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WSJ Slashes Prices in Battle with NY Times

Wednesday, 31 Mar 2010 09:31 PM

 

NEW YORK – The Wall Street Journal is cutting new subscription prices by as much as 80 percent in some cases as it prepares to confront its rival, the New York Times, with a New York City edition.

The move comes amid a plunge in U.S. newspaper circulation and three years after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp paid more than $5 billion for the Journal and jazzed it with more general interest news, sports and culture.

The newspaper, the first read for many in the business world, has mailed some Times subscribers an offer for home delivery for $10 per month, undercutting the $40 price that existing Times subscribers pay in the New York City area.

A virtually identical offer for $2.29 per week is available for new subscribers who apply online, though it excludes access to the Journal's pay-to-see Web site. Existing Journal subscribers pay about $30 per month and get Web site access.

A Journal spokeswoman declined to comment on the new edition's start date or prices.

The Times, which is owned by the New York Times Company and has built a national subscription base by specializing in U.S. and world affairs, offers a 50 percent discount to new subscribers for daily delivery.

That is double the price the Journal offers for six-day delivery per week. The Journal does not publish on Sundays.

Tom Fiedler, ex-Miami Herald executive editor and the dean of Boston University's College of Communication, said the Journal risked alienating its traditional business readers and might not be successful by slashing prices.

"History hasn't been kind to (price cuts). It rarely is successful in the long run," Fiedler said. "Whether this is just ego on the part of Rupert Murdoch, I can't know. It looks like that."

John Morton, a veteran newspaper analyst and media consultant, called the Times readers extremely devoted, "probably the most unassailable readership in the world."

"There's a reason it's considered to be the world's greatest newspaper, because of its huge staff. It's also, by the way, why the New York Times Company's profit margins tend to be much lower than their peers because they spend more on news," Morton said.

The Journal is also spending on additional staff in contrast to some of its competitors, including the Times, who have cut jobs.

The Times, however, declared itself ready for the competition. "We don't shrink from it," spokeswoman Diane McNulty said. "We are motivated by it."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Paul Simao)


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