The final day of 2011 INMA World Congress consisted of an executive briefing from The Wall Street Journal and its corporate parent, Dow Jones. Six executives from the two companies came together to provide insight to attendees about the transformation to multi-media with new energy in print platform, paid content, the iPad and more.
Lynne Brennen, senior vice president of circulation for Dow Jones, opened the presentation with an overview of the company and its attention on credible, unique content.
She observed that there is a crossroads between content and technology, and Dow Jones understands the need to build its business at that intersection. But at the same time, Brennen said, there also needs to be close attention paid to how content is purchased, and steps taken to protect the content that is being purchased.
Romy Newman, vice president of multi-media sales for The Wall Street Journal, presented the audience with an overview of the journey the WSJ has taken in publishing its weekend edition, as well as through the addition of the WSJ Magazine from a sales perspective.
The game plan for the weekend edition and the magazine was to broaden content, Newman said. The weekend newspaper was launched in 2005, and gained a strong following; after the launch, 97% of the daily print edition users reported also reading the weekend product.
However, Newman said, some advertisers were lukewarm to the weekender because they felt as though the product was very similar to the daily edition. So the company stepped back and asked the question: what do people do on the weekend?
Additional research showed that the audience engaged in a wide variety of activites, such as travel, shopping or even re-decorating their homes. It was a mind set that was different from weekdays, and the content was expanded accordingly.
Success of the new content was reflected in the data, Newman said; 60% of the audience spent more than an hour reading the weekend edition, and 77% said they have taken action because of an article they read.
Equally important, because of the broadened content the WSJ reached a wider range of advertising clients, not just typical business advertisers, but other entities such as retail, real estate, fashion, and credit card companies.
Michael W. Miller, senior deputy managing editor of the Journal, went into greater detail about the direction the newspaper took with its weekend content. Miller said that most of the audience normally reads two different newspapers — their local product, and the Wall Street Journal.
“We couldn’t count on people to pick up two newspapers anymore,” Miller said, “and we wanted to become the first read, not the second read.”
Miller said they needed to keep the legacy audience and content, but also had to broaden the scope and aim toward the younger generation of readers, as well as women. Example: a “Review” section was added to the weekend product which emphasised books and literature. Within the Review section, excerpts from featured books were added to increase reader engagement.
“As other companies were trying to cut costs and pull back on book coverage, we were expanding,” Miller said.
An “Off Duty” section also was added to feature topics such as food and wine, recipes, and travel. All of the content was built on the newspaper's traditional reporting values, Miller said, but with the marriage of vibrant images and photos.
“We like to think of it (the Off Duty section) as the dessert at the end of a meal,” he said.
WSJ Magazine Publisher Anthony Cenname then discussed his publication, which was launched in 2008 and was revamped in 2010. The most recent changes triggered an increase in circulation, with help from new topics and new advertising.
Cenname echoed the importance of the theme referred to several times by his colleagues: the growth in female readership.
“The women's readership came together perfectly,” he said, "because more women now share the passion for success.” More women are graduating from college, he said, and women also are opening up small businesses with greater frequency. So to draw that audience, Cenname said, the magazine asked the question: who are the women of the WSJ?
Research ultimately showed the audience comes from a wide spectrum who could be anyone from stay-at-home moms or small-business owners.
The digital side of the business was addressed by Daniel Bernard, chief product officer of the WSJ Network, and Emily Jipson, vice president, product for WSJ.com. They delved into topics like product organization, and how team members work together to produce the best quality for their customers.
“It’s always about the users and advertisers,” Bernard said. “Our customers aren’t just demographics; they are people.”
WSJ uses a defined system in its approach to developing and providing a new service, Bernard said, but it is important that the process stays rapid, since digital technology requires quick development.
First, in the discovery stage, WSJ tries to figure out what the actual product with be and who and how many people will be using it. Next, team members come together during the design phase and plan the architecture of the product and how people will interact with it. And in the development phase, the team works the whole delivery process — not just releasing the product, but following up after it actually reaches the users’ hands.
Bernard said communication is vital for an effective, tight-knit team. The company is very picky about who gets hired, and only selects team members who are passionate about their careers.
“Have conversations with everyone,” he said, “and be clear on what you want to build and what you don’t want to build.”
Brennen closed the discussion on the topic of circulation, stressing the importance of considering how your audience wants to receive your content. The company offers print and online in a bundle or sold separately, she said, suggesting the use of trial and sampling to see what works.
Brennen said that digital will not cannibalize print. The brand has to preserve its relationship with the audience overall, so whenever people are ready to move to digital, she said, WSJ will “walk them over the bridge.”
“We will not abandon our audience,” she added.