Why does the Chronicle have a website?

First: This is not a rhetorical question.

Second: Yes, I know it’s a little late in the game to be asking this question, considering that the Chronicle has had a website since at least 1996.

I ask the question out of genuine curiosity. I don’t know what’s causing it, but I have been starting to think more strategically lately. I’m the Chronicle’s Web Editor, but I’m not sure I know exactly what the paper wants to do with its online presence.

You could argue that the Chronicle’s website is meant to inform the public, but if that’s all it was for, then why do we sell ads on it? Obviously, making money plays some part in the equation. How big a part? Where is the line between news and ads? How much do we give away, and how much do we try to sell?

Why do we have a website? Is it simply because everybody else has a website? Are we simply following the fad, or do we have a purpose and goals we want to accomplish online?

I’m not sure how many people are reading this blog yet, but I’m still posting this here in the hope of getting your thoughtful feedback. So here’s my challenge to you:

Write your own version of a “mission statement” for the Chronicle’s website. If you don’t like that business jargon, simply explain in a paragraph why the paper’s has a website. Keep in mind that we are both a source of news and a business that needs to justify spending money on things.

How would you strike a balance here? Reply in the comments here or on my work blog.