Having won the battle to keep their website’s paywall up, WSJ.com (NWS) execs run a victory lap by doling out internal numbers for Portfolio: 15 million uniques in March, up 175% y/y; 165 million page views, up 75%.
“I don’t know of any news site that’s growing at that speed,” says WSJ.com executive editor Alan Murray. We do. But whatever. It’s still impressive growth. Even though Nielsen shows much smaller numbers (as it always does), they’re also headed in the same direction.
So what happened? Portfolio notes that WSJ has re-designed its home page, but that shouldn’t matter that much, since all news websites get the majority of their visitors from the “side door” — that is, they’re being referred by other sites.
Much more likely is that WSJ.com is getting its links in front of lots of new readers, something that Murray alludes to here: “We’ve gotten much smarter about search engine optimization, and much smarter about working with portals and aggregators.” That also explains why uniques are growing much faster than page views — if someone gets guided to WSJ.com by, say, Digg or Google News (GOOG), they’re much less likely to read additional stories than a WSJ subscriber would.
The sceptical way to look at the growth, then, is to point out that WSJ.com’s select, high value audience is getting diluted as it grows, which will eventually bring down CPMs for the site. But it’s Friday morning, and it looks like GE may have just blown up the markets. Let’s be optimists, and call the WSJ’s traffic boom a high class problem.
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