News Corp. has begun rolling out paywalls for its precious online news, but content at The Wall Street Journal became free Wednesday to anyone who wants to consume the publication's news and exclusive features.
The free day of browsing, sponsored by Acura, could become an interesting business model that not only gives prospective subscribers an inside look at the publication's content, but an incentive to sign up and buy. An ad on the home page reads: The Wall Street Journal Online is Free Today. Explore the entire site and all its exclusive features.
The sponsorship demonstrates an interesting twist for publishers and brands looking for another outlet to reach consumers. If online publishers decide to put up a paywall, they simply sign on a brand to sponsor a free day of browsing. Online publishers don't care who pays for access to the content, as long as someone does.
"It's a smart move by Acura because it gives them another touchpoint to reach consumers," says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a New York-based marketing and research firm. "It also proves Acura's brand value aside from being a car company."
During an earnings call Tuesday with investors, News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch reaffirmed the company's online pay strategy, stating that News Corp. publishers will charge for content.
"We'll be charging for online wherever we have publications," he says. "Consumers are willing to pay to be entertained and informed."
Murdoch says News Corp. has entered into discussions with other media companies, all of which have turned to the media mogul for ideas.
News Corp. isn't the only company with this idea. A software system developed by the entrepreneurs Steven Brill, L. Gordon Crovitz and partners Press+ will allow more publishers to put up that wall. A handful of online news organizations have already signed up, reports The New York Times.
The NYT, reportedly one of those news organizations struggling to find a strategy and consistent steady online income, will spend 2010 putting up a partial paywall. The Financial Times already limits the number of online articles people can read without paying, even if they register with the site.