NEW YORK: The Wall Street Journal, the American business title owned by News Corp, is set to become the first major US newspaper to launch a micro-payments system for its online content.

The scheme will see occasional readers charged small sums for individual articles, while niche market content covering areas such as commodities will become the preserve of premium subscriptions.

Despite the newspaper industry being particularly hard-hit by falling advertising revenues, the title is in a bullish mood.

New marketing initiatives pushing the paper's online coverage of sports and local politics are underway in cities like San Francisco and Detroit where ailing competitors are feeling the pinch.

The WSJ already has more than a million paying subscribers to its full online offering – a rare feat amongst international publications.

On the print side of the business, subscription rates have risen some 21% since News Corp's 2007 acquisition. Advertising, however, has fallen off by a third in the first quarter of 2009 alone.

"A sophisticated micro-payments service" will be introduced in the autumn, managing editor Robert Thomson said, targeting ad hoc users of the site. Premium subscriptions will feature articles from the Dow Jones newswire, also in the News Corp stable.

The company is also looking at new subscription packages for Dow Jones and WSJ content, but pricing for these and the micro-payments have yet to be set.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Brand Republic; additional reporting by WARC staff