In the months leading up to Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ takeover, some of the Dow Jones crew insisted that WSJ.com might keep its subscription wall – even though Murdoch clearly intended to tear it down. Now that reality has set in, it will be fascinating to watch WSJ.com turn all of its focus on advertising metrics like uniques and page views.Baby steps first… Today’s WSJ.com features a clumsy “slide show” presenting some of the big names named in the baseball’s Mitchell report. Online publishers love slide shows, because they turn a single story into multiple page views. But in most cases, they don’t do users much good, because they make it difficult to navigate back and forth between bits of information, instead of presenting it to them in one shot.The WSJ slideshow isn’t terrible in this regard – it lets you know, along the bottom of each slide, that there are 8 other slides, and lets you click directly to them. But compare and contrast with the NYT.com’s awesome presentation, which delivers thumbnail images of all 81 players named in the steroid report, on a single page, and makes it easy to jump back and forth between the main page and individual bios. If you’ve got any interest in baseball at all, you’re going to spend some time here.
Make no mistake: The difference between the two papers’ presentations has nothing to do with ideology and ownership – just experience. The NYT has been trying to build its online audience for many years, and reports like today’s are the result of a lot of time and money spent on those efforts. The WSJ, which hasn’t paid nearly as much attention to this stuff, has a lot of catching up to do. And Rupe will make sure they move as fast as possible.