About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Reader Comments, Hawaiian-Style | Main | The Social Subscription »

May 16, 2010



Should they really try to stop people from leaving? It seems like down that road lies the madness that AOL became notorious for, where you had to argue endlessly just to cancel. That may slow the bleeding, but it can only mask problems, not solve them.

I'd rather see them just ask. It'd be great if their top people each took a few of those calls every week. And then followed up a couple of months later to see how people were getting on.

Greg Spira

Your experience parallels mine almost exactly. I was a subscriber to the online Journal for more than a decade. But their annual subscription price went way up while the number of articles I'm interested in reading plunged. And I have no problem getting access to any individual article I want to read anyway. So I cancelled my subscription last year.


I've also found loopholes in paywalls. Normally I would feel bad doing this, as I too am a journalist, but when the pub is owned by a major conglomerate--not so. Most companies' pay walls are not effective. If you copy & paste the headline and put it in Google, lusually the first result is from that original source and clicking on it there will release full copy. This works whether or not it's been cached yet. Only a few trade pubs have been successful in creating good pay walls that are tech sound.


Pretty amazing how flimsy WSJ's paywall is. That said, most people would probably not go to the extra effort to get around it, particularly per Mark's point, since most of the material is available elsewhere anyhow.


Are you being facetious about not understanding the subscription being cheaper with a print adjunct?

Your eyeballs on print ads are worth a lot more to advertisers still than they are on digital ads. So much so that they're willing to subsidize the cost of your subscription if you boost their print eyeball numbers.

It's an irritating reminder that we're stuck between business models, but it's perfectly logical for this point in time.

Mark Potts

Of course I understand the reason they're pushing print. But it's fairly pointless, since my eyeballs would almost never look at the print product--it would go straight into the recycling bin. And I'm not a big fan of trying to sell customers something they don't want. I don't buy the logic of losing a paying customer altogether in the interest of pushing an unwanted product.


I have two question/comments:

1. Could you tell us where you get the $99 offer?

2. One can get the archive through Factiva and other services to which many of us have access through various means.

Donn Friedman

It is not that hard to steal six packs of beer from the convenience store either: Thugs walk in and do it all the time.
It is just wrong.

Mark Potts

Donn: Interesting comment, but misguided. I'm not "stealing" anything. The Journal has chosen to make many parts of its site available for free, in spite of its pay wall, and that's what I'm accessing.

Dbenk: I got the $99 offer in a subscription-renewal e-mail; I believe it's also advertised on WSJ.com.


Hey Mark:

Could not agree more that it might be worth a little additional effort to hang onto the subscribers you've got as opposed to chumming for new ones. As many times as I have tried to drop the NYTs due to the steep subscription fee (esp for Sunday-OUCH)they have always succeeded in reeling me back in with some crazy offer putting the cancellation plan on the back burner at least for for a while.


I think that lack of effort to retain paying subscribers is simply about apathy. Many newspapers have simply given up on trying to make old business models work, and are moving on.

People will continue to pay for a WSJ subscription. We all know the coverage is excellent, and many feel that "sneaking around" to get free access to content is dishonest. I think that as long as folks can enjoy a good discount (like here: http://www.wsjprimerate.us/subscribe-wall_street_journal-discount-subscription.htm ) for a subscription, they don't mind paying for the quality.

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