal: At the stroke of midnight on Independence Day, Saturday July 4, all daily newspapers ought to switch off their Web sites until Friday, July 10.

Call it “A Week Without a Virtual Newspaper.” Call it crazy. Call it costly. Call it whatever you want, but it’s no more drastic a measure than asking people to work for free…

…The point of pulling the plug for one week isn’t to harm them, but to emphasize the origin of all that news content, and why everyone should care about protecting that source.

Pulling the plug is perhaps the only way to make people outside of journalism sit up and take notice that this isn’t about jobs in journalism, but American Democracy.

Related petition. Watch Sullivan make the case:

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.