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We’re not the only ones who, upon receiving the Chronicle’s offer to “try out” their e-edition (only 99 bucks a year!), wondered if this was the moment we’ve been waiting for, when the Chronicle stops offering its content online without expecting payment from readers.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Steven Swartz, the president of Hearst newspapers (which own the Chronicle), said in a memo to staff:

“Exactly how much paid content to hold back from our free sites will be a judgment call made daily by our management, whose mission should be to run the best free Web sites in our markets without compromising our ability to get a fair price from consumers for the expensive, unique reporting and writing that we produce each day,”

So, was this rush to e-read a move in that direction, as pretty much every one of you who forwarded the e-edition email asked us?

We called Michael Keith, the lucky guy the Chronicle’s marketing department tapped to handle questions about the Chron’s future. He hastened to assure us that, no, the e-edition is just a different delivery method of the print product, intended for those who enjoy that (that is, the print) experience but who didn’t want the actual print product. He admitted that “the Gate is way more interactive” and pointed out that, no, you don’t get any of the Gate-exclusive content with this method of delivery.

We asked him if he expects this to be successful and he said “well, we hope so,” but pointed out that this was very new for them, so he didn’t know what to expect. When we asked him if this was intended to be the first step in making Chronicle content inaccessible to non-subscribers, and he said that it’s not, but that “there’s a lot of different ideas floating around out there.” but that he couldn’t comment on rumors.

And, he’s right, it’s still really all just rumor that Chronicle (or Hearst) content will, at some point, be less available on SFGate. Our remaining friends in the Chronicle newsroom have heard everything from “The Gate and Chronicle will be totally separate, with separate content, and none of the Chronicle will go online ever again” to “All Chronicle content but breaking news will eventually be behind a paywall for subscribers only.”

But, Keith is right: these are all just rumors for now, though we’ll hasten to alert you when we hear otherwise. Until then, we’ll content ourselves by asking:

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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  • Wil

    I would pay $99/year to read the Chron on my Kindle. I used to read it every day (in newsprint form) during lunch, but have switched to the NYT since that’s what’s available on that platform. (I *would not* pay for, nor carry around, the rumored Hearst Corp. Kindle competitor – the idea here is convenience.)

    No way in hell I’d pay to read it over the web.

  • Eve Batey

    Wil! So funny you say that about the Hearst kinda-le — I actually saw a mock-up of it yesterday. It is so big! Not bag-carriable, unless you’re, like, a supersize Timbuk3 carrier.

  • Nina

    I wonder if Patty (Hearst of course) calculates her losses in the number of pairs of shoes she won’t be able to buy because of the steady stream of moronic decisions made by the folks in charge at Hearst Central. Seriously, the Hearst Empire has got to be one of the worst managed organizations out there. And they wonder why they can’t make money.

  • Caribou

    Maybe if the Chronicle had some actual content these days!!

    The San Francisco Chronicle used to be a major newspaper…now it’s a JOKE. There’s nothing worth reading in the Chronicle anymore, and the only things worth reading if I want to read about the local news are on free online blogs.

    The Chronicle never should have laid off its talented team of writers. Hire back the people who actually know how to produce a good newspaper, and fire the executives and managers who get paid too much to do nothing.

  • stitch

    I actually was dumb enough to sign up for this, can’t miss my comics since it so accurately displays the editorial content of the Chron.

    No one seems to know what’s going on. I can’t get the link. I have been given 3 different user id’s/passwords, nothing works, people keep promising to call me back, no one does. If you think “customer service” with the Chron was bad before just you wait.

    I think I can wean myself from anything to do with the Chron just fine and then I won’t need to listen the over fed Hearst family whine how the newspaper business isn’t like when William Randolph ran roughshod over everyone…