So now, with the New York Times caving in and offering their content for free, it's down to the Wall Street Journal (at least among big U.S. news providers) as the last holdout. Rupert Murdoch is already dropping big hints that he will follow suit, ending the Journal's 11 year paid subscription run, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Don't expect this to save the old news media, however--major surgery may be required.
Murdoch has suggested that making the WSJ.com free would bring in enough advertising revenue to offset the lost subscription revenues (the Journal generated at least $50 million in subscription revenues last year, say sources close to the paper). He's envisioning a website reaching tens of millions of people around the clock. But the logic is a bit of a stretch. According to the article the site would have to generate over 20 million unique visitors monthly vs 8.3 million monthly now--that's a big jump. Meantime the explosive online advertising growth is slowing some.
Yet the paper may have no choice.Newspapers are caught in the perfect storm. Print viewers are declining steadily--sometimes I feel like the only one around reading a newspaper anymore (don't even ask my kids). Competition is coming from every direction--cable tv, iPods, and so on. Meantime, the Internet has turned into a giant information machine and started leveling the playing field, making the big boys like the New York Times compete in new ways.