Wall Street Journal uses partnerships to drive growth internationally

By Nick Pimm

The Wall Street Journal

New York, New York, USA

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At Dow Jones, we’re fortunate to have multiple prestigious brands in our consumer portfolio, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and MarketWatch, among others.

In 2015, in an effort to accelerate our digital subscriber growth, we made the decision to think about everything we did through the eyes of the customer. We moved to a membership model that allowed us to create unique and distinctive experiences — from our dynamic paywall to launching our loyalty and event programmes. This approach also informed our global strategy.

However, in the midst of our efforts to grow subscriptions outside the United States, we discovered The Wall Street Journal had a perception problem.

By working with its partners, The Wall Street Journey was able to mitigate a perception problem with overseas audiences.
By working with its partners, The Wall Street Journey was able to mitigate a perception problem with overseas audiences.

Our research told us one of the barriers to uptake by new readers outside the United States was the perception that The Wall Street Journal, while being the authority on U.S. business, was not as relevant globally. That same research told us that once prospects had sampled our content, it dramatically changed their perceptions and increased likelihood to subscribe.

Knowing this, we sought a better way to get our content in front of as many people as possible outside the United States.

What we did

Considering our research findings, we saw an opportunity to create mutually beneficial partnerships to extend brand awareness, improve likelihood to subscribe, and accelerate growth for the Journal and our other membership businesses in new markets outside the United States. When we thought about the needs of other brands, we considered the increasing trend in our industry: to establish and grow sustainable subscription models.

We also thought about the growing membership economy, which relies on deepening engagement and direct customer relationships, and decided to align our partnership model with this trend.

These insights informed our playbook, which arms our teams with the processes and operating procedures for some key deal types that are aligned with our partners’ goals and our strategic objectives.

How it works

We currently have more than 50 partners across the globe who are successfully utilising our premium content, memberships, brands, and knowledge in different ways to achieve their objectives. Our mission to be the source of truth for decision-makers has led us to work with news publishers, banks, airlines, education providers, and the fast-growing new generation of retail-trading platforms.

Our partnerships contribute meaningful membership volumes and revenues for our news brands, expand our reach in underserved audience groups and markets, and also drive awareness and consideration to support our individual memberships business.

Over the last two years, our partners have seen record traffic being driven to WSJ content from their own audience base, which is translating into improved acquisition, engagement, and retention. Publishers that don’t have paywalls are speeding up their paywall launch to capitalise on the demand for fact-based news and information. And, publishers that do have paywalls are looking at how to improve engagement and retention among their new cohorts of readers.

We’re offering additional “knowledge sharing” support to partners to help them learn from the expertise we have built up on our own membership journey.

What we’ve learned

Our approach to partnerships is certainly not one size fits all. We have lots of learnings because we’ve worked with partners in many different ways, whether that is to enhance a newspaper’s editorial product, to support subscription sales, retention of new cohorts, or average-revenue-per-user (ARPU) initiatives.

We’ve also started working with partners to create new revenue streams by licensing some of our brands in their market, for example the Barron’s China edition.

While it’s worked for us in this way, and a mutually beneficial partnership is a great option to combine resources to drive growth, it’s important to be clear about what your organisation can bring to a partnership and how your partner(s) can benefit. It’s equally important to consider what your business’ needs are, and what resources you’re on the lookout for. In our case, it was obtaining reach in new markets or expertise in a particular technology, content vertical, or format.

What’s next

Due to the success of this approach, we will continue to develop our partnerships business and expand our brands and franchises into new verticals, regions, and audience groups, further developing our offerings for video, audio, and live formats.

About Nick Pimm

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