— Canwest’s grab bag of Web services — still doesn’t get the Internet. That was fairly obvious in their very weak web sites for the local newspapers, the Sun and the Province. Until recently, you couldn’t even directly access their sites; you had to go through the Canwest-Global site.

The Sun, Province and National Post now have their own sites. Perhaps understandably, they’ve started charging for some of the content (in the case of the NP) or will be charging in the near future (in the case of Sun and the Province).

But you can’t actually buy access to the articles unless you are a subscriber to their dead-tree or electronic editions. At the National Post site, if you are not a subscriber, there is no way to immediately pay for access to stories. Instead, you are invited to send them an e-mail or call a 1-800 number where, presumably, they will sell you a subscription. The Sun and Province sites promise that there will be a way for non-subscribers to buy access, but only says details will be available “later.”

This is a massive failure of understanding how the Internet works. If you’re going to charge for access to information, you better make sure you are the sole source of that information. It’s simple, after all, to find it elsewhere and, likely, for free.

And if you are going to charge, you have to make it easy. Those surfing the Internet aren’t looking for information later, they are looking for it now. If you can’t provide it, they’re off to someone who can.

You’ve got to wonder if anyone connected with Canwest’s internet operations has actually ever surfed the Internet or examined how other newspapers — those who charge for information and those don’t — operate.

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