Digital publishing rapidly moved to an advertising-dominant model in the early days of online mass media, yet there has consistently been one outlier: The Wall Street Journal. Even now, this publication gets more money from its subscribers than it does from its advertisers, leading to a relatively sustainable business model.

Newspaper subscription a surprising success

This strategy has proven invaluable in the current climate of ad blockers and falling advertising revenue, and a relatively strong paywall has ensured its success.  So, what does this mean for the digital publishing marketplace?

The Wall Street Journal has long been focused on the higher-end market, catering to brokers and financial analysts as well as those who are primarily interested in business news and how world news affects businesses. These people are prepared to pay for good journalism. It’s also been very protective of its revenue streams, restricting free access and previews significantly, and it eliminated Google’s ability to bring up the first story for free.

Those who wish to access the Wall Street Journal have to either pay for a physical copy of the paper or pay a subscription fee. While its videos will likely continue to be free — mainly because video advertising attracts a significant premium — the Journal may make it possible for non-subscribers to access each individual article through micropayments. The newspaper states it’s considering 79 cents as the starting rate for article-based payments. Continued physical delivery of the newspaper may also attract a premium, a cost that’s currently borne by digital subscribers and those who buy it on newsstands.

These changes may affect a variety of Dow Jones products, including Barron’s, Financial News and MarketWatch. The company wishes to reach 3 million subscribers by July 2017.

New journalism goes back to old revenue models

At SODP, we like to hear about new ways of continuing the current era of digital publishing, and we feel it’s fair to pay for quality journalism — fact checkers, journalists, editors, and distributors all deserve to be paid for their contributions. Consequently, it’s heartening to see various outlets, including Wired and The Atlantic, take The Wall Street Journal’s lead and explore ways they can pay for well-researched and accurate news without having to rely on falling ad revenue alone. Subscription-based fees may seem like an old revenue model, but if they work, they can potentially save newspapers and support continuing high-quality journalism.

What are your thoughts on pay-for-play news media? What type of content are you willing to pay to view or read?

Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at vahe@stateofdigitalpublishing.com.

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