I’ve been a Wall Street Journal subscriber since the 1970s. I still am. The paper shows up at my doorstep every day.
I’ve also been a subscriber to the Journal online. It costs extra. I’ve gladly paid it, even though I think the paper makes a mistake by locking its archives behind a paywall. (Sell the news, give away the olds, I say.)
I’d still be glad to pay it, if the Journal made it easy. But they don’t. No paper does, far as I know. In fact very few media make it easy at all to give them money for their online goods.
As it happens, my Journal online subscription just ran out. To fix matters, the paper’s site prompted me not to renew, but to update my credit card. So I went through the very complicated experience of updating that data, with the form losing most of the data each time I had to fill in a blank missed on the last try. (Why separate house number from street name?) In the midst it wouldn’t take my known password, and I had to have them do the email thing, through which I got to create a new password after clicking on a link in an email sent to me by the WSJ “system.” Even after doing that, and getting the new credit card info in there, and everything seemed to be fine (no more mistakes noticed on the form)… I can’t get in.
Did the payment go through? I have no idea. The credit card, from Chase, also has an impossible website. I don’t even want to go there.
In any case, I can no longer get in. At the top of the login page, it says “Welcome, Doc Searls.” Below that it tells me to log out if I am not myself. And below that it says
Your Current Subscription(s)
I can still access my Personal Information, which includes rude questions about my income, the number of people in my organization and how many stock transactions my household made in the past 12 months. Earth to Journal: Readers hate filling out shit like that. Why put readers over a grill like that? Does it really help sales? Please.
Okay, between the last paragraph and this one I somehow got far enough into the site to actually read some stuff. Specifically, this Peggy Noonan piece, and this PJ O’Rourke piece. In the midst of hunting those down, search results that failed said this:
No Information Available
Your subscription does not include access to this service.
If you have any questions please call Customer Service at 800-369-2834 (or 609-514-0870) or contact us by e-mail at email@example.com. Representatives are available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. & Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET). Subscribers outside the United States, click here.
Why put readers through #$%^& ordeals like these? Not to mention a website that’s already cluttered beyond endurance.
Because it’s always been done this way, they say. “Always” meaning “since 1995.”
Actually, it’s gotten worse in recent years, all the better to drag eyeballs across advertising, and to maximize the time readers spend on the site.
Hell, I’ve been on the WSJ site for the last hour, hating every second of it.
We can do better than this. I say we, because I have no faith at all that the Journal, or any of the papers, will ever fix problems that have been obvious for the duration. The readers are going to have to tell them what to do. And I mean all of them at once. We need one basic way to interact with media and their systems for accepting payments. Not as many different ways as there are media, all of them bad.