John Koblin takes a break from killing the media beat to pen a solid profile of Rafael Nadal. He argues that New Yorkers should root for the hyper-athletic Spaniard even though he’s never taken to Gotham because (simplified) Roger Federer is old, Andy Roddick is bad, and, as commentator Mary Carillo explains, “In a way, he’s [Jimmy] Connors-like.” Those reasons are well and good and valid. So cheer for Rafa, then move more to the more telling part of the tennis package.
A gratuitious slideshow, featuring five WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends) of the sport’s best male players. Roddick’s wife Brooklyn Decker makes an appearance, as does Kim Sears, who reportedly split with Englishman Andy Murray for six months last year because he played too many video games.
Slideshows are nothing new, an increasingly important – if cheap – way to drive Web traffic. The Observer is pushing to improve its Web presence, going as far as to offer bonuses for top traffic-drivers earlier this year. And it’s working. According to Alexa, pageviews to Observer.com are up 25 percent in the past three months.
Decker, Sears, and the lot will only help. (So will “Rally Round Nadal, Boys,” currently the most-viewed story on the site.)