MEDIA: WSJ.com fees suspended in US aftermath

Wall Street Journal online, whose subscription service is seen as a

model for internet news providers, temporarily abandoned its fee-based

offering after last week's terrorist attacks in New York.



A spokeswoman said: 'There was a huge need for information. We took down

the firewall and payment was suspended. Our network was one of the few

that did not crash during the day.'



But Neil Budde, publisher of WSJ.com, explained that the decision did

not represent a precedent for the company in reporting other major news

stories.



The move was prompted by worries that the print version of the Wall

Street Journal would not reach many subscribers due to the disruption

caused by evacuating staff from their offices at the World Financial

Center, near the site of the attack.



'The easiest way was to open (the website) to anyone,' Budde said.



Unfettered free access lasted for just 36 hours after the first plane

crashed.



Budde said: 'A couple of people were asking why we didn't leave it for

longer. But we do have a number of people paying and if we suddenly

opened it for everybody, fee paying customers wouldn't get the level of

service they deserve.'



Dow Jones, which owns the Wall Street Journal, has made no secret of its

belief that payment for online information is its preferred

strategy.



But Budde stressed that 'public service information' such as emergency

phone numbers and the status of companies which occupied the area was

posted on the free part of the site.



A smaller version of the paper, with one edition rather than three, was

put out on the day of the attacks when many internet news services found

the weight of hits too much for their infrastructure.



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