Thursday, February 23, 2006

A word on the WSJ

Just a little rant...

Today, I was browsing the day's Planetizen headlines like I usually do, and I clicked on a link to read a WSJ story about the new DC ballpark plan. (Rebuilding Space has already written extensively on the subject if you're interested) Unfortunately for everyone involved, once I clicked on the Planetizen link to read the story, I was taken to a WSJ login page. I tried to use the BugMeNot service to get a login so I could read the story, and BugMeNot doesn't have Wall Street Journal logins anymore because they are a subscription only service. And this isn't just for old, archived stories here. To read ANY current stories on the WSJ site, you have to have a subscription, which costs 100 bucks for non-print subscribers and 50 for current subscribers.

I was more than a little miffed that I couldn't get to this daily news story in a fantastic newspaper without paying 100 bucks (out of the question), so I started digging a little bit.

I found this great Wired article by Adam Penenberg about how the WSJ is on the verge of making themselves irrelevent because of the fact that bloggers and other online news sources can't link to their stories whatsoever. Say what you want about the importance or credibility of bloggers, they are where the most constant, relevant conversation about the news happens. (I really think that's much more the role that bloggers play anyway: a great way to discover what people are SAYING about the news. I think actual "scoops" like the 60 minutes thing are few and far between in that world.)

Anyway, Penenberg thinks that WSJ is making themselves irrelevant because they've removed themselves from that conversation. Bloggers (who do subscribe) are, for the most part, very reticent about linking to stories in their blogs that the clickees would have to pay to read.

And while the WSJ has over 2 million print subscribers each day, I'd say I have to agree with this guy that they are removing themselves from the online "conversation" that happens nonstop online.

From the story:

Since most people refuse to pay for WSJ stories, most bloggers are reluctant to link to them. It also has an impact on anyone who uses the web for research -- and there are a lot of us. As importantly, the next generation of readers is growing up by accessing news over the internet, and one place they are not surfing to is With their habits being formed now, there is little chance the Journal will become part of their lives, either now or in the future.

The Journal should take the bold step of jettisoning its subscriber model and open up its archive to the public. In the end, it would make up the loss of subscriber revenue with money from advertising, which has been growing briskly. Sure, it might take a while -- perhaps many years -- but this is the only way for it to ensure its long-term survival.

A radical move like this would also send shivers down the spines of competitors like, which doesn't charge for content and got rid of registration requirements when it discovered they drove away traffic. One reason was able to get off the ground was that it offered free content while the Journal made people pay. If the Journal hadn't done that, might not have become the online power it is.
The WSJ is certainly one of the best newspapers in the world, in my opinion. They cover even non-business related issues even better than some of their well-known counterparts like the NYT and the Washington Post. The WSJ even broke the story here just recently about Tom Coughlin (the FORMER namesake of the Bentonville Library, HA!) pleading guilty to federal charges.

Could their arrogance as a great newspaper cost them down the road?

Try going to Google and searching for a business-related headline and see if a WSJ story comes up anywhere NEAR the top.

(Reflections on last week's general plan meeting to come....)