Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 26, 2012, 9:41 a.m.
LINK: www.newyorker.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   March 26, 2012

Lauren Collins has a great piece in this week’s New Yorker on the outsized success of the Daily Mail, which has built the biggest online audience of any newspaper in the world. There’s a section about 80 percent into the story on their web strategy:

The site evolved on the fly. “We just decided to go hell-for-leather for ratings,” someone who was involved in the launch told me. “Anything relating to climate change, American politics, Muslims — we just chased the numbers very ruthlessly.” Traffic, at home and abroad, began to climb. By the summer of 2007, Mail Online’s traffic had risen a hundred and sixty-two per cent, to make it the U.K.’s second-largest newspaper Web site. The Drudge Report started linking to some of its stories. In 2010, it became the U.K.’s biggest newspaper Web site.

[Mail Online editor Martin Clarke] and his staff built the site by instinct. “I didn’t look at that many Web sites for design ideas,” he told me. Formally, they stuck with what they knew, developing a publishing system that allows them to put together the home page with the glue-pot flexibility of a newspaper, rather than having to slot stories into a template. The home page is hectic, with hundreds of stories competing for the reader’s attention. It is unusually long—literally, like a scroll—as are its headlines. (Both tactics help to bolster its search-engine rankings.) It uses far more pictures, and in larger sizes, than its competitors. “The site breaks all so-called ‘usability rules,'” Clarke said. “It’s user-friendly for normal people, not for Internet fanatics.”

Clarke also responds to criticisms of the Mail’s aggregation practices.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
“From the very beginning it was very clear we needed to cover all the same concerns and sensibilities of the print Journal even though we were online and even though we were a young staff.”
Newsonomics: In the platform wars, how well are you armed?
“Think about platforms as fishing places where you can find large, engaged audiences and build a relationship with them by providing content. Then offer these users some other services off-platform.”
Wired’s making the long and slow switch to HTTPS and it wants to help other news sites do the same
With its HTTPS implementation, Wired’s starting with its security vertical and for users who pay for the ad-free version of the site.
What to read next
0
tweets
In the room where it happens: The host of NPR’s new show Embedded talks about news in podcast form
Kelly McEvers: “A lot of the great storytelling podcasts happen in the studio. I hope ours opens the door to people thinking more about what you can do in the field, when things don’t go as planned and are unexpected.”
0What a group of USC students learned shooting lots of VR video (hint: duct tape is involved)
The students traveled to Houston over spring break to shoot footage to accompany a ProPublica/Texas Tribune project on what a hurricane could do to the city.
0Audible, long known only for audiobooks, is branching out into podcasts — and news
The podcast/audio world has been waiting for Audible to make its big move into the space. It’s here, including original content from major publishers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Slate
WyoFile
Politico
The Fiscal Times
Groupon
Associated Press
NPR
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
NBC News
Seattle PostGlobe
The Weekly Standard
Reddit