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The Wall Street Journal Goes Business Class?

by Debbie Wilson  |  September 22, 2009  |  8 Comments

I’ve been reading the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ever since my undergraduate days – in the ‘80s, when the newspaper was assigned as reading for my Economics 101 class.  Since then, it’s been a staple of my life and a way to keep in touch with the world while taking a break from the luminescent blue screens of the seemingly ever-present computers and TVs.  I was one of many that wondered what would happen when Rupert Murdoch, a colorful media mogul that counts the Fox News Channel and the tabloid paper Star in his holdings, acquired this venerable publication.  Since then I’ve witnessed the addition of a sports section and a weekly crossword to the WSJ, along with a continuation of fair and honest reporting.  Clearly, if you are a business person but need to cut back your reading to one paper, the WSJ hopes it will be the one.  All it needs now is Dear Abby and the comics.  

Nothing however prepared me for the shock I received in the mail yesterday when I opened a letter from the Wall Street Journal.  “Renewal Savings Notice,” it proclaimed, along with an offer to add a year to my subscription at the wonderful price of $8.49 per week.  That’s $441.48 per year – almost enough money to buy both of my younger sons a season pass at their favorite ski area – and nearly three times the amount I paid last December for a year subscription – $149.00.  (And yes I know this because I tired years ago of publications counting on me to forget that my subscription is not yet up for renewal, to get me to ante up for another year or two of money way ahead of time.  I track this stuff.)  

My first thought was wow, I guess they needed to raise the prices – after all it is common knowledge that the newspaper business is fighting a mighty battle to survive.  Even the local Boston Globe has undergone turmoil when its owner, the New York Times Company, recently demanded that unions agree to $20 million in cost savings or else it would shut down the paper.   But a 300% increase? 

This morning I thought I’d see what the WSJ is charging for a subscription, if you order new through the website.  Well here was the greatest surprise of all.  The great rate offered online is $2.69 per week –$139.99 per year-  for the exact same thing.  My husband says to me, well that’s just the introductory rate – they won’t give it to me.  Well he may be right, but heck I’ll pay my neighbor $50 to subscribe on my behalf and still save $252.  Maybe I’ll even take her out to lunch too.

What’s going on here?  On reflection, I’m guessing that the WSJ was hoping that I would re-up subscription and just submit the bill to my employer.  Or maybe they figure this approach is the way to figure out who is just going to pay and move on.  Gosh, reminds me of business class versus coach airfare – where there is also often a 2x – 3x premium for folks willing to pay it.  I admit, I’m small and so coach is not a big deal for me.  If I were 6’ and 250 pounds I’d probably feel quite different. 

But what about the WSJ?  Will businesses fall for it and pay 3X the price?  I know one thing for sure . . . . I won’t be, and I’m not going to just pass the buck to my employer either.  And I hope my procurement colleagues will consider trends like this when looking for cost savings.  Figuring out what’s behind a curious pricing schema can be a very productive way to drive savings.

Category: cost-cutting  

Deborah R Wilson
Research Vice President
8 years at Gartner
15 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a Gartner research vice president, covers procurement strategies and applications. Her areas of interest include procure-to-pay, e-marketplaces, e-sourcing, spend analysis, services procurement and supply risk assessment. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The Wall Street Journal Goes Business Class?

  1. it’s too bad that so many companies like the wsj take their current, loyal customers for granted and try to gouge them with higher fees than those they offer to prospects — plus, it seems they’re assuming most readers wouldn’t figure out what they’re doing or be too lazy to do protest — they don’t realize how savvy and powerful customers are these days!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by emexec, Denise Lee Yohn and Erin McElveen. Erin McElveen said: One reason the newspaper industry is in trouble: sneaky marketing and inflated (WSJ) prices: (RT@mjasay) […]

  3. Thanks for posting that, Debbie. it is outrageous that they would even consider tripling a subcriber’s rate, let alone actually do it. print pubs are having a hard time i know but if you ask me, this will just make things harder for them–as they lose loyal subscribers.

  4. Debbie Wilson says:

    Here is a postscript – my son’s middle school is running a magazine subscription fundraiser. In it they offered the WSJ for $49 for 6 months, even for renewals. I signed up – the price was right!

  5. Leah says:

    I just went through the same exact thing and just got off the phone with WSJ subscription services. They are forwarding my comments to Marktg. Meanwhile, there is a student rate, and since my son is a student and the subscriber, I think we will be trying that route. There is no way in he** I would pay $441.00.

  6. The same thing happened at the Dallas Morning News. Last year I paid $130/year, this year my renewal rate is $360/year! (I cancelled!) They said the higher rate is due to the loss of car dealer advertising.
    I also received a WSJ promotion for $120/year, and couldn’t believe I could actually get the WSJ for much cheaper than my local paper. Crazy.

  7. Sam says:

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one. I received my renewal notice ($441.00 also) and was shocked at the rate increase. I couldn’t remember what I paid last year, but after reading the above comments, it must have been $149.00. I’m just not going to renew. I’ve found that complaining doesn’t do any good; you have to vote with your feet.

  8. Baiju says:

    I got my renewal notice and it is for $225, somehow I am saving 70% they claim. When I go to the website it is $139 for a print and online subscription.

    When I called in to say I am not renewing, the lady kept saying there was nothing she could do and I am on a introductory rate, well I guess my introductory rate has lasted about 3 years.

    I guess I will have to let the subscription lapse for a few days and sign up as a new subscriber.

    What a pain.

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