The web may be a wonderland for free information, but there's been one notable holdout. The Wall Street Journal, that bastion of conservative economic thought, has, like its money-minded soul sister The Economist, held out on joining most other publications in granting access to its full content for free online. (A smart move, if you ask me, since it expects to survive.) If you want online access to all of the Journal's hard-core market analysis and hard-earned in-depth reporting, you have to pay at least $103 a year to get a web subscription to read much more than the major headline stories.

But the Wall Street Journal is also a favored publication of trend-seekers and conspicuous consumers everywhere, and those readers are carrying the electronic toy du jour: iPhones. The WSJ simply had to have a little program for the iPhone if it was going to remain relevant. So it recently put one out in the form of an "app," distributed by Apple.

Unfortunately for the editors at the Journal, though, Apple hasn't yet figured out a safe or easy way to charge iPhone users for the things they do within apps sold at its App Store. So anything from the Journal that you can read on an iPhone (or an iPod Touch) is not charged.
The Columbia Journalism Review reports that the Journal's ultimate bossman, Rupert Murdoch, has his knickers in a twist over the loophole and has come down hard on the people who let it happen. The app, though, isn't being retracted, at least for now. Unfortunately, the technology for charging iPhone users for the WSJ's content won't be available until the fall at least, "by which time the Journal app's user base will have gotten good and used to getting it for free," as the CJR puts it.

An iPhone starts at $199 with a two-year contract. If regular Journal readers drop their online subscriptions and deduct the cost from that purchase price, they will theoretically pay just $96 for the device. That is, if Murdoch doesn't find a way to plug this loophole as soon as he can. I hear the guy's pretty good with money.

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