Is the WSJ Being Transparent With Their Paywall Tweets?

I use Twitter a number of times per week as it’s interesting to follow certain people, companies or media corporations. One media company I follow is the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). They often will “tweet” a link to an article that is behind their paywall. What I mean is, often, articles tweeted by WSJ can’t be accessed without subscribing to the online version of WSJ.

zI originally asked Lisa Fleisher of WSJ about why they include links in Twitter that are behind the paywall. She believed that strategy would help bring subscribers into this online media platform. If true, I’m not sure it that’s the most transparent or ethical strategy. She also added they are currently having a special, $1 per week for the first 12 weeks. I suppose being an employee of this Dow Jones Company places her in the position of spinning this in the most positive manner.

A few months after my email conversation with Lisa, I was reviewing the home page of the WSJ.com and notice the chat option. I was immediately curious about another employee’s response to my same questions. To that end, I’ve included the conversation below with my thoughts and comments in bolded italics.

RESULTS OF WALL STREET JOURNAL (WSJ) CHAT

You are now chatting with LOURDELIZA

Kevin: Can I create an account without any fees?

LOURDELIZA: Hi, Kevin.

Kevin: Hello Lourdeliza. A tweet sent by the WSJ so I clicked on the link, now it’s telling me I need to login or choose one of the available offers. Is that the only way I can view that article? Is to choose one of the available offers? In other words, can I register to view those articles tweeted without any payment?

LOURDELIZA: I’m sorry, but you need to purchase the WSJ digital subscription to get the full access.

Kevin: Ok, but I don’t necessarily want full access; I just want to view the article that was tweeted.

LOURDELIZA: You may visit djreprints.com to purchase a certain article.

During this online chat with Deliza, I inquired about viewing the article that was tweeted although it’s behind the paywall and requires a subscription. I don’t object to their paywall, but feel any tweeted article should be visible for all to see. She said I could visit Djreprints.com to purchase a certain article. She completely misunderstood my question about the tweeted article by WSJ on FIFA.

Kevin: Are you familiar with Twitter? When an article is tweeted, typically you can view that article without any fees. It’s the sharing of information. Sometimes, articles on WSJ are available, sometimes not. Do you know why?

LOURDELIZA: I’m sorry, but articles that are locked in wsj.com are exclusive for WSJ digital subscribers only.

Kevin: I see.

During the online chat, I was struggling with the idea that the WSJ has tweeted many articles over the last 12 months or so that are behind the paywall which would require Twitter followers to either log in or subscribe in order to read. The WSJ does not state that on their Twitter home page. In addition, this impacts Google Editors’ Picks. Unsubscribers will sometimes run into this same paywall on an article included within Editors’ Picks.

Kevin: I’m wondering why they are tweeted if some articles are locked?

LOURDELIZA: I’m sorry for the inconvenience. We do not have an agreement with Twitter, so any keyed articles shared on Twitter would remain behind the paywall and customers would be prompted to log in or subscribe.

2I will say, she was very apologetic about my inconvenience. In addition, she stated that the WSJ does not have an agreement with Twitter so any keyed articles shared on Twitter would remain behind the paywall. I wonder if she knows all control here resides with the WSJ. WSJ does not have to engage in any agreement with Twitter for those articles to be available. The control is in the hands of the WSJ who could make a decision to allow any articles shared with the public to not require the key.

Kevin: Have you had anyone else ask you about this issue? Am I the only one? I’m not able to subscribe, however, I enjoy reading some other articles, especially if tweeted.

LOURDELIZA: This is the first time that I have encountered this inquiry.

She went on to say this was the first time anyone had ever asked her about this. Interesting. I could tell she was quite competent and not a newbie and she gracefully confirmed that fact to me.

Kevin: And I can tell by your knowledge, you’re certainly not new at this job.

LOURDELIZA: I’m not new on this job.

Kevin: Ok, I appreciate your time. This helps me better understand the situation. Thank you Lourdeliza.

Look, the WSJ is trying to get interested readers to subscribe to their site for $12 for 12 months. I get it. Have they done a survey on how well this model has worked when keyed articles are shared and unsubscribers are abruptly told they have to subscribe to read an article on twitter? Why not do what the NY Times does? Allows readers to view/read 10 articles a month before they have to subscribe. In addition, even if you’re at your limit for a given month, the tweeted article is free to read. I sense they want as many subscribers as possible and at the same time, they are not trying to anger or alienate customers by shutting the door on a particular article.

 

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

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