Murdoch address future of online paper

Ending months of speculation, Rupert Murdoch said Thursday the Wall Street Journal’s website would not become free anytime soon.

In fact, its million or so subscribers could end up paying more.

The News Corp. chief delivered the verdict in response to a question at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“We are going to greatly expand and improve the free part of the Wall Street Journal online,” Murdoch said. “The really special things will still be a subscription service and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive.”

In the latest example of the vertical integration of Murdoch coverage, his remarks were first reported by the Journal online. A Dow Jones rep confirmed the Journal report but could not independently confirm any specific strategic shifts for the site.

After Murdoch’s historic $5 billion buyout of Dow Jones and its Journal crown jewel closed last fall, one major shift that pundits expected was a lifting of the online pay wall. The Journal site is often mentioned as one of the few profitable premium efforts on the Web, and it has remained a pay site even as rival sites ditched payment schemes in favor of selling ads based on free traffic.

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