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WSJ Responds

By - October 20, 2004

WSJ.jpg In Mark Glaser’s OJR piece covering how major online publishers are dealing with what I’ve come to call “joining the conversation,” I was pleased to see that Mark asked Bill Grueskin, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal’s online site, about my post suggesting the Journal allow deep linking.

Here’s his response, with additional thoughts from Jay Singh, EIC of News.com:

Grueskin told me there’s a balancing act between opening up a couple stories and giving away the whole store.
“It’s more an issue of at what point are you providing so much to people that they don’t feel they need a WSJ.com subscription,” Grueskin said…..”Ultimately, if our journalism fails to meet the first criteria — is our own content worthy of even coming to our site? — if we fail at that, then it doesn’t matter if we have Extra or not,” Singh said. “Over time, if you feel that we’re saving you time and hassle, if we’re helping you with the signal-to-noise ratio, then you’ll come back again.”

Well, yes and no. To clarify, I did not suggest the Journal give away the whole store, I suggested it allow bloggers to point their readers to one story at a time. The Journal currently makes one story a day (ie, one story to all, not one per) available to bloggers, a practice I find a bit imperious – it misses the point of this multi-faceted conversation – the power is in the tail, not the head, and the tail needs more than one story to power it. I’ve been talking to a lot of folks lately in the newspaper business, preparing for a talk I’ll be giving next month to the Online Publishers Association (and finalizing the portion of my book that talks about the impact of search on traditional media models). And I’ve come to the conclusion that any publisher who is building their site as a destination is working under the wrong assumption.

Sure, you want your readers to read your stuff, and you want your site to be well visited. But if that’s your main goal, you’re missing the – er – point. Editors should not be worried about whether their content can “bring people to our site” – that’s simply not a realistic approach anymore. The goal is to make content that is worth pointing to. If you’re feeding the conversation, as I said in my post, the rest will then follow.

(By the way, RSS as disaggregator problem, I think, will be solved by feed-based advertising within a year.)

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