Blog Post

Online Journal Weathers Price Increases

Steve Klein’s lament on the rising cost of the Wall Street Journal Online set off an alarm bell for me. I wrote last April that a price increase was coming and I’d already mentioned the new price of $99 for non-print subscribers and $49 for online/print in a post about whether offering some free links had caused any drop in subscriptions but I never addressed the actual increases.

Klein first subscribed to the Journal six years ago for $49.95, re-upping even when the price rose to $79. Despite being generally happy with the service — “it’s good information and it’s there when I want it” — the latest price hike has him steamed. Klein: “I certainly understand the value of the Wall Street Journal without the condescending e-mail form letter I received with the well-buried price increase from Todd H. Larsen, president of the Online Journal. So, if content providers wonder when they’ve pushed the envelope too far, this is the wall — at least for me. Not one penny more. And I’m just a little angry with myself for re-upping (although I have two weeks to change my mind).” This is where I should point out that I pay the lower fee as a print sub and that I prefer the NYTimes.com model of including the online service with the print.

Given Steve’s comments and the amount of inquiries Rafat and I each have been getting lately about paid subscription models, this seemed like a good time to get some more details about the increase and its effect.

When the Journal raised its price 33 percent to $79 in 2002, it was the first increase in three years. The pattern was roughly the same when the price went up $20 in July and $10 for online/print. Each time, Dow Jones and Online Journal execs stressed the lack of a price increase during previous years and the improvements made in the interim. For instance, subscribers have access to more newsletters and more online-only editorial content. The first empirical data will be visible later this month when Dow Jones releases its 3Q05 numbers.

In the meantime, Gordon Crovitz, president of Dow Jones Electronic Publishing, says subscribers continue to renew at “very high rates” and new subs are signing on at a strong rate. “We had an annual increase of more than 8 percent when we reported the second quarter, which was the fastest rate of subscriber growth since 2002. As importantly, our usage numbers continue to soar, with very strong double-digit gains in the number of monthly visitors to the Online Journal and in page views. This is a tribute to the great work by managing editor Bill Grueskin and his team at the Online Journal in constantly finding new ways to deliver the best business news to our subscribers online.” Note: Some of the Online Journal’s increase in traffic stems from the relatively new practice of sending out several “free” links a day to bloggers.

Related:

When Content Is Worth A Fee

Is A Rate Hike In WSJ.com’s Near Future?

Open House Helped WSJ.com To Largest Increase In Four Years