Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson has told the Financial Times that the paper is planning to launch "a sophisticated micropayments service" this autumn along with premium subscriptions. The system will be aimed at occasional users and pricing would be "rightfully high," Thomson said.
The premium subscriptions will focus on specialist areas such as energy, commodities, wealth management and other niches, reported the FT, and premium subscribers will have web access to the Dow Jones newswire, which is currently a product aimed solely at companies. When WSJ Online executive editor Alan Murray mentioned this "premium initiative" in April, he also suggested the paper was considering a news service for chief financial officers.
The news follows parent company News Corp leader Rupert Murdoch's announcement last week that he expects to start charging for online content across his media empire's newspapers within a year, for which it can be imagined he is looking to the WSJ for inspiration. The WSJ is one of the only major Anglophone newspapers to charge online, and its success in doing so has frequently been attributed to the fact that it is not a general interest newspaper, containing financial news that readers cannot find elsewhere.
Murdoch, however, seems to believe that paid online content is key for resolving the newspaper industry's current problems which have seen a huge fall in profits for News Corp. The potential of micropayments as an option for charging for individual newspaper articles has been debated at length by media commentators. Journalism Online, founded last month, aims to set up a system that will make it easier for newspapers to charge for online content via joint subscriptions or micropayments. When considering micropayments, ease of use for the reader seems to be crucial, and co-founder of the venture Steve Brill suggested that he has been inspired by iTunes, which allows users to quickly purchase individual songs from different artists or record labels.
Objections to a micropayment system have arisen from those who believe that unlike users buying a song to keep, readers only want to read an article once and therefore will not be prepared to pay for it. But if prices are low enough, maybe it could work. It will be extremely interesting see how much the WSJ decides to charge, and whether its attempt works.
Source: Financial Times