To Be Free, Or Not To Be, Murdoch May Find Out: 25% Of Journal's Traffic Comes From Google

In what may be tantamount to a Custer's Last Stand for the newspaper industry's premium content model, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch Monday declared he would remove his company's newspaper stories - including those of the Wall Street Journal - from Google's search index files as a means of encouraging people to pay for their content online. In an interview with News Corp.'s Sky News Australia, Murdoch said they might block Google entirely, raising questions about what might happen to the relevance of the newspaper's content in an era when many people discover it first via search.

"I think we've been asleep," Murdoch said. "It costs us a lot of money to put together good newspapers and good content. They're very happy to pay for it when they buy a newspaper, and I think when they read it elsewhere they're going to have to pay. Not huge sums. You'd be surprised how much can be done, how cheaply, into the average home."

According to an analysis of Google-generated traffic released late Monday by Experian's Hitwise service, Google and Google News currently account for more than 25% of the daily traffic to the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.com site.

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The Hitwise analysis also indicates that more than 44% of WSJ.com visitors coming from Google are "new users" who haven't visited the domain in the previous 30 days.

Hitwise did not release figures from other news-related search engines for WSJ.com, but it noted that Twitter and Facebook accounted for 4% of U.S. visits to "news and media" sites in October, that the percentage of upstream traffic they generate to those sites is up more than 490% from October 2008.

2 comments about "To Be Free, Or Not To Be, Murdoch May Find Out: 25% Of Journal's Traffic Comes From Google".
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  1. Kevin Horne from Verizon, November 11, 2009 at 1:05 a.m.

    While I am not defending Murdoch's musings by any stretch, this Hitwise data doesn't really tell us much, at least at such a high level.

    First, the fact that Google is the #1 traffic source for wsj.com is true of just about every site on the planet. Unless we know the search terms (which Hitwise does), there is not much of an argument here.

    Second, the fact that so few visitors from Google are repeat visitors seems to be what you would expect. If for some reason i got to wsj via Google and thought it was any good, I'd bookmark it/type it in directly/etc etc. So I'd no longer be part of the Google-sourced traffic data set. Again, this seems to be common to most sites out there.

    Third, another explanation for low repeat visitors from Google might be that visitors who hit the pay wall remember that and mentally remember to ignore any wsj.com links that come up in subsequent searches (otherwise you would fit the classic definition of insane - a person who does the same thing over and over hoping for a different outcome).

    Fourth - something that has less to do with the data itself versus the logic of it. Why on earth would wsj.com expect traffic from Google to be a significant and qualified source of leads? If you look at the Hitwise blog, you'll see that Drudge and Yahoo Finance placed 3rd and 4th - that seems like way better quality traffic for wsj than the great unwashed searching on "balloon boy." I don't think the Wall Street Journal has a brand awareness problem.

    Where are all the web analytics gurus on this one?

    Again, not saying Murdoch is right, just saying this Hitwise data doesn't seem to tell a story.

  2. Kamau Jackson, November 11, 2009 at 6:32 a.m.

    Kevin... I agree. Also wondered about the missing analytic folks while listening to the CNBC coverage. Murdoch describes in plain language that the traffic isn't worth much by itself. The 25% stat says nothing. Traffic that converts is real traffic. Everything else is just noise.

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