The online version of the Wall street Journal is roaring. According to its editor, Alan Murray, quoted in the business monthly Portfolio , WSJ.com got 15 million unique visitors (UV) in March, a 175% jump over a year ago. In page views, figures for the same month came at 165m a 75% increase. Those figures have been compiled by internal traffic measurement tools (counting tags on each page). Nielsen measurement, is different : it gives 6m unique users for the WSJ.com versus 3.4 for March 2007. Nielsen is relying on panel — people are asked to tell what site they look. Why has this approximate, anachronic, measure become such a standard on the Internet? This remains a mystery – or a miracle of PR.
What is driving the WSJ.com audience ? Two things from a reader’s perspective : First, the site is good ; it is has depth, it is reactive, its interface is neat. Second, its content has been boosted for months by a stream of great stories ; the endless subprime saga, the debate about the scope of the recession, the difficulties and collapse of major institutions like Bear Stearns.
According to management, the creation of a unified, print and online WSJ newsroom, is a key element: “That had two really important effects,” says Alan Murray. “First, it got the entire news operation thinking on a more systematic basis about the online edition. Second, it really freed up my team to focus on making the product better, because we weren’t managing the daily news flow anymore.”
Others factors include the usual tools of the trade : better search engine optimization (SEO) ; clever approach of the “aggregator factor” with links from Google News giving access to one article even if it is part of a paid-for segment of the site. (Unlike many newspapers that ignore, or even reject any cooperation with Google — even if 40% of their traffic often come from search engines — , the WSJ.com is using the power of Google as promotional tool. This policy doesn’t affect his subscription policy. As the site is gradually opening to free users, its subscriber’s base of 1 million is growing 10% a year.