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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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