Analyst: WSJ.com Needs 12x Traffic to Break Even


The Wall Street Journal would have to increase traffic to their site by 12x to make up for the lost subscription revenue. WSJ.com is going from paid subscriptions to free online access. A report from Bear Stearns analyst Spencer Wang made the prediction based on advertising rates for banner ads.

The CPM rate they used as a comparison is $6. That is quite low, especially considering the demographics of the audience. as BusinessWeek says they are: “business-minded, college-educated professionals with significantly above-average wealth—the sort of audience that advertisers, particularly makers of luxury goods, want to reach.”

The site has an estimated 989,000 subscribers and subscriptions are $79/year (though not all paying that rate). Traffic to the site is about 122.4 million page views a month. It seems a far stretch to get 12x the traffic, but earlier estimates said that it would take much less than that.

The report compares the WSJ.com with nytimes.com, CNN Money, usatoday.com MarketWatch and Yahoo Finance (see graphic).

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    I doubt they’ll need that much traffic since $6 eCPM is extremely low, they definitely have the potential to monetize their website a lot better than that. Personally, I think that their decision was a wise one, a decision which will definitely pay off in the long run.

    Alan Johnson

  • http://www.GoldSluiceBoxes.com Matt Fritz

    Personally I am glad they are switching. I don’t at all like sites that charge you just to gain access to articles. With so many sites out there, if I see a sign up form, even if it doesn’t cost anything I leave.

  • http://www.winetotheface.com Alex

    $6 CPM? Agencies should be able to negotiate down to $40 CPMs and smaller advertisers will probably pay even more.

  • http://bloggingexperiment.com Ben Cook

    This doesn’t include any lost revenue from off line subscriptions either though. If you can get it free online, why would you pay to have it delivered off?

  • http://www.agerhart.com agerhart

    Ben,

    I think what you suggest is a common misconception within the print vs digital debate.

    Reading a printed newspaper or magazine is an entirely different experience and process when compared to reading an article online or visiting a website. People enjoy bringing newspapers and magazines on trips (trains, planes, etc.), or to the gym, or while reading their morning coffee. The number of these consumers may decrease with time as the tech-savvy generations age and with technological advances, but who knows.

    But, I don’t believe there is a direct correlation between making content available digitally and print subscriptions.

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    I agree, since, let’s face it, there are times when you are just sick and tired of staring at a computer screen and printed magazines are definitely a nice alternative :)

    Alan Johnson

  • http://bloggingexperiment.com Ben Cook

    I agree it is sometimes nice to have something in print to read rather than looking at a screen even longer than usual. However, I would be willing to bet that agerhart is wrong on this one. From a personal standpoint, over the last couple of years I’ve canceled my subscription to one paper and two magazines. Why? Because they all have the same content online. I do value having the physical copy but not enough to continue to pay. And, if I end up really getting sick of the computer screen, I just print things off.

    Really both of our points seem to be based on personal preference and I’d love to see some research on this subject.

  • http://www.agerhart.com agerhart

    Ben, you’re absolutely right….But I’ll venture a guess that you are a tech savvy individual and spend a considerable amount of time online. If this is true than you do not share the same habits and/or mindset as other demographics and a large part of the population. I’d also venture to guess that it isn’t a large portion of the WSJ’s demographic.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Ben and agerhart I think you’re both right. Some people will cancel offline subscriptions and others will keep them. It will depend on personal preferences.

    I’m like Ben and will be happy to get the content on screen. I won’t need an offline subscription, though since I don’t currently have one WSJ isn’t losing anything on me.

    Some people will absolutely continue to buy the paper. The experience is different and many people prefer reading on the page instead of on the screen.

    It’ll be interesting to see how much WSJ can increase traffic. Dropping the subscription will certainly increase traffic, but the question remains how much.

  • http://www.theratingblog.com Alan Johnson

    I’d say that WSJ will definitely see an increase in traffic which will help them do more than break even in the long run and again, I think that their decision will definitely prove to be a wise one.

    Alan Johnson

  • Janet Meiners

    I dubbed myself newspapergrl because I’ve always loved reading the newspaper. I’ve been a subscriber since I was in college.

    It’s only in the past year I only get a print edition on Sunday. I read almost all news online now.

    If I were their demographic I’d most likely read both online and the print edition. I suspect when I’m older and have more time, I’ll return to reading an actual paper every day.

    The WSJ would be worse off long term if they didn’t follow the trends of the industry. I predict with their market, they’ll reach profitability quicker than their competitors.

    -Janet