Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wall Street Journal may follow NYTimes

Andrew Clark, Murdoch hints that all online Journal content will be free, The Guardian, September 19, 2007.  (Thanks to Ben Toth.)  Excerpt:

Rupert Murdoch again raised the prospect of ditching subscriptions for the Wall Street Journal online yesterday, hours after the New York Times dropped charges for premium sections of its website.

As the trend gathers pace towards free-of-charge news publishing on the internet, Mr Murdoch suggested he was leaning towards making the Journal site free once he completes a $5.6bn buyout of its owner Dow Jones.

The Journal is often held up as a rare example of a paper with premium content that can afford to charge without losing too many readers. It charges an annual $99. Mr Murdoch told a conference in New York that making the site free would help boost readership and revenues. "If you make it free, it will hurt the paper? - I don't think so," he said according to a Reuters report. He added: "That looks the way we're going." ...

Vivian Schiller, general manager of, said the change was motivated by a shift towards search engines for finding news in cyberspace. The volume of traffic funnelled through search engines such as Google News and Yahoo! was so great that the newspaper had concluded it could maximise advertising revenue by throwing open the entire site.

Some of the NYT's star columnists have been calling for their writing to be available to the widest possible audience. Since the paper introduced charges two years ago, 227,000 paying subscribers have signed up, generating $10m annually.

Comment.  If this becomes a trend, it won't directly spill over to scholarly journals, which can raise much less money from advertising than newspapers.  On the other hand, their expenses are much lower and there may be some indirect spillover, for example, through new user expectations and better data on the connection between free online access and heightened impact.  See my February 2006 article on advertising as a supplementary (not necessarily sufficient) source of revenue for OA journals, and on Google AdSense ads as a way to avoid both the real and the perceived problems of editorial corruption.