Rupert Murdoch has said he is planning to make the Wall Street Journal free to access on the web, following its recent purchase by News Corp. 

The paper, one of the few that still charges subscriptions, earns around $50m per year from 1m users but hopes to generate more cash by increasing its traffic.

Speaking in Australia, Murdoch said:

“We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1m (subscribers), having at least 10m to 15m in every corner of the earth.”

Online ad revenues for US newspapers have been increasing for the past three years, with Q3 ad revenues up 22.3% on 2006.

Many former proponents of the subscription model, including the New York Times, have therefore come round to the idea of free access, calculating that they can make more money by ditching their charges.

But last month, opted for a hybrid approach, letting readers access 30 articles per month free of charge.

The WSJ has also just struck a deal with social news site Digg, so perhaps Murdoch’s lit a fire under some people over there since the takeover. The newspaper has started to add Digg buttons to stories and will make articles submitted to the social news site free to view. Radical stuff.

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Web users ‘prefer ads to charges’  
Newspapers face up to online conundrum