Will Micropayments Work for the Wall Street Journal?

    May 11, 2009
    Chris Crum

The Wall Street Journal Online will reportedly be launching a micropayment model for content this fall. Some other news publications appear to see this is a brilliant move, but asking people to pay for content on the web will draw its share of skepticism.

WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson says, "It’s a payments system — once we have your details we will be able to charge you according to what you read, in particular, a high price for specialist material."

Wall Street Journal

Are readers going to go for this though? Mike Mansick at TechDirt doesn’t think so, and he raises some very valid points on the matter: 

"First, the ‘cost’ is much bigger than the nominal sum, because of the mental transaction costs (‘is this worth buying?’) that add friction to the process. Second, and more importantly, it’s a self-defeating move. In adding micropayments, you automatically decrease the value of the content."

"These days, many people value content for the ability to engage with it, comment on it and share it with others. Micropayments take away that ability, and thus decrease the value of the content. In some sense, adding a micropayment option gives people fewer reasons to pay!"

I know that if I am following a link to an article (from any paid content site) that is unavailable to me because I am not a registered subscriber, I am bound to go elsewhere for that information. I suspect that most other people would do the same. The question is, how much is the brand of that publication worth to you? Are you willing to pay just because the info is coming from a brand like the WSJ or are you likely to look a little further for material on the topic of interest?

In the age of Twitter, the Blogosphere, Google News, and the general openness and sharing of information, (not to mention a down economy) I think many readers are going to have a hard time justifying paying for online content when there is plenty of free quality content available to them.

Do you think the micropayment model will work for the Wall Street Journal or do you see people just getting their content elsewhere? Share your thoughts.