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Amid market meltdown, Wall Street Journal goes Web 2.0

Newspaper's new social network gets mixed reviews on its paid-subscription model

By Heather Havenstein
September 17, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Amid this week's turmoil on Wall Street, The Wall Street Journal launched a redesigned Web site Tuesday complete with Web 2.0 features, such as a community that allows paid online subscribers to build profiles, form groups, add photos and interact with others.

The redesign -- which differs from other business-focused social networks like LinkedIn because it is not free -- has so far garnered mix reviews.

In a blog post describing the new social network, the Journal billed the social networking features as a "nifty" way for business owners to connect in a Web 2.0 world. "These new social-networking features should enable you to meet and swap tips with other entrepreneurs and find answers to questions that help you better run your business," it noted.

While the blog post noted that the Journal hopes to open its new community to all online comers in the future, some early reviewers questioned the initial requirements that users pay for access.

Leslie Poston, a blogger at TechBlorge, for example, noted that the Journal has "missed the boat" on its Web 2.0 foray. "Unfortunately, this is one of many attempts at entering the social media for enterprise space that screams 'You're doing it wrong.' By trying to be another Facebook or LinkedIn for paid subscribers and excluding casual visitors and readers, The Wall Street Journal effectively eliminates the most important aspect of social media for enterprise -- community building," Poston said.

Instead of trying to compete with Facebook, the Journal should instead open up the social aspects to all online users to attract new readers, she added.

"The Wall Street Journal would have done better to go with a limited social network that also allowed for polls, rating of stories and story bookmarking and sharing," Poston noted. "This would engage both new readers stumbling in off the Web and create a way for long time Journal lovers to become even more vested in the publication. By closing the doors and creating their own clubhouse, they are creating a sense of 'haves' and 'have nots' -- a recipe for separation and a reason for people to find other ways to get their financial news."

Meanwhile, Mark Hopkins, a blogger at Mashable, applauded the Journal's decision to put into place community and social networking features "that are almost completely unique to the Web we all know and love" because they aren't free.

"Chances are, though, if you use The Wall Street Journal as your filter on the news, you belong to a somewhat elite community," he added. "Getting access to the minds and the contacts within that elite community is almost as much of a selling point for ponying up the fee to get behind the pay wall as the content itself. In other words, mark it on your calendar folks, because we may be witnessing the first successful attempt to sell access to a social network."

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