Dow Jones Execs Talk Murdoch Out Of Dropping The Paywall
from the short-term-revenue-vs.-long-term-relevance dept
For months there had been a lot of buzz about how Rupert Murdoch was interested in dropping the WSJ’s paywall. However, as we noted, execs at Dow Jones were quick to hit back, and said they would convince Murdoch otherwise after the acquisition was completed. It appears that’s exactly what’s happened. Murdoch today admitted that he’s going to keep the WSJ subscription offering and maybe even increase the price. Amusingly, this news is available for free on the WSJ’s site. The truth is, it’s still not entirely clear what’s going to happen to the Journal’s website. While Murdoch said there will always be a subscription offering, he also said that more content will be free. It sounds like he’s trying to straddle both solutions here, picking the “most valuable” content to remain locked up. Of course, that was the NY Times’ strategy — which failed.
The simple fact is that news reporting content is incredibly difficult to monetize directly anymore — due to a variety of factors, mostly having to do with the nature of trying to sell content. There are models (even subscription models) that work, but they will be not for the content directly, but for advanced services, such as personalization or analysis. The risk in locking up your best content is that the WSJ will continue to lose relevance, as the next generation of readers won’t even bother to sign up, as they won’t be able to understand why it’s worth paying for this content, no matter how good WSJ execs claim it is.
The next generation of content users have learned something important: it’s no longer reasonable to take it on faith that content they don’t have access to is good and worth paying for. They need to have access to the content itself, and will figure out for themselves if it’s valuable — and if it is, they’ll want to do more with it than just read it. They want to share it, vote on it, discuss it, analyze it and many other things. Locking up the content makes it a lot more difficult and takes away much of the value. Taking away value from consumers isn’t exactly a strategy for success these days.