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WSJ and the Democratization of Content


In 2005, I decided to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal online. Back then the WSJ was one of the few newspapers in the world charging for content. They were way ahead of the game – charging for content in 1999 two years BEFORE Google went public. Now other major newspapers are trying to follow the WSJ’s lead but are woefully out maneuvered in this game of commercialized information. The Wall Street Journal started as a niche broadsheet that gave information that was worth paying for. It still charges for that type of information but allows the information that freely flows around the Internet – current events, politics, even many business news stories – to be free to consume. Still nearly half a million people pay to get the WSJ online.

But that’s another post. This post is about the WSJ’s leading edge in something else – democratizing content.
An Old Dog Learns New Trick
In the 1940s the man arguably responsible for the rise in the WSJ’s circulation, reputation and editorial stature, Bernard Kilgore redesigned the broadsheet and installed a curious column in the middle of its front page called “What’s News.” It was a mini-round up of the hottest news in that edition and if you read the WSJ you never missed reading that column.
That “What’s News Box,” (still in use today) gave you the greatest hits and was a precursor to all those media updates you get now on Drudge, Huffington Postand the like. But it also relied on content producers telling us what they felt was important. It was a news dictatorship. Then came the Internet. Which broke up news monopolies so much so that low-rent web sites like TMZ.com could break global news on Twitter before CNN could get Anderson Cooper’s tight-black tee on. The Internet, blogs, Facebook and Twitter and especially Digg meant that news was no longer owned by the media but controlled by the content consumer.
Most Popular Kids
But unlike other media, the WSJ rode the new wave to prosperity and even joined in. In the online edition, beneath the scroll there is a section that’s called “Most Popular.” This is Kilgore’s legacy. This section presents the most popular stories e-mailed, read, shared and even searched. It’s a popularity contest for content and you can believe that most of their subscribers read all 10 stories that appear there. In addition, the WSJ added a section – way down at the bottom – of the most popular content on OTHER sites as well.
So here’s the tip for today. If you want to make your blog popular. If you want people to read the content on your site then hang out with the popular kids.

  1. Focus on a tagged subject and find other sites connected to it and link to it. Don’t fear the link love have faith in it. Content is no longer the purveyor of the content producers – it rises and falls upon the dictum of the content users.
  2. Do a trending Twitter feed or link showing recent tweets on your blog tag.
  3. Feature feed or link connected to the tag from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Here’s how to create a Facebook feed widget.
  4. (Make sure your feeds are connected to your focused tag.)
    (Also see the links at the bottom of my blog – WordPress generates hashtag links automatically. To see this feature go to your dashboard >Appearance>Extras.)

  5. Link to different media on the tagged subject- blogs, social and video.
  6. Link to different media formats on the tag – editorial, straight news even humor.
  7. Invite commentators to share their own links on the subject.
  8. Use search tools like Google alert to find other sites featuring the tagged subject and share your link with them.
  9. Insert a poll into our blog posts, asking for feed back from readers on their favorite post of the week (not just the current post.)
  10. You can also ask them to rate the post.
  11. And of course, offer your subscribers the opportunity to link to your post through every means available – Digg, Stumbled, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter for starters.

Try these ideas and see if they work. Then let me know.


Here’s what the Twitteri are saying about online content:

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