The latest traffic stats from NYTimes.com are making Rupert Murdoch look, well, pretty smart. The media baron indicated to News Corp. shareholders on Tuesday that he would take WSJ.com free, trading in 1 million paid subscribers for 10-15 million global users.
According to Hitwise, U.S. visits to NYTimes.com are up 13% since the company took down the pay wall to TimesSelect in September, and search traffic is coming from 150% more unique search terms since the switch.
Since WSJ.com offers little significant content to those who don’t subscribe, one could safely project that traffic growth would be even more explosive, especially with the kind of distribution FIM, MarketWatch, and ultimately Fox Business Network could give it. WSJ.com is already breaking down parts of the pay wall: the site added Digg buttons to the bottom of stories last night and is offering free access to articles to people who click through from Digg.
So the question remains, what will the dotcom punditry do when Murdoch takes the most successful online subscription business and turns it into another ad-supported model?