Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Wall Street Journal Promises New Pay Sites, Someday

alan-murrayMy colleagues over at The Wall Street Journal have been able to convince more than a million people to pay for full access to the paper’s Web site. Can it find even more people who are willing to pay for even more online stuff?

Yes, says Executive Editor Alan Murray, who alluded to his plans in an interview with Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. Murray doesn’t go into any level of detail about what he has up his sleeve except to say that he’s thinking about niche products that might focus on energy, or a “news service for chief financial officers.”

In other words, trade newsletters, which have proven to be a very resilient business for the likes of McGraw-Hill (MHP).

The video of the interview is embedded below, and you can see a full transcript here. But here’s the relevant text:

Murray: We’re working on a premium initiative to launch a series of, as you say, niche or narrower information services that we can sell at a premium to smaller groups of subscribers on subjects that they care most about.

Question: What sort of subjects?

Murray: Oh, I mean, there are potentially thousands of them. Energy might be an example. Obviously a lot of our readers are deeply interested in financial subjects. Perhaps some sort of a news service for chief financial officers. There are a lot of ideas that are on the table. We’ve started prioritizing them–got a few that will probably come out first. But I’m not going to break that news on your video.

I’d complain about the Nieman crew not following up on this (and burying the lede, too–what are they teaching over there at Harvard?), but the fact is that Murray has been talking about this stuff internally for a while. So has his boss, WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson, so I’m not sure whether this qualifies as new news.

But it is worth noting that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, who was just forced to take a huge write-down on the Journal, has sounded increasingly disenchanted with advertising-based businesses, period. You may recall that when Murdoch acquired the paper in 2007, he was geared to take down the pay wall surrounding the Web site altogether, as the New York Times (NYT) had done with its flagship site. Now it looks like News Corp. (NWS) is willing to put up even more walls.

Also, while I’m at it, the disclosure: The site you’re reading right now is owned by Dow Jones, which owns The Wall Street Journal. But as far as I know, we’ve got no plans to charge for it. Enjoy, gratis!

Alan Murray of The Wall Street Journal on charging for content from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”