“Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation, said today that he intended to make access to The Wall Street Journal’s Web site free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue. â€œWe are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having one million, having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth,â€ Mr. Murdoch said, referring to The Journalâ€™s online readership.
This ends (at least, it’s the “end of the beginning”) the longest-running media debates of the online-era. I’ve blogged about this topic extensively and speculated recently that Murdoch’s savvy numbers-crunchers had helped make this decision months ago. I’m sure there are some “rest-of-the-story” details, but the facts have been pretty much laid out over the past 90 days.
Indeed, in many public venues, including last month’s Future of Business Media conference organized by PaidContent.org, both WSJ Publisher Gordon Crovitz and WSJ.com’s Alan Murray, were coy in their remarks (publicly and privately) regarding the topic, but clearly telegraphed its inevitability. Publicly, Crovitz indicated there was a clear path to making more content freely available, as a way of expanding readership. The corporate line has been fairly transparent that it was all a matter of when, not if.