Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ending the Wall St Journal Paywall...

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal announced that it was ending its policy of forcing people to pay a subscription fee in order to view its website. Instead, it is opening up its website to the public, and will make its money from advertising rather than subscription fees.

This, of course, comes on the heels of the New York Times doing the same thing, ending its paywall a few weeks ago. Media companies are finally become sold on the idea that they can actually make more money by giving their product away for free - which grows their audience and user base - and then enhance their financial bottom line by finding alternative revenue streams (like advertising).

This is a business model that is long overdue in the Digital Age, where distribution costs have been virtually eliminated. There will always be a market for people who want to buy packaged goods and professional-quality services, and making internet content freely available is not only a competitive necessity, but also a tremendous way of growing a consumer base and increasing exposure. Think of it as analogous to giving out free samples of chocolates at the mall in order to entice you to buy the packaged gift box.

Eventually, Hollywood and the music industry will come around on this idea as well, and transform their core business model from distributing goods (which is completely outdated in digital environments) into marketing the artists. Until then, they will continue losing revenue and missing out on the tremendous business opportunities that the Web has to offer.

It's definitely a positive development that the Wall Street Journal has ended its paywall and followed suit with others in the media industry. It's just a shame that it took them so long to do it.


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