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Free WSJ Online Access Coming

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Rupert Murdoch plans to make WSJ.com free to increase readership and generate far more in advertising. Right now the site gets 1 million viewers and Murdoch hopes to see it go to 15 million. For now a subscription just to the online edition is $79 for a year.

The site is has already added social media – or at least one element – along with RSS feeds. You can submit stories to Digg via the “Digg This” link at the bottom of each story. And you’ll be able to read the entire article, free and with advertising, when it’s linked from Digg.

The story about how the WSJ adding a “Digg This” link was Dug by Digg’s founder Kevin Rose. It made the home page and has more than 12000 diggs already. I wonder how the demographic of the journal – I’m not really sure why the WSJ hasn’t dipped more than just a toe in these waters – perhaps by adding at least Del.icio.us bookmarking or comments. Just give me Kevin J. Delaney and Amol Sharma’s articles, who cover new media.

The article announcing the change was on the Wall Street Journal’s site. It gives a few paragraphs and then requires you to sign up and give up your credit card number before you can read the rest. THE FULL WSJ.com ARTICLE IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS. It’s not stated when that tagline might be removed.

Some wonder if the entire site would be free or just sections of it. News Corp. is poised to acquire Dow Jones & Co., the parent of The Wall Street Journal, next month. The controversial $5 billion sale added The Wall Street Journal to the Murdoch’s news empire, which already includes Fox News, the New York Post, and London’s The Times.

Murdoch wants to expand their reach internationally and modernize the business. Murdoch talked about new talent, said “we’ll be able to make huge strides in quality, in attractiveness and in the value of The Wall Street Journal.”

Now let’s take a sidestep to think about how the demographics of the WSJ compares to the average Digg user. According to their own data, the Wall Street Journal readers online are highly educated with high net worths (in 2005, the average household income of readers was $215,000 and they had an average net worth of $1.6 million). A demographic that advertisers would love. It didn’t give ages in the summary I saw. Digg demographics as of last year were mostly younger men. According to a post last year by ZDNet, Digg’s demographic is 94% male and “generally twenty or thirty something techies earning $75,000 or more.”

It looks like Digg has become mainstream and newspapers like the WSJ are catching up to the rest of the world online.

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