‘Free the Journal’ drumbeat from inside

I’ve heard both arguments from inside Dow Jones about keeping the Journal behind a pay wall or freeing it to the world, but now comes no less a WSJ luminary than Kara Swisher voting for free from her (free) blog:

While I hate to differ with Crovitz, who helped us immeasurably in getting this site up and running as a free one, I think an open and ad-supported model is the only way to go now, especially under a larger and more powerful (and, most important, global) company like News Corp. that can really vault the site to higher prominence and higher traffic.

And given that the Journal’s online site garners estimated revenues of about $65 million from its paid efforts, which is admirable, it is chump change for News Corp. to try turbocharging the site as a free one, an experiment that will surely pay back the short-term cost. . . .

Most importantly, while a good product, the paid version simply creates a situation in which the Journal is not as relevant as it could and should be.

Scott Moore — a competitor, it should be noted — from Yahoo chimes in in the comments:

‘m not so sure “go free” is the right move for wsj.com at this point. I always felt they made a strategic mistake in launching the site with a subscription for many of the reasons Kara states about influence, size of audience, etc. At this point, however, its not at all clear that making the site free would automatically get it to the top of the Financial sites ratings without a big distribution partner (oh wait, there’s MySpace). And NewsCorp will have to weigh the potential damage to newspaper subscriptions and DJ wire service business if wsj.com goes free as is. Will be v interesting for sure, but its not a simple decision.

Heh. You can bet that Moore doesn’t want WSJ to go free; it would be a body slam to Yahoo News, which mostly merely aggregates while the Journal reports. Nice try, Scott.

  • http://www.howardowens.com Howard Owens

    Scott makes good points, though.

    Turning away revenue form 900,000 paying people is hardly a slam dunk. As much into free as I am, I would be hesitant to make that move.

    You can’t let ideology get in the way of good business decisions.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    However, Howard….

    In cases where I’m online and browsing for news, there are any one of a dozen other sites I can visit for financial updates without paying for it.

    Taking wsj online ‘free’ may not be a ‘slam dunk’, but it DOES seem a virtual ‘no brainer.’