'WSJ' Makes Changes To Paywall, Offers Guest Passes

The Wall Street Journal is making changes to its strict paywall, testing out a 24-hour guest pass for non-subscribers.

When a reader accesses a WSJ story shared by a subscriber or a staffer, the guest pass offer pops up. While readers don’t have to enter a credit-card number, they do have to enter an email address, otherwise they will only get to read that one story.

This means subscribers and WSJ staffers can share full articles for free through social media.

These changes were first implemented Friday, inspired by experiments over the past several years, Dow Jones chief customer officer Katie Vanneck-Smith told Nieman Lab.

WSJ may also be testing other time increments for the guest passes.



“Everything our journalists and members share through social channels will act as an invitation. It is the beginning of a personalized journey for the guest member,” Vanneck-Smith said.

Tech site The Information has a similar paywall policy and allows subscribers to share a story with non-subscribers, as long as they enter an email address.

Vanneck-Smith told Nieman Lab publishers struggle to strike a balance between protecting their brand and working with consumers who use distributed platforms "as a gateway into news and information and into the wider Web.”

WSJ recently hit 948,000 digital-only subscribers. Subscribers to WSJ tend to be affluent business readers, meaning subscriptions are pricier than other publications. (For example, right now a 12-month all access subscription to The New York Times is about $150, while WSJ charges $244).

Paywalls are important, steady revenue streams for legacy publishers that can charge for high-quality content. But paywalls can also alienate casual readers. Finding a balance is a continuous challenge for publishers.

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