Last week, the Wall Street Journal announced that it would begin charging for mobile access, such as through the iPhone app. It's an interesting move, given that this newspaper bucked the trend back in the early days of the web by charging for its online version. All other papers made their online content free; How's that working out for them? The Wall Street Journal has adopted a very successful strategy to date, offering some articles (such as its op-ed pieces) free, but keeping much of the investigative news available only for paid subscribers. I think they will be an interesting test case for the smartphone market. Of course, the key factor remains that the Wall Street Journal offers a very unique, differentiated, high quality product. Thus, willingness to pay for the Wall Street Journal exceeds the perceived value of most other newspapers. At this point, some major city papers have so diminished their content that they don't have something unique and valuable to offer consumers.
For more on the Wall Street Journal's strategic choices vis a vis the Internet, past Chairman of Dow Jones Peter Kann penned an excellent article the other day. It's worth reading because it explains the rationale for the WSJ's decision to charge for online access many years ago.