One of the first things to go down once News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) completes its purchase of Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ) may be the wall that has fortified its WSJ.com online hub as a premium subscription service over the past 11 years.

Yes, The Wall Street Journal takes its website seriously. Most of the site is walled off to its 983,000 paying subscribers, unless they pony up for the Web-based service, too.

So why would Rupert Murdoch even entertain the notion of going all AOL on us? Increased traffic would clearly grow the online-advertising and paid-search opportunities, but it would come at the expense of surrendering the more predictable flow of paid subscriptions.

Yet it's something that the Journal itself is pondering publicly today. This morning's paper weighs some of the comments that Murdoch made yesterday at a Goldman Sachs conference. Suggesting that tearing down the subscriber wall "looks like the way we are going," he's doing more than just floating a trial balloon.

He has already worked out the math.

"I think you'd get not 1 million paying customers, but, around the world, you'd get 10 to 15 million regular daily hits on it, and that would be the most affluent, the most influential people in the world," he said, in arguing that giving up $50 million in annual subscription revenue could be made up elsewhere.

Bringing down the walls is about more than just getting a lot of hits, though. News Corp. is making a big bet with next month's launch of the Fox Business Network. If Murdoch wants to take on General Electric's (NYSE:GE) CNBC as the mainstream business source of choice and rely heavily on the trusted WSJ brand as a catapult, then opening up its quality reporting to the masses makes perfect sense.

Online subscriptions have always been tricky. New York Times (NYSE:NYT) knows it. The newspaper is throwing the towel on its Times Select digital-subscription experiment -- something that I figured would eventually happen, even back when it launched two years ago.

Then again, stock research is something that investors typically don't have a problem paying for when capital gains are at stake. Whether it's Morningstar (NASDAQ:MORN) research reports or the newsletter services that you will find on sites such as TheStreet.com (NASDAQ:TSCM) and right here in Fooldom, subscriptions are a part of most financial-website models.

However, sites like Fool.com, Morningstar, and The Street also offer most of their non-newsletter editorial content for free. If Murdoch has his way, WSJ.com will follow suit sooner rather than later.

New York Times is a former recommendation of the Fool's Income Investor newsletter service. If you're not sure whether stock research is worth paying for, go for a free 30-day trial subscription and decide for yourself.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a print subscriber to more than one Dow Jones publication, even if he consumes most of his financial news online. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.