Blog Post

Crovitz: WSJ.com Trying To Get Search Juice Without Disrupting Pay Model

Roving correspondent Rex Hammock reports from the American Business Media Top Management Meeting in Chicago, where a question from him about the impact of being behind pay firewalls drew the following response from Gordon Crovitz, president, Dow Jones Electronic Publishing:

“I think (search engines based on “popularity rankings”) create a special challenge for those of us with what we consider to be high quality brands and content, especially with brands and content behind a firewall … the number of page views and number of links is not going to be as great. So in our own world, (when) you do a Google search, MarketWatch content is much likelier to come up as a search result than the Wall Street Journal content.” WSJ.com addressed the problem by hiring a full-time editor “to select stories to throw over our firewall to make available to bloggers and to other websites for free. And we do that in order to distribute our content, keep our brands active and dynamic, and to give bloggers and search engines access to some Journal content. We’re obviously very careful about doing this — we don’t want to undermine our subscription model. When you publish a million fresh pages every day, you can afford to make a dozen or so articles free on the Internet.”

Crovitz said the most recent WSJ.com Open House brought a 50-percent increase in page views and traffic. He sees that as proving the value of pay content. Also, and this tracks with last week’s numbers from TimesSelect, he said 93 percent of trial subscribers convert to paid. (I’d like to hear from any online publishers willing to share that statistic about their trial-paid rates. You can email me or drop it in the comments.)