Content is free(er)

So Rupert Murdoch finally said it: The Wall Street Journal Online is going free. Here’s the link — and soon you won’t need to curse when you click on it and hit that brick pay wall. (Here‘s the AP version on the Times.)

On WSJ.com, Mr. Murdoch said, “We are studying it and we expect to make [the site] free and, instead of having one million [subscribers], having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth.” He said he believes that a free model, with its increased readership, will attract “large numbers” of big-spending advertisers.

I’ve argued in favor of dropping the wall. Lest I be accused (again) of wanting content to be free, I’m not saying that. I’m saying it already is. That horse has left the barn and has been running free for a decade. The reality of a networked media ecosystem is that free competition is always a click away. And as classified managers have learned trying to deal with Craigslist, free is damned hard to compete with. It just is.

But I think Murdoch’s move is about more than a business model and ad revenue. It is a shot across the bow of the New York Times. Watch out, neighbors, there’s a shootout in town. And it’s going to be damned fun to watch.

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  • David G.

    Jeff, your former friend Hoder, the blogfather, is in big legal trouble. An Iranian fellow at a Washington think-tank has sued him over his blog for 2 million dollars. You have always been a champion for free speech. He needs your support! If Howard Stern worth defending, I think Hoder is too. Read his blog for more detail.

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  • http://mnthomp.blogspot.com Matt T

    That’s great news, and long overdue, in my opinion. But, now what happens to my subscription money? (Not that it was really that much, but still. That’s probably a question better posed to Mr Murdoch.)

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  • Eric Gauvin

    oh. I guess this thing isn’t working…

  • Eric Gauvin

    Marvel is charging for content online:

    (from Reuters)
    Robert MacMillan

    NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters Life!) – Spider-Man may spin a good yarn in comic books, but Marvel Entertainment Inc hopes that he finds the World Wide Web equally comfortable.

    The publisher said on Tuesday that it will start a Web site that will feature access to thousands of its comic books and the famous heroes who populate them, from Spider-Man and the X-Men to the Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

    Marvel will charge subscriptions — $4.99 a month if people sign up for a year, or $9.99 a month if they don’t.

    “This is a major new piece of my overall publishing plan,” Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing, said in an interview.

    “It’s a different entertainment experience, online versus reading a book.”

    Marvel plans to offer access to 2,500 comics, Buckley said. It will make 250 available for free to entice people to pay up, but for a limited time, a company statement explained.

    The Digital Comics Unlimited site then will add 20 additional books a week, including a mix of new and vintage comics.

    Among the older titles will be the first 100 issues of “Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Fantastic Four,” as well as the initial 66-issue run of “Uncanny X-Men” and the first 50 issues of “The Avengers.” It will feature other super heroes like the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine and the Silver Surfer. Continued…

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  • Well Swell

    WSJ and NYT and all those old world 19th century and 20th century publishers have GOT to go free.

    Nobody would give a dime for their lies anymore.

    They are nothing more than corporate propaganda.

    As such they are not fit to pay for.

    What thinking person would pay to be propagandized?

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    For Eric Gauvin:

    We have been observing the progress of Marvel comics now, for many of your years. This new move on their part is in accord with our vision of the cosmic-all, and was fore-ordained from time immemorial. While the efforts of Marvel are in accord with the logical progression of the sphere of things, we must remain apart, aloof…and only observe…

    —The Watcher

  • Eric Gauvin

    @ Tansley…

    What are you trying to say?

  • http://tomaltman.com Tom Altman

    It will be interesting to see how long it takes for people to acknowledge that it is free. A newspaper (http://gazetteonline.com) I work for put up a “gate” around 2000 and people still have it set in their head that our site costs money to use.