WSJ Manages To Cut Costs And Improve Printed Product At The Same Time

from the dead-tree dept

The newspaper industry has come up with plenty of ideas to try and compete or coexist with the internet, most of them pretty awful. But The Wall Street Journal recently announced plans to redesign its printed edition in a smaller format, and it’s interesting to see how the internet has impacted several of the design and editorial decisions. The biggest change, obviously, is the smaller page size, which should allow for a significant cost reduction. Many European newspapers, including the WSJ’s European edition, are shrinking their pages even more and going with Berliner or tabloid-size editions to make the paper more convenient, particularly for commuters — and consumers have responded well to the change. It’s a small change, but one made partly because the environment for news is becoming more competitive. What’s particularly interesting in the new WSJ, though, is that the smaller pages mean a smaller “news hole”, or less room for stories, so it will edit stories more tightly, particularly if they’re deemed “yesterday’s news”. The business and financial press moves very quickly, so it makes little sense for many stories broken online to be reprinted again in the next day’s paper, and this is a tacit admission of that. The print edition will focus on those stories that make the WSJ stand out from its rivals, both in print and online, like its well-known page-one features. This sort of move makes a lot of sense for newspapers. Too often, they try to protect their print edition at all costs by dumbing down their web versions and putting up roadblocks to their content. This doesn’t make a lot of sense; they should realize that the news is moving more quickly than a once-a-day printed newspaper can handle, and adapt accordingly by putting more material online, and using their print editions for stories that may not be so time-sensitive, or other features that don’t translate well to the web. The WSJ realizes it’s got little to gain from reprinting every story that was all over its web site the day before, and that for those stories it does print, they can’t be written and edited the same way they always have, since people tend to scan and read more quickly than they used to. The printed newspaper isn’t irrelevant; it just needs to evolve to stay relevant. Of course, these changes in the offline world don’t mean the WSJ has gotten everything right, online, though, where its paywall continues to frustrate.

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Comments on “WSJ Manages To Cut Costs And Improve Printed Product At The Same Time”

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richard koman (user link) says:

sheer nonsense

Smaller news hole, That is not an improvement, that is bad news, plain and simple. The spin that tighter space will make for tighter writing, tighter news agendas, etc., is premised on the notion that some artificial constraints are needed, that the top people in the field are incapable of applying basic discipline to their craft. That’s sheer nonsense. The so-called improvements are just the changes they have to make to work within the smaller news hole.

The integration with the website, seeing the print and online versions as complementary and not particularly duplicative is a good sign. Newspapers have shot themselves in the foot by making the same content you’re supposed to pay for, and wait for the morning delivery boy for, available immediately and freely online. WSJ didnt go down this path (but of course the paywall is irritating.) They have to figure out how the online and print editions add up to one boffo value-add and at the same time cut costs and standardize for outsourcing and ad placement.

Still, don’t call cuttng the newshole an improvement. That’s … sheer nonsense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sheer nonsense

It’d be worse news for a traditional ‘news paper’ than a financial one. A news paper would indeed have to squeeze and condense its propaganda and selective coverage in to ever-smaller slices of paper, but financial news thankfully isnt quite as bad. 🙂 Hopefully most of what is lost will be little things perhaps like “EBITDA” instead of the financial-noob version “EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization)”.

I actually pay for IBD’s website, and the Economist. Because they’re worth it, even online. Not as news; free sources are just as good, but they put things together in a special way that’s got me willing to pay. The Economist is more about getting the whole story and its actual significance. I don’t know why others can’t embrace the model. And the Christian Science Monitor has a good site. Why other papers are afraid to emulate success, I know not. My local paper, the Orlando Sentinel, I subscribe to half out of pity and half because every couple days Mike Thomas does a decent article. The rest… Reuters.

Tim says:

Re: Re: sheer nonsense

I’m glad AC mentioned the Orlando Sentinel in his/her post… it is one of the most notorious offenders (in my mind, at least) when it comes to reprinting stories off the AP wire the day after I’ve already seen them.

The irony of “newspapers” these days is that they remain a proven advertising medium for retailers (more so than the web)… how many readers of this site who never read the paper bought one for day after Thanksgiving ads? To me, this appears to be the future of news in print.

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