‘Wall Street Journal’ Site Opens its Pay Doors for a Day

By: Jennifer Saba

WSJ.com is hosting an open house today to give non-subscribers a taste of having access to all the publication’s content.

This is the fourth time this year the site has offered all of its pages free for a day. Sponsor advertisers pick up the tab, as WSJ.com General Manager Daniel Bernard put it. He declined to say what today’s sponsor, Dell, shelled out for exclusive front-page positioning. Other past sponsors have included AT&T, the Discovery Channel, and Charles Schwab.

WSJ.com’s free days “are very popular with users, and advertisers love it,” Bernard told E&P.

Of course, the idea is to get more readers hooked on the site once they get access to content, much of which normally sits behind a pay wall. But Bernard said the Journal doesn’t track visitors who might sign up after poking around during designated freebie days.

The Wall Street Journal is one of a handful of newspaper Web sites that successfully charges for content; WSJ.com receives half of its revenue from advertisers and half from subscribers. Said Bernard, “It’s nice to have a diversified revenue stream.”

He added that editors are always trying to decide what content to offer for free and what to save for subscribers, but that WSJ executives are committed to keeping some of it paid: “We have been successful with our hybrid model.”

In fact, a few weeks ago, the Journal made a concerted effort to make it easier for non-subscribers to access the free content with a redesign. “We decided to re-evaluate how we are surfacing content,” he said, noting that in the past that the free stories could often be difficult to find.

Through a new “non-subscriber” homepage, visitors can access certain articles from sections like personal finance, the auto channel, blogs, podcasts, videos, and stories from other Journal properties such as MarketWatch. Bernard said the paper had also opened up some additional content for free prior to the redesign, including some pieces from “Personal Journal.”

The site is committed to keeping what it calls “core content” — the stories on which business decision-makers often rely, including the “what’s news” column — paid.

“We want users to understand we are innovative,” said Bernard. “We have a lot of deep, rich content out there. This gives them a taste of who we are.”

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