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Murdoch sees wsj.com a free site

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Associated Press / November 14, 2007

ADELAIDE, Australia - News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said yesterday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, dropping subscription fees in exchange for anticipated ad revenue.

"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million [subscribers], having at least 10 million to 15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.

News Corp. has agreed to acquire Dow Jones & Co. for about $5 billion, and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.

Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.

The website, one of the few news sites globally to successfully introduce a subscription model, has around 1 million subscribers, generating about $50 million in fees.

If the Journal's website goes free, that would leave Consumer Reports magazine with one of the largest remaining paid subscriber bases among media outlets on the Internet.

ConsumerReports.org has nearly 3 million paying users, and charges $26 a year, with discounts available to subscribers to the print magazine.

The Journal's website lists a charge of $79 a year for full online access for customers who don't also subscribe to the print version of the paper.

In September, The New York Times abandoned a two-year-old effort to charge for certain premium material on its website, concluding that it would be better off opening the site to all users in a bid to increase online advertising.

Last month Britain's Financial Times, owned by Pearson PLC, said it would expand free access to FT.com but wouldn't entirely give up on charging fees for unlimited use of the site.

Other media outlets also tried to charge fees for access to their websites in the early years of the Internet, but most abandoned the strategy.

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