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Dow Jones Revives Free Online Access Campaign

Dow Jones & Co. will offer free access to The Wall Street Journal Online for six days next month after a similar exercise last year generated 10,000 new paid subscriptions to the news site.

The Nov. 7-12 Open House campaign will let non-subscribers read the news and features on the site at www.wsj.com without registering. Last year's effort encouraged 90 percent of the online visitors to become paid subscribers after a trial subscription.

“It makes it incredibly easy for consumers to come in [and] sample the product,” said Todd Larsen, president of consumer electronic publishing at Dow Jones, New York.

Four advertisers agreed to sponsor different days of the Open House: Sprint, Charles Schwab, Chase Bank and a fourth whose name was not disclosed. The sponsors will own the impressions for the day.

For example, Sprint is the gateway sponsor on the first day — an advertiser conduit that welcomes and escorts the non-subscriber into the site. Sprint's ads will run on the WSJ.com home page and another two pages deeper into the site before readers see other advertisers.

Open House sponsors' ads also will run in other Dow Jones media outlets promoting the free trial of WSJ.com. This includes properties like the print editions of the flagship Wall Street Journal and Barron's as well as MarketWatch.com, a free business news site bought in January by Dow Jones.

These Dow Jones publications will pitch the Open House to their readers. Spots on New York's WCBS radio station and the Captivate elevator media network will support the ads.

A sweepstakes with Flight Options, a fractional jet ownership-to-leasing firm in Cleveland, will sweeten the deal for Open House visitors. The grand prize is 25 hours of private jet flights. The contest, which includes second and third prizes, runs Nov. 7 to Dec. 2 on WSJ.com.

As of the third quarter, the online Journal has 764,000 paying subscribers, with half of them reading the print Wall Street Journal edition and 10 percent from overseas. The print Journal has 2.1 million subscribers, including 300,000 online readers who qualify under the Audit Bureau of Circulation rules.

Dow Jones is one of the few major newspaper publishers worldwide to have persuaded consumers to pay for news online. Cannibalization issues persist, but not as much as thought. Company research shows the print Journal lost about 50,000 subscribers to the online sibling since its launch in 1996.

According to ABC's March statement and one from CEP in September, the online Journal ranks No. 5 by circulation, with an 8.9 percent year-over-year increase. USA Today tops with a steady circulation of 2.28 million, followed by the print Journal at 2.07 million and a 0.1 percent year-over-year drop.

The New York Times is in third place, with a circulation of 1.14 million and a 0.2 percent year-over-year increase. The Los Angeles Times is next, with a 5.6 percent plunge in year-over-year circulation to 908,000.

In sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th places are The Washington Post, New York Daily News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune and Houston Chronicle. Their respective circulations and year-over-year changes are 752,000 and minus 2.7 percent; 736,000 and minus 1.5 percent; 678,000 and steady; 574,000 and minus 6.7 percent and 528,000 and minus 3.8 percent.

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