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The WSJ doesn’t get Social Media

The Wall Street Journal appears to be running some kind of hybridized free / paid-for service. Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch is just about right — in time, every major news agency will go advert-supported…

The Wall Street Journal appears to be running some kind of hybridized free / paid-for service. Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch is just about right — in time, every major news agency will go advert-supported…

Back in September 2006, I wrote about how ‘blogging and newspapers would inevitably converge. By embracing the social aspects of ‘blogging, marrying the audience engagement with more structured, professional journalism, you end up with a lot of ‘stickiness’.

Here, the stickiness is the interest and willingness of the audience to participate, to comment, to be known and to keep coming back day in, day out.

These things are the very underlying social mechanics of ‘blogging. And it’s this force of ‘blogging that’s an irresistible one.

On the broad scale, the lack of quality and accuracy, as well as the sheer number of ‘blogs is drowning out more legitimate news channels.

As is often the case, scandal and unconfirmed rumor, hear-say are the conversations rippling around the web, emerge as the current buzz across hundreds and thousands of ‘blogs.

How can we be expected to pay for content that is often to be found free elsewhere — even if the quality and accuracy is lower? What’s happening to The Wall Street Journal is also likely to happen to the likes of New Scientist, too.

Social Media, the WSJ way — in 391 easy steps!

In time, ad’-supported content will likely be the only business model in the new media town:

“By opening the door a little bit with the opinion pages, the Wall Street Journal will be operating two different business models side by side. You can be sure that if the free portion outperforms the paid portion, there will be a lot of pressure to open up the news sections as well.”

Depending on how you look at this, the WSJ looks to be making baby steps towards Social Media.

But there’s a problem — I’ve just spent the best part of 20 minutes trying to make sense of things, hunting down the so-called “opinion editorial”, when all it amounts to is readers’ letters and a forum.

The major problem here is that the discussion being started in an article is being pushed into forums, which is effectively miles away from the original article.

Kate also makes an excellent point: when was the last time we saw a Wall Street Journal article on StumbleUpon?

Indeed.

In the end, I have Kate to thank for helping me find the aforementioned ‘features’ of the WSJ op-ed.

But neither Kate nor I are any wiser as to whether there’s an option to post comments on articles. There’s no obvious web page detailing what we would get access to should we subscribe.

Eventually, we were enlightened — by Google, when Kate did a search for “WSJ” and found a link to the WSJ subscription benefits on the search results page WSJ Sitelink.

After clicking on the subscription button, seeing that there are 4 pages to the sign-up process, I soon felt my will to live ebbing away from me.

When I stand back and look at The Wall Street Journal’s attempts to engage their readership, a word immediately springs to mind — shambles.

Contrast the convoluted sign-up process and circuitous, hide & seek approach to opinion editorial of the WSJ website to any out-of-the-box WordPress ‘blog and it’s not even a fair fight.

So-called “dead tree” media isn’t a sustainable business model — not least because of the environmentally suspect slant — and it’s a business model that looks curiously lost and anachronistic on the internet of today…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

3 replies on “The WSJ doesn’t get Social Media”

So after digging ‘round the WSJ a bit more, we discovered a couple more juicy tidbits to share:

The headlines from “Today’s Newspaper” are available in full and on one page, which is a bonus from a social media standpoint.

Interestingly enough, the only social media nudging to be found is the option to “Digg it” — no comments to build a community, no Newsvine / Reddit / StumbleUpon / Delicious.

What if you subscribe, you ask? You don’t get much more, besides access to the daily section articles from the past 90 days as the top benefit – which begs the question: so when does the free headline content from today’s newspaper get converted to subscription only benefit? Or is only the “inside-the-paper” news part of that perk?

What about the Wall Street Journal’s online content? Well, yes, you can read some of the blog articles for free — so long as you click through “Today’s Newspaper” once again to find them.

Try to click on the “Multimedia & Online Extras” tab and you get the subscription stonewall – shockingly enough, however, by following the trail of blog breadcrumbs from “Today’s Newspaper” associated free links, I get to the “Multimedia & Online Extras” section in full, without subscribing.

Regardless of how you get there, however, yes, you can indeed comment on the blog articles. And even share them on Facebook, Delicious and Digg! I wonder why Facebook and Delicious are options here only?

‘Tis a tangled web we weave of free and subscription-only data that certainly isn’t worth the hassle.

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