Ever since the rear-guard at the Wall Street Journal won the battle to keep its news pages behind its subscription wall (although, its opinion pages are now free), they have been cracking down especially hard on anyone trying to breach that wall—even if those people happen to be paying subscribers. In what appears to be an attempt to discourage freeloaders, the WSJ.com is locking out anyone from its site when it detects more than one simultaneous log-in on the same account. But innocent, rule-abiding subscribers who may be using multiple computers, or doing nothing wrong other than forgetting to log out of their accounts, are being shut out as well (see email below).
That is no way to treat your customers. In fact, it shows an utter disdain for how normal people actually use the Web. But it is an understandable, and classic, reaction. Incumbent executives always try to fend off inevitable disruption by blindly protecting their current sources of revenues. I liked Rupert Murdoch’s original idea of tearing down the entire subscription wall much better.
Here is the e-mail I received from a paying online subscriber, describing his ordeal with the WSJ.com and a screen shot of what he saw when he was in breach of the multiple login rule. Hopefully, this is an isolated case. Otherwise, the WSJ.com could have a reader revolt on its hands of its own making. (If anyone else has experienced the same thing, please share in comments).
I’ve been a paying subscriber of the Wall Street Journal online since 1995.
About two weeks ago they made a change so that they allow only one
login per account at a time and closing a browser isn’t sufficient,
you have to manually logout. If you forget and try to access the site
from another browser or machine, they lock your account and make you
call in to get it reset.
As one who uses many computers and browsers, this is a major change
and hassle. They don’t even let you get to the free version without
clearing cookies if your account is locked; you just get a nasty
Furthermore, the unlock process requires long-wait times on the phone and
answering lots of questions. I tried email, but no response after 24 hours.
I’ve been through this twice now and they insist that they will continue this
policy to prevent subscription sharing.
Given general trends and that there was recent talk of them going free
and 100% ad-supported, this feels quite draconian. I fully appreciate
their desire to prevent people from stealing their service, but they
are actually preventing paying subscribers from easily using the service.
Also, there are better technology solutions to the problem.
Update: Dow Jones got back to us with a response:
Hi Erick –
I wanted to send a note in response to the earlier post re: WSJ.com subscribers.
Our subscribers often use multiple computers to access their accounts; therefore, we’ve had a long-standing policy of allowing up to three concurrent logins in order to deliver the best customer experience possible. Customer satisfaction and service are of the utmost importance, and we regret any inconveniences incurred by this user.
Dow Jones Public Relations