Wall Street Journal to Go Free Online

Wall Street Journal This news is a couple of days old but this is the first I’ve heard of it: The Wall Street Journal‘s website will soon be free.

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation, said today that he intended to make access to The Wall Street Journal’s Web site free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue. “We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having one million, having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth,” Mr. Murdoch said, referring to The Journal’s online readership.

[…]

The Web site, one of the few news sites globally to successfully introduce a subscription model, currently has around one million subscribers, which generates about $50 million in user fees.

WSJ has managed, like National Journal and a handful of others, to charge for niche content that its readers consider essential. Some great publications — Slate, the New York Times, and others — failed.

Still, I think Murdock is making the right move. While advertising sales can be unpredictable and cyclical, it’s hard to believe that maximizing readership isn’t the smartest strategy for the long term.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    How is this going to work for those of us who are paying for the online version now? Are they going to give us the print version or just not bill us anymore?

  2. James Joyner says:

    How is this going to work for those of us who are paying for the online version now?

    The article doesn’t so, although I presume they’ll stop billing if it’s monthly and prorate if it’s annual.

    Sometimes, though, you just get hosed. That happened to me with the Dallas Morning News, when they made their Cowboys news free again. It wasn’t that big a deal, since it was a modest annual fee and I didn’t get any less than I was previously paying for. But rather odd.

  3. Boyd says:

    When the DMN put their Cowboys news on the subscription model, I switched to the Ft Worth Star-Telegram. I don’t think I’ll bother returning to the Morning News. The pissed me off just a little too much with that one.

  4. James Joyner says:

    When the DMN put their Cowboys news on the subscription model, I switched to the Ft Worth Star-Telegram. I don’t think I’ll bother returning to the Morning News. The pissed me off just a little too much with that one.

    I did the same for quite some time but Gosselin and others are worth paying a few bucks for. Especially if you’re running a Sports site and can write it off on taxes.

  5. Boyd says:

    Especially if you’re running a Sports site and can write it off on taxes.

    Well yes, there is that. Heh.

  6. M. Murcek says:

    I’ve been a WSJ Online subscriber for years. The obvious questions I’ll be watching for the answers to are 1) Will the quality level of WSJ Online content be harmed? 2) Will the ads be annoying and distracting? As it stands now, I completely ignore online ads (you can train your mind to even stop reacting to provocative pictures and animations, but the pop-overs are maddening) Not the answer that those depending upon on-line ad revenue wish to hear, but true for some users all the same…

  7. Mark Jaquith says:

    Wonder if there will still be a “login wall.” Three cheers for BugMeNot. Killing the login wall as well as the pay wall would be the ultimate traffic booster, as they’d get more direct links from bloggers.

    P.S. Happy Birthday, James!

  8. James Joyner says:

    Thanks!

    And, yeah, login walls are a pain. I don’t mind registration for commenting on the blogs and so forth but the content itself should be unencumbered.

  9. Anderson says:

    They’ll lose $$ to people cancelling their print subscriptions & taking advantage of the free online content, but perhaps less than many other papers would. I wonder how many WSJ subs are businesses where “no one” picks up the cost?