To Give It Away

In an effort to attract more subscribers, the online version of the Wall Street Journal, long considered one of the most successful paid-content sites on the Web, will be available for free from Nov. 8 through Nov. 12.

For those five days, users will be able to view all articles without providing any registration information or watching an online ad, said Todd Larsen, president, consumer electronic publishing at Dow Jones & Company. The online Journal plans to line up advertisers to anchor the site for that week, said Larsen.

He said the campaign's sole purpose is to attract new paying readers, much the same as when a premium cable television station offers free weekend broadcasts. After Nov. 12, the Journal will once again require subscriptions, for a cost of either $79 a year--or $39 a year for those who also purchase the print version, which goes for $199 a year. "We're committed to being a subscription site," said Larsen. "This is a marketing opportunity to let people see our product in a way that lets people get engaged."

Some research suggests that sampling opportunities can lead to increased subscriptions, said JupiterResearch media analyst David Card. A May 2004 JupiterResearch study of 3,730 online consumers showed that those who sign up for free trials are six times more likely to convert to paid subscriptions than those who don't, said Card.

Still, the Journal online has been experimenting with offering more free content in recent months. Since the beginning of the summer, the site has been e-mailing several dozen political bloggers--such as Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit--lists of up to four stories a day that are available for free online, said Bill Grueskin, managing editor of the online Journal.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, the Wall Street Journal online drew 3.6 million unique visitors in September--or nearly three million more than the online Journal's 701,000 paid subscribers. Much of that overflow, said Larsen, comes from people who just view the headlines or the free portions of the site. isn't the only paid-content company to flirt recently with free articles., which has been subscriber-only since launching in 1998, recently began allowing non-subscribers to read articles after watching an ad for America Online's Moviefone. There were more than 100,000 streams of the AOL Moviefone ad during the campaign, which ran from the beginning of Sept. 19 to Oct. 20, said Paulo Lemgruber, general manager of the Variety online group, a unit of the Dutch publishing conglomerate Reed Elsevier. also recently made more features available for free and redesigned its home page to highlight the no-cost portion of its site. Variety has about 40,000 paid subscribers, but had nearly one million unique visitors in September, said Lemgruber.

The Variety campaign, like the online Journal's new initiative, coincides with increased interest by marketers in online advertising. Variety>/I>, a trade publication for the show business industry, recently started running online ads targeting consumers for Samsung Electronics and American Express.

Next story loading loading..