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'Wall Street Journal' Eyes Online Price Hike

Print Edition Ad Linage Off 6.7%

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NEW YORK ( -- The top online executive at Dow Jones & Co. today strongly suggested that price increases could be coming for the Wall Street Journal's online subscribers.

"We will look, over time, to increase the subscription price to the online Journal," said Gordon Crovitz, Dow Jones' senior vice president and president of electronic publishing, told investors at today's Banc of America Securities' Media, Telecommunications, and Entertainment Conference. "We'd like to get a more reasonable value for online subscribers."

Steep ad declines
Mr. Crovitz's remarks come as an ad slowdown broadly affecting business publications shows few signs of stopping. In February, ad linage at company flagship Wall Street Journal declined 8.2% as financial and tech advertising showed sickening declines of 21.3% and 30.7%, respectively. Year-to-date total ad linage at the Journal was off 6.7%.

The issue of more newspapers charging for online content surfaced earlier this year, when New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. told Business Week it was "troubling" that "we are training a generation of readers to get quality information for free."

Mr. Crovitz reprised these remarks for the conference attendees.

Recent acquisitions
Both the Times and Dow Jones made big bets on online components in recent months, with the Times picking up Primedia's for $410 million and Dow Jones purchasing CBS Marketwatch for $528 million.

In 2004, Mr. Crovitz said, Dow Jones' online operations provided 40% of the company's operating income. He said that what he identified as "core revenues" at the company were still off 15% from 2000.

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