back to article Wall Street Journal wants your micro-payments

The Wall Street Journal online, one of the few remaining news websites that's charging for access, plans to introduce a micro-payments scheme this autumn. Non-subscribers will be charged to view individual articles, according to a report Sunday — somewhat amusingly by the WSJ's overseas rival, The Financial Times and not the …


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  1. Matthew Saroff
    Thumb Down

    How Do I Short This Idea?

    Seems to be to have been tried, and failed about a gazillion times now.

  2. Gareth
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    Worth the bother?

    Does anyone here regularly use micropayment services to access single articles?

    I know every time I see a site asking for $0.01-$5 for information I can normally find a "good enough" substitute article with a bit of searching around, especially considering the extra time it takes to go through finding my credit card, entering the number, reading small print to make sure there's no hidden fees, etc.

    Think I've micro-payed (if that's a word) once, for an academic paper which was the only source for the information I needed. General news stories and editorial comment can be found in a million other places.

    As with many things, The Economist seems to be getting it right - free web content for recent issues, then archive material is available to subscribers. Also, they sell a range of rather expensive reports for businesses based on material gathered by their research department.

  3. raving angry loony

    ethical journalists

    I wonder how many people will remember that the Wall Street Journal was at the forefront of papers that conveniently buried stories critical of the Bush administration just before election time? Or buried the Madoff story for 4 years while he scammed even more people? Or basically engaged in a pattern of deception and lies meant to enhance and protect the reputations of friends of Murdoch?

    I wonder how many people will be willing to pay for such stories, rather than find news from ethical journalists? You know, the ones who don't resort to yellow journalism to push more soap. Assuming there are any left of course.

  4. BlueGreen

    *coff*Micro*coff* payments...

    ... is what I've been rattling on about. If the user (@Gareth e.g.) has to find $5 then it's not micro.

    And if you have to dig out a credit card then it's definitely not going to work. You need a reserve which a website can, with your very explicit permission, dip into.

    I know, security implications all round, but that's life on the web and ads can be gamed with false clickthroughs.

  5. Gareth Lowe

    Mechanism not money

    I think the major problem with a micropayment approach is the payment mechanism more than the money.

    Sure the article cost needs to be low but if you have to enter all your credit card details just to read an article, most people won't bother.

  6. Zack Mollusc

    is WSJ run by gnomes?

    1. Collect news from google and AP wire

    2. Paste into typesetting program

    3. Charge per view

    4. ?

    5. Profit!!

    Where 4 is 'find a load of people willing to pay'

  7. Goat Jam

    The Death Throes Of The Newspapers

    "Wall Street Journal online, one of the few remaining news websites that's charging for access"

    According to Rupert just last week, all of his papers are going to start charging for online access within a year. He has just called in the heads of the three major regions where he owns newspapers and tasked them with finding a way to extract money from web users. This was in response to the whopping 94% drop in revenue across his stable of "news" rags last year.

    All I can say is "good luck with that Rupert"

    "a 'sophisticated micro-payments service' will be instated to bill occasional users"

    Oh yes, and how would that work exactly? Users need to fork over their credit card details before accessing the site just to make a 0.5 cent payment? Hmmm. I doubt it. People are not going to bother whipping out a card to read one article and the CC transaction fee applicable to the paper would be far more than the fee charged.

    The only possible way would be to require users to purchase pre-paid credits before accessing the site.

    Of course, that will be of no interest to "casual" users because it requires a prior commitment be made by the user along with a "minimum spend" to cover the credit card processing fee that will be invoked. If somebody on a forum posts a link to an article and I am told I have to opt into their micropayment system by buying a $20 block of credit before I can read it I will simply not read it.

    Then there is the problem of getting your content on the search engines. If users can't read your site then neither can Google, and if google can't read your site google can't index it and if google can't index it then users won't find it. Of course you can do that really annoying thing other sites do and allow the googlebot access to the site and block normal users but then all I have to do is to set my user agent string to that of the google bot and I will be able to read it too. A firefox extension to automate just that would emerge within days of this sort of thing becoming widespread I'm sure.

    The fact is that newspapers are dead. If they cannot manage to operate online and fund themselves with advertisements then they have no future. The sooner the newspapers understand that the better.

  8. Kevin Rudd

    Where could it end?

    So if aussie Rupe gets this to fly, where will micro payments end? Will we have to micro pay the pirate bay for a torrnet file?

  9. Saul Dobney

    Dow Jones is no longer on the front of the FT

    The FT (this month) switched to the S&P index on the front page instead of the Dow Jones. Open source stock market indices anyone?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bright Idea 2.0

    Here is my idea on how uncle Rupe can entice the reluctant masses to swallow this bitter pill. For the fellas he can give away a subscriptions to a porn site of your choice and for the girls, discount vouchers on the lastest fashion shoes.

    You know it makes sense and I am not Sam Kecovich.

  11. John Smith Gold badge

    Perhaps a payment service across multiple websites

    Wasn't that what Paypal was meant to be?

    In truth my sense of fair play says that there should be some direct reward for time and effort spent. But the question is how much of what you are getting is thoughtful analysis by a clued specialst, who knows both the players and the game, and how much is unquestioning regurgitated press release.

    I would definitely want a display of available credit and a cap to stop any further access so users could manage their usage.

    Now will users pay for the Sun's "premium content"?

    Good luck with that.

  12. Nick Palmer
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    "but Thomson told the FT ominously that the sum would be "rightfully high.""

    So...not-so-micro-payments then. Fail.

    NB: Need WSJ tombstone alongside Reg one.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Perhaps a payment service across multiple websites

    Yes, indeed, run by Google, of course - a name the public can trust, while the terms that the newspapers (all of them) have to agree to remain confidential ...

  14. BlueGreen

    @Goat Jam: "Woodward and Bernstein, brought to you by Phorm"

    If self-funded newspapers are dead then we'd better get used to some interesting alternatives.

    Not looking good, is it.

  15. Ole Juul

    EOL syndrome

    Pay money for news? You gotta be kidding. Besides, if I can't read the story first, then how would I know if it was worth anything?

    Seriously, what is it about end-of-life business models and the seemingly inevitable need to hasten their own death? These guys are just looking for a way out like someone who has given up on life.

  16. John Smith Gold badge

    A thought experiment

    Going price for a copy of the WSJ is $1? $2?

    # of actual articles per issue? 20?50?100?

    So for current issue *article* in today's WJS. right to my desk, no waiting, no queues. 10c max.

    Now how many additional readers will this availability generate?

    Back issues (morgue files). Even less convenient than so should be worth more, but how much? Older more expensive if you have to recover from tape? Special efforts for stock prices and indices?

    Modern papers use electronic typesetting. The stories are electronic by default. Prior to the next edition their storage and retrieval is effectively free. Each access would be pure profit.

    Electronic purse and micro payment schemes have been tried since at least the late 80s.

    Apart from quoting credit card numbers or Paypal can anyone name *any* other one in common usage?

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