Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

WSJ Gains Subscribes While Fading in Search Results

Gerry Smith, Bloomberg:

After blocking Google users from reading free articles in February, the Wall Street Journal’s subscription business soared, with a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. But there was a trade-off: Traffic from Google plummeted 44 percent.

The reason: Google search results are based on an algorithm that scans the internet for free content. After the Journal’s free articles went behind a paywall, Google’s bot only saw the first few paragraphs and started ranking them lower, limiting the Journal’s viewership.

I’m not sure how this effect can last for the Journal, but it goes to show that publications don’t necessarily benefit from being available to search engines. For an established publication — like the Wall Street Journal — the benefits may really only run one way: towards search engines.