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Wall Street Journal plans micropayments model

The newspaper plans to launch an a la carte-style payment plan for access to individual articles, according to a Financial Times report.

The Wall Street Journal is expected to begin charging nonsubscribers micropayments for access to individual articles, according to a report Sunday in The Financial Times.

Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of the Journal, told The Financial Times that "a sophisticated micropayments service" will launch this autumn. The system would charge small fees to occasional users who may not be willing to pay more than $100 a year for a subscription to, Thomson said.

The Journal is one of the few large daily newspapers still managing to charge for online content. The New York Times abandoned a two-year experiment with the Web-subscription model in 2007, suggesting that the company's projections for subscriber revenue were small compared with advertising sales.

Word of the payment model emerges as the newspaper industry is undergoing a dramatic contraction. As readers have increasingly gone online for their news, newspapers have suffered declining subscriber numbers and lower advertising revenue. Many newspapers have cut jobs, and some have warned that they may face closure soon if they can't make further cuts or find buyers for their operations.

That climate has publishers scrambling for new revenue models. New York newspaper Newsday announced in February that it plans to begin charging online readers for access to its content.

Publishers are also taking aim at search engines and news aggregators. Last week, Google defended itself on charges that it is profiting from content produced by newspaper executives, magazine publishers, and the Associated Press.

During a Senate hearing, Google Vice President Marissa Mayer said, "Google News and Google search provide a valuable free service to online newspapers specifically by sending interested readers to their sites at a rate of more than 1 billion clicks per month. Newspapers use that Web traffic to increase their readership and generate additional revenue."