‘WSJ Social’ Launch Leaves Some Underwhelmed

Enthusiasm lacking at party in honor of new product

Earlier this year, Facebook invited news outlets to create “Facebook editions,” applications that would put content from that outlet, be it CNN, The New York Times, or The Washington Post directly on the Facebook platform. The payoff for the users: no jumping back and forth between Facebook and the Web. The payoff for the businesses: increased presence and advertising opportunities on a platform where 750 million people spend their time.

Now, independently of Facebook, The Wall Street Journal has launched a Facebook page called “WSJ Social,” which allows Facebook users to not only access WSJ content within Facebook but to organize and curate it there themselves, according to their interests. Users follow other editors and vie for “top editor” status, while the Journal earns revenue from the ads that appear on the Facebook page (they declined to say how much revenue they're anticipating).

“We wanted users to be the editors,” Maya Baratz, head of new products at the paper, said at the WSJ Social launch party on Monday night.

For all the fanfare and hors d’oeuvres that surrounded the launch, however, the new product is rather simple—it took Baratz and chief product officer Daniel Bernard all of a minute to introduce it. ("That's it?" more than one attendee exclaimed after the presentation.)

WSJ Social is sure to face challenges. For one, WSJ content will continue to live behind a paywall, an unfamiliar structure on the Facebook landscape. Dell, a sponsor, is providing free access to content on the WSJ Social page for one month, but there's little-to-no indication that an increased Facebook presence will help the paper break out of its demographic, which isn't a natural fit for this.

Equally unfamiliar to the brave new world of content sharing is the idea of having a Facebook page with content limited to one news source. Facebook thrives on users’ ability to pull content from all around the Web and link back to it.

Baratz and Bernard don’t really have answers for that, saying only that the product is still in beta and they’re looking forward to tweaking and adapting it as time goes on. The big advantage of WSJ Social, they say, is that users no longer need to bounce back and forth from Facebook and the WSJ site.

Time will tell whether or not that’s a strong enough selling point.