I have been a long-time reader and fan of the Wall Street Journal, especially the well-written editorial pages. The long-time editor of the editorial pages, the late Robert L. Bartley, used to say that his was the only newspaper that could claim to be sold largely if not solely on the merit of its editorials. I agree wholeheartedly with his contention.
But now I’m going to miss those pages. Yesterday my jaw dropped when I opened the WSJ’s solicitation to renew my subscription. In the past I’d always waited for them to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse, i.e., I refused to pay more than $0.50 per issue. So when the asking price was $250 or so per year I would wait for an offer of about $125 and enjoy the paper for another year. But this last letter pegged the new asking price at $500 per year, or $1.60 per issue. They’ve just priced themselves out of my budget unless they make me a $0.50 per issue offer.
Ever since Rupert Murdoch took over the paper I’ve been pleased with most of his changes. The paper features more international and national news and less arcane corporate stuff. I like that. Apparently Mudoch wants to position the WSJ as direct competition to the New York Times. OK by me, but at that price I just can’t justify it.
I used to subscribe to three newspapers daily and sometimes a fourth on Sunday. No longer. The local newspaper lost its competition earlier this year and the remaining rag, which was never a great paper before, is now junk. The delivery man refused to deliver it to our door, instead leaving it at the end of a long drive, so that got canceled too. Now I’m newspaperless when the current WSJ subscription expires.
It does seem to me that if Mr. Murdoch wants to keep his newspaper alive and profitable he’ll have to find a better and more economical way to deliver it — and offer it at reasonable price. Otherwise I suspect that a lot of others will take my path and drop their subscriptions. Eventually the fine editorial content that was once the province of the WSJ will find its way onto the web, as a lot of it has already.
I mourn the death of newspapers, but recognize that change is inevitable.