Writers at Risk at the WSJ?


Last semester in my media planning class at Emerson, I asked my professor about the subscription model of the WSJ’s online content. It didn’t make sense to me. A once-avid reader of the print paper, I noticed that I began to read the Journal less and less as I had increasingly less time to sit down with the print version and read it cover to cover. I became accustomed to reading the day’s news on my Blackberry as I walked through the Boston Commons to work or class. The NY Times, one of my favorite papers, served up fresh content for free everyday; so I rarely, if ever, stopped to buy a WSJ at a newstand and as a working college student, I was not willing to pay for its online content. Luckily, I learned that I could access the online content for free through a subscription our college library purchased for students. Soon a daily dose of the Journal was integrated back into my morning routine.

Today, I came across this story that describes the job cuts expected at the Journal due, in large part, to a dramatic decline in ad revenue over recent years.

Again, I wondered why, in this age of new media, where news and commentary is served up without cost to anyone with a working computer or a cell, some of the best writing in the news business is gaurded behind subscription fees and registration forms. For my twenty-something generation, the Web is our oyster; we expect free, open access to content. We click past any page guarded by restrictions on what we read. Although Dow Jones does offer free online versions of other popular publications, the lowest subscription rate for the Journal’s online content is $29, as far as I can tell; and subscribers are locked in for at least 15 weeks.

Allowing increased free access to content, it seems, would at least increase page views needed to increase online advertising revenue. At the very least, open up comment spaces on free content from the day’s paper so that the site has more stickiness, so that I can interact with the writers and stories I am passionate about and be compelled to click through other pages of the site (generating more valuable page views) to see what others have commented on. We live in an open-source age. Open the business model for more ad revenue potential and open the online site up for a new generation to be able to learn about the value of its content before these soon-to-be professionals grow up reading the competitor’s news, clicking through the competitors’ ads, driving the competitors’ growth.


One Response to “Writers at Risk at the WSJ?”

  1. Newspapers seriously need to rethink how they run their business. Not putting their content out there is not the way to do it. They are going to realize it after it’s too late. The WSJ writer’s will wake up and smell the coffee and go independent a few days after they get their pink slips. The talented writers will rise to the top in the age of “new media”.

    -Jeff O’Hara

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