WSJ.com is reporting a 20 percent increase in paid subscriptions thanks to a change that takes into account the online portions of a $99 one-year online-print subscription promotion. Dow Jones is now including those bundle subscribers who have registered for online, pushing the number of paid subscribers in 1Q07 to WSJ.com to 931,000 from 776,000 in 1Q06. Without the change, paid subscribers would have increased 9 percent to 830,000 based on online-only and corporate sub growth, still a healthy number but not quite as dramatic.
The shift comes as Dow Jones grows more comfortable with how the bundle is working. Not everyone who takes the bundle is included — only those who have shown an active interest in online. The bundle is meant as an entry point, a way to bring in new subscribers; as was explained to curious analysts during today’s earnings call, the renewals for the program are starting and the company will start trying to step up the amount being paid. Kelly Leach, vp-business management for the Journal franchise, told me they waited to make the change: “We wanted to have validation that people we were counting did consider online to be an important part of the package they bought.” The move acknowledges that those subscribers are paying for online access, she added. Some other online details:
— Overall, online ad revenue was up 30 percent year over year while online circulation revenue rose 13 percent.
— Paid subscriptions to Barron’s Online, which started selling and reporting separately from WSJ.com last year, increased 49.2 percent to 88,000 from 59,000 the year before.
— Total paid subscriptions to both hit 1,019,000, up 22 percent from 835,000 in 1Q06.
— Based on internal Omniture data, WSJ.com uniques were up 6.7 percent to 7.3 million from 6.8 million in 1Q06, and pageviews rose 3.3 percent to 113 million from 110 million.
— On the MarketWatch front, unique visitors increased 12.6 percent to 7.6 million from 6.8 million, while page views were up 14.7 percent to 242 million from 211 million.
Earnings: Otherwise, a mixed picture from Dow Jones, which had some tough comps to last year, a break in its consecutive ad revenue increases for WSJ and is still hurting in local media but is showing considerable improvement in other areas. With the Factiva acquisition and strong growth in Dow Jones Online and others, revenue rose to $507.2 million, up 17.9 percent over 1Q06. If Factiva had been fully owned last year as well, revenue would have increased 2.6 percent. On the surface, the profit pictures looks gloomy with a 63 percent decline to $22.6 million, or $0.27 per share, compared to last year’s $81.5 million, or $0.74 per share. But that big bump last year was due to a special charge; without it, DJ actually was up 71 percent to $0.24 per share from $0.14 per share the previous year. The Thomson Financial analysts’ poll (via MKTW) expected $0.19 per share this quarter, so DJ beat that.
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