At the end of a recent interview with Time Magazine, Rupert Murdoch suggested that the way to turn The Wall Street Journal into a huge global brand was to hire more top-notch journalists, and perhaps, just perhaps, put the entire enterprise online for free.
In his own words: And then you make it free, online only. No printing plants, no paper, no trucks. How long would it take for the advertising to come? It would be successful, it would work and you’d make … a little bit of money. Then again, the Journal and the Times make very little money now."
The notion may seem insane, but it is not. Last year, the consumer media group at Dow Jones (DJ), made up mostly of the WSJ, had a profit of $33 million on over $1.2 billion. Almost none of that money came from overseas. Several securities analysts have said that The New York Times (NYT) newspaper breaks-even at best.
Putting an entire newspaper online means dumping the huge costs of printing and distribution. At a newspaper with a circulation of 1 million, this can certainly be $1 a paper, depending on where it is printed as where it has to go to be sold.
A non-print newspaper would have to rely on advertising as its sole source of revenue. WSJ.com currently fetches $99 a year. The NYTimes.com. charges for premium content.
But, a free global edition of the Journal would probably have substantially more readers that the 800,000 that it has now. And, that could make it a platform that could pay for itself through advertising. Murdoch may be right. Perhaps that could make "a little bit of money". Or better.
Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at email@example.com. He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.