WSJ.com charges for mobile content on updated iPhone app

wjs-iphone-app-premium-contentEarlier this year, the Wall Street Journal released an iPhone app called the iPhone Mobile Reader. The iPhone application allowed users to access premium content that was only available to paid print and digital subscribers for free (source). But as of October 24, 2009, content is no longer free.

I spoke with the online circulation desk and learned that WSJ.com digital subscribers now have to pay $1 per week or $52 a year to access the content via the iPhone Mobile Reader. Print subscribers can access the content for free while non-subscribers have to pay $4 a week.

It should come as no surprise that the Wall Street Journal has decided to charge for their content. A report this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that newspaper sales have dropped by more than 10% in the past 6 months in comparison to the same period last year (source). There are two other major factors that are making matters worse:

  • Newspapers are seeing a slide in advertising sales (Gannett recently reported a 28% drop in advertising).
  • Subscribers are accessing their news content online. They are also expecting to access that content for free, like they currently do with video content from the major television networks.

As a fan of The Wall Street Journal, I can understand the newspaper’s desire to squeeze a few more dollars out of their shrinking pool of subscribers. However, I’m disappointed that they have decided to tack on a “convenience” charge to access their content via the iPhone, especially if you’re already a digital subscriber. Why can’t they simply use my WSJ.com credentials to authenticate me and give me access to the content that I’ve already paid for? While I can use my current credentials and mobile Safari browser to visit the WSJ.com website, the experience is just not user friendly. I think that it is absurd to pay a premium twice to access the same content.

I’m hoping that this experiment will follow the way of NBC’s futile attempt to improve the bottom line by having Jay Leno at the 10 PM timeslot.