On Friday, WSJ.com launched “an enhanced public home page,” said Daniel Bernard, general manager of Wall Street Journal Online. While subscribers who have cookies that automatically log them on to WSJ.com will go immediately to the subscriber home page, all other users will start at the new front page.
Before the public home page launched, the amount of free content clearly exposed on a daily basis was limited to five to 10 stories displayed in a section on the upper right of the page marked “Free Today.” However, Bernard said, “much more content was actually free if you went through certain navigation and section heads. The new front page does a better job of bucketing and surfacing our content that’s available for free use.”
In addition to daily news stories, the free content did and will continue to include the entire “Personal Finance” and “Markets Data” sections, as well as all videos, podcasts and blogs. WSJ.com now has a dozen blogs.
“Going forward, we’ll be deploying additional community enhancements to our Web site and creating more opportunities for this great audience to connect and become more deeply engaged with one another and our content,” Bernard said, noting that those Web 2.0 efforts are currently in the planning stages.
One goal of the new public home page is to convert more viewers to subscribers by giving them an opportunity to sample The Wall Street Journal’s editorial approach and discover more content that may apply to their needs—some of which will be subscription content. Therefore, offers to subscribe will surface at the point where the nonsubscriber is most likely to be receptive.
WSJ.com has charged for access to the majority of its content ever since its 1996 launch. In 2004, it began offering free article links to bloggers on a limited basis, and it has been rolling out free blogs, podcasts and video since January 2006.
More recently, the first two paragraphs of subscription articles were moved to the free side of the payment curtain to give users a preview of the story. The tactic also exposed more content to search engines.
“This is about building a relationship with the users, allowing them to find our content and engage with it,” Bernard explained. “Ultimately, we hope they become subscribers. In the meantime, we have great advertiser messaging to connect with these users.”
In fact, the redesign opens up a high-impact advertising unit on the public home page. On the upper right, where the “Free Today” box used to be, a collapsible ad unit is now available. “We’re using it to promote the redesign right now, but in a few weeks it will have an advertisement that’s very dynamic and impactful,” Bernard said.