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Wall Street Journal is right — not all news needs to be free. The law of supply and demand remains in effect. 1/30/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Paywalls.

In reflecting on Rupert Murdoch’s decision to keep much of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) behind a paywall, venture capitalist Fred Wilson said, “Certainly anything that is news or opinion needs to be free on the Web.” This is certainly nonsense. The Internet has done a lot of amazing things, but to my knowledge it has not yet suspended the law of supply and demand.

If a news outlet is doing nothing more than repeating AP stories that are available throughout the web, the supply is infinite, so “free” is the right price. The Internet also provides an infinite supply of material that may be just as entertaining as most newspapers’ feature and human interest stories. But if the WSJ, for example, has an exclusive story with valuable information that could increase a reader’s wealth, or allows a small, elite subset of readers to communicate with each other, readers may be very willing to pay a fee. You get what you pay for, and with the Internet now eliminating the cost of receiving any in-depth coverage at all, we are only now learning what Old Media news is actually worth.


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