Murdoch May Make Wall Street Journal Free

    November 13, 2007

An online-only subscription to the Wall Street Journal usually costs $99, and around 1 million people have judged that to be a reasonable price.  Look for some drastic shifts, though, as Rupert Murdoch intends to lower that first number and increase the second.

Rupert Murdoch Murdoch hasn’t made any final decisions about access to the Wall Street Journal Online, but he told shareholders, “We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers) having at least 10-15 million in every corner of the earth.”

Advertising revenue would then be expected to replace subscription fees, and onlookers are somewhat divided as to whether this could occur.  Yet there’s a possibility that free online access would provoke some people to get actual newspaper subscriptions, and in any event, advertising revenues wouldn’t exactly be insignificant.

Also, Murdoch might be less interested in making money than in staying ahead of his competitors.  Douglas McIntyre notes, “The effects of Murdoch’s decision could send a huge wave through the financial content business, threatening to take ad revenue from online versions of the New York Times, Pearson’s Financial Times as well as the huge and profitable money sections of portals like MSN and Yahoo!  In other words, it could change the dynamics of where online financial advertising is placed and which properties make money.”

Which sounds like exactly the sort of thing that Murdoch, who’s worth about $6.7 billion, would like to do.