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February 25, 2005

Free Advice for the Wall Street Journal

Over at Wired, Adam Penenberg gives some free advice to the Wall Street Journal:

Wired News: Whither The Wall Street Journal?: "The Wall Street Journal is not only the best-written, most elegantly edited newspaper to cover business, it may be the best paper period. Because of its immense clout and vast resources -- the Journal might assign half a dozen reporters to the telecommunications beat while The New York Times and Washington Post each have one -- publicists feed it exclusives, sources leak it information and corporate chieftains plead for the privilege of having their cartoon portraits grace Page 1. All of this helps the Journal maintain its competitive edge. Given all of this, it might be hard to believe that The Wall Street Journal is in danger of becoming irrelevant, but it is....

Nevertheless, the Journal faces an intractable problem. Because you have to subscribe to access both current news articles and the archive, the Journal is leaving only a faint footprint in cyberspace. As with The New York Times, which insists that readers register to view news and pay $3 per article in the archive, the Journal barely shows up on Google or any other search engine. I googled 'Enron' -- an issue the Journal covered exhaustively, and which two of its reporters even wrote a book about -- and not one article appeared within the first 25 pages (250 results.)...

And in the rare event a Wall Street Journal article does pop up and you click on the link, you will likely encounter a message that informs you, 'The page you requested is available only to subscribers.' To access the article would cost you $79 a year, or $7 a month ($39 a year if you also subscribe to the print edition)....

As a result, there is a meme that has begun to take hold that questions the Journal's long-term relevancy. It began, I believe, last fall with John Battelle, founder of the defunct Industry Standard, who realized he couldn't remember the last time he had read The Wall Street Journal, even though he is a subscriber. Since he couldn't share links with his community (read: bloggers), he ended up passively boycotting it....

If I were running the Journal, I would open up the archives: that would build the online reputation of the Journal's (excellent) news reporters (and allow people to point out for the historical record all the past idiocies of the Journal's hack editorial writers) and still allow the Journal to make money online by making people pay for access to the most timely work of its news reporters.

Posted by DeLong at February 25, 2005 11:42 AM