News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday that he was leaning toward making online Wall Street Journal free, but had made no decision yet.
Murdoch, whose company has sealed a deal to buy Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co Inc for $5.6 billion, rejected criticism that a free wsj.com would hurt the newspaper.
Murdoch said making the site, which currently charges a annual subscription fee of $99, freely available online would help boost viewership — and revenue — globally.
"'If you make it free, it will hurt the paper' — I don't think so," he told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia media conference in New York.
He added: "That looks the way we're going."
Murdoch's comments came a day after the New York Times Co said it would end its paid TimesSelect service to attract more online ads.
Analysts have said a free wsj.com could be a risky move as the site is a rare Internet property that has managed to attract paying customers.
But the fee has hindered the business from attracting an even wider audience globally. That has restricted online advertising, whose rates are set based on the number of viewers.
"Will you lose $50 million to $100 million in revenue? I don't think so," Murdoch said of the potential impact of making the site free. "If the site is good, you'll get much more."
Murdoch also talked about building a closer relationship between the Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, which compete with Reuters and Bloomberg.
Dow Jones Newswires "can be developed and should work a little closer with the newspaper itself," Murdoch said. "Between the two, you have 1,600 journalists. That's a lot of journalists. There's a huge resource there to build on and build services on which we can sell."