WSJ Exec: Newspapers Need Paid Content Plan to Survive

Newspapers cannot live on advertising alone and must find a way to charge for some content, suggested Alan Murray, deputy managing editor and executive editor/online at The Wall Street Journal.

Murray said today that implementing some sort of pay strategy doesn’t have to be unique to the Wall Street Journal, and that newspaper Web sites can have it both ways—letting people access some content for free while charging others for premium content.

“It’s not an on/off kind of deal,” Murray explained.

Murray was speaking on panel covering the “Future of Media” presented by I Want Media today in New York. He was joined by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter; Craig Newmark of Craigslist.org; Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media; and Bonnie Fuller, founder of Bonnie Fuller Media. Patrick Phillips, I Want Media’s editor and founder, moderated the panel.

Murray said that newspapers need to figure out what content is worth affixing a price tag. “People mistake the most popular [content] with the most valuable,” he said, adding that he believes the New York Times made that error when it put its widely-read columnists behind a pay wall in its TimesSelect experiment.

The Journal takes a hybrid approach letting some of its content free to get more traffic including through search engines like Google. In April, the Journal Online grew the amount of monthly uniques to 12.3 million, a year-over-year increase of 160 percent.

“We’re crack addicts too, we like the traffic,” Murray joked.

Murray also reiterated that less than 30% of Wall Street Journal subscribers are reimbursed by their companies.

Murray told the audience he gives it a year or two before digital e-readers explode eventually—perhaps 10 years, he offered—replacing print.

Source: E&P