At Wall Street Journal, Change of Accents
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Regular readers of the Wall Street Journal will notice something new in Friday's editions -- a sports page that uses content from one of the many businesses owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. But that's just one of the more visible of changes Murdoch has made at the U.S. economy's paper of record since he took it over at the beginning of the year.
Also on Friday, the Journal will send the new editor of its planned glossy magazine on a one-week tour of Europe to woo advertisers, with a U.S. tour to follow. The magazine, called WSJ, is scheduled to debut in September. It aims to publish quarterly this year and monthly next year. Given that the average annual household income of a Journal subscriber is $253,000, expect the magazine to be packed with ads for luxury goods.
Like all newspapers, the Journal is both a content creator and a distribution platform. When Murdoch was hunting the Journal's parent company, Dow Jones, last year, he said the paper's financial journalism could be leveraged across News Corp.'s global platforms -- Fox News in the United States, satellite services in Europe and Asia, newspapers in Australia.
At the same time, he said, many elements of the News Corp. empire -- which includes 20th Century Fox movie studios, the Fox television network, FX cable channel, HarperCollins publishing and interactive properties such as MySpace -- could find their way into the Journal.
The merger spawned some jokes and some concern about what a Murdoch-owned Journal would look like. Some feared that he would impose characteristics from some of his company's meaner properties, such as the TV show "Family Guy" and the racy London tabloids, on the august Journal.
But that hasn't happened. In fact, in meetings between marketing representatives of the Journal and News Corp., Murdoch's company has turned down some Journal ideas for pairing the newspaper with News Corp. entities, according to a source close to the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private. The message from News Corp. to the Journal: We don't want to cheapen your brand.
But no official stance can thwart some playful corporate integration from the Journal's most mischievous new cousin. At the opening of a September episode of Fox's "The Simpsons" -- weeks after the Dow Jones board approved Murdoch's $5 billion bid for the company -- Bart Simpson wrote repeatedly on a blackboard: "The Wall Street Journal is better than ever." The creators of "The Simpsons" wrote the gag without corporate interdiction. A print-out of the scene has become a common sight around the Journal's New York newsroom.
"It's still pretty early days," Marcus W. Brauchli, the paper's managing editor, said in an interview yesterday. "We're clearly excited about the many possibilities of working more closely with the various arms of News Corp. There are so many things we could be doing differently."
With Dow Jones, Murdoch now controls the Journal, Ottaway Community Newspapers, Barron's, MarketWatch.com, Factiva, the Dow Jones indexes and other assets. The deal closed in December, and cross-pollination between Dow Jones and News Corp. began soon after. News Corp. recently bypassed Time Warner to become the world's largest media company with a $58 billion market capitalization.
In print, the Journal's new sports page will be fueled by content from Stats Inc., a sports statistics service owned by News Corp. and the Associated Press. The Journal has selectively covered sports but without a dedicated sports page. Brauchli said the page will initially appear on Fridays, looking ahead to weekend events, and eventually go daily. The Journal's deadlines are too early to accommodate late scores, Brauchli said, but such content could easily be addressed on the Journal's Web page, which probably will eventually include video from Fox Sports.
News video clips from Fox's cable and broadcast properties can already be seen on the Journal's Web site. Journal editors pick what they want to show; typically, the videos cover international and general news.
The Web site of the Fox Business Network -- launched in October with the Dow Jones acquisition in mind -- carries material from MarketWatch, and MarketWatch reporters appear on the business channel.
During his pursuit of the Journal, Murdoch said the paper probably had too many long stories. Journal reporters have noted a change in the paper's front page toward more "urgency" and away from the longer, off-the-news features that have been a trademark of the paper, said a Journal reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. "Our people are doing this in advance, I think, to make him happy," the reporter said.
But News Corp. has so far made its biggest impact on Dow Jones in personnel. The Journal newsroom and its 750 staff members will move from offices in lower Manhattan, adjacent to Ground Zero, to the midtown headquarters of News Corp., possibly this year.
Since December, the Dow Jones properties have made a spate of executive hires, most of which came from News Corp. As a result, the top levels of Dow Jones are now filled with a generation of 40-somethings, many of them British or Australian.
Robert Thomson, 46, an Australian, is the new Journal publisher. He was editor of the Times of London, owned by News Corp., and was an adviser to Murdoch during his pursuit of Dow Jones. Joining him is Tina Gaudoin, a 46-year-old Briton, who will edit WSJ, the glossy magazine. She edited Luxx, the glossy quarterly magazine of the Times of London. Gaudoin has written for Vogue, was a presenter on a television shopping channel and co-founded a yoga center in London.
At the corporate level, Dow Jones's chief executive is Les Hinton, 64, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Bootle, England. He was the head of News Corp.'s News International, which runs the company's British operations. From News International, Hinton imported Stephen Daintith, 43, to be Dow Jones's chief financial officer and Ian Weston, 43, to head special projects for Dow Jones.
Greg Giangrande, 44, head of human resources for News Corp.'s HarperCollins, assumed the same position at Dow Jones. HarperCollins's associate general counsel, Mark H. Jackson, 48, is the new Dow Jones general counsel. And Joseph Vincent, 45, head of operations for News Corp.'s New York Post, will take over operations for Dow Jones consumer media.