With word yesterday, courtesy of the gleeful New York Post, that the slimmed-down gray lady was dumping subscription-based TimesSelect, came the wagging that the Internet would now be forever liberated from the tyranny of publishers who have the temerity to charge us for online content.
Not so fast.
True, none other than Rupert Murdoch has been mulling the prospect of abandoning the paid model that has served the online version of The Wall Street Journal so well. Never mind that wsj.com actually makes a healthy sum, compared to the rest of Dow Jones.
Scott Karp, on his Publishing 2.0 blog, is eager to add fuel to that fire:
Even if it’s true that the WSJ has the highest quality business content bar none, the web is so awash in good, great, and utterly crappy business content, all free, that WSJ is holding onto its paid subscribers through sheer brand strength alone.
And why is that such a bad thing?
If the Journal can pull off that feat, then no need, for now, to tinker with that formula, which is the envy of the beleaguered newspaper industry.
Karp is more on target with newspapers that believe a critical mass are happy to read the paper online, don't want to be bothered with the print version, and will happily pay for that privilege.
The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y. and the Albuquerque Journal are among those that keep their product behind a pay wall.
The Journal justifies that decision by proclaiming it delivers "extra news and value" to print subscribers, who actually get it for free with their subscription.
Of course, most newspaper sites provide a lot more, including video, podcasts and chat, on the Web than what's found in print.
And that's all free.
Expect the Gazette and Journal to follow suit before long. There's simply more to be made from advertising linked to content open to all than subscription fees.
As for wsj.com, it's not broke and Murdoch sure as hell won't have to fix it.