While other newspapers like the New York Times grapple with how to charge readers for content online, the Wall Street Journal stands out as one of the few newspapers that doesn’t have to deal with such issues.

Unlike many other newspapers, the Journal didn’t drink the ‘content just wants to be free’ kool-aid. When it seemed like advertisers had an unlimited amount of money to throw around, the Journal stuck to its guns and ironically, has managed to have its cake and eat it too. Its ad sales are healthy and the mixed model it employs has apparently proven to be the secret sauce.

And now the Journal is looking to build off of its paid content success with a Professional Edition set to launch this November. It will include access to the Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones’ Factiva news archive, 17,000 public and non-public global sources, 30 industry pages, and six special industry sections that are managed by Journal editors.

According to Reuters, the Professional Edition of the Journal will essentially be sold like software:

Dow Jones plans to sell the edition to businesses, which would make it available
to employees through “site licenses” (ie, your business buys a license that
makes the professional edition available to X number of people for a price to be
determined).

In January 2010, members of the public will be able to purchase individual access to $49/month.

If this all sounds a bit like a ‘lite‘ version of a Bloomberg Terminal, that’s because it basically is. According to Clare Hart, who manages the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, the Professional Edition is targeting the market between average Journal readers and those who subscribe to services that offer access to professional, specialist data feeds — the Bloomberg Terminals of the world. “Customers want the simplicity of a consumer application with the sophistication
of an enterprise application
,” she stated.

It’s an interesting concept. While I don’t think it’s entirely clear what the size of the market the Journal is targeting will be in practice, if there’s a good market there the Journal is a logical choice to tap it successfully given its strong brand. It recently became the top newspaper in the US with daily print circulation of 2.02m copies and has in the past had more than 1m paying subscribers online. For readers who want more of the Journal’s content, access to archives, and a treasure trove of data sources, $49/month seems like a small price to pay so I hardly doubt that the Professional Edition will ‘fail‘, even if it doesn’t take over the world.

The key observation to make here is that the Journal is building a new product that is designed to provide subscribers with more value. And it targets a specific type of consumer that the Journal believes has a want and need for its new offering. The Journal is not trying to figure out how it can change its business model or how it can charge for something that it has been giving away for free. That makes all the difference in the world.

Photo credit: Stephen Cummings via Flickr.