Dow Jones is more than just an average of 30 industrial stocks - it is an international commmunications empire.

The sixth largest newspaper corporation in the United States. Dow Jones & Co., Inc., is the parent of 14 daily papers with a combined circulation of 1.83 million, most of which (1.47 million) belongs to the Wall Street Journal, the company's best known publication and the second largest newspaper in the country behind the tabloid New York Daily News.

Also in North America, the company, or its subsidiaries, operates a wire service and Barrons, a weekly business and financial papaper. The company also publishes books, jointly runs a news retrieval systema nd holds a 39.9 per cent interest in a newsprint company and a 50 per cent intereest in a teleprinter leasing corporation. Until July 11, it published the weekly National Observer from its White Oak, Md., plant.

And last year, Dow JOnes began publishing the Asian Wall Street Journal, printed in Hong Kong and distributed throughout the Far East. The firm also operates an international news service in conjunctiiton with the Associated Press that serves clients in 34 countries, ownws part interests in the Far Eastern Economimimimimc Review and the South China Morning Post, Ltd., and runs a marketing service that caters to foreign clients.

These enterprises last year brought Don Jones $274.8 million in revenues, up 15.6 per cent from 1975, and $80.3 million in net income, up 14.3 per cent from a year earlier.

The linchpin of the company is the Wall Street Journal, a national daily whose nerve center isn't on Wall Street (corporate offices are at 22 Cortlandt St. here).

The Journal dotes on business and economic news. And from time to time there is speculation that it might use its exxtensive resources to become a national general newspaper in the traditional sense. Not so, says Warren Phillips, Dow Jones president and chief executive officer.

Phillips, a former reporter and managing editor for the Journal, says the paper is "primarily a second newspaper - a supplementary source of information on business and economic news, and we expect to stay in that niche.

"We have added more general news, news on politics, medicine, social issues, education . . . because we feel our readers' interests don't begin and end with their pocketbooks. But this is still a supplement to the main diet. If we were to turn the Journal into more of a general newspaper, we would just be duplicatitiing what people receive in their hometownn papers."

Nor, as some have suggested, are there plans to establish a European Wall Street Journal, Phillips said.

"A lot of people think that we have a program that's very far along. That's just not the case. We have our hands full making a succeess of the Asian Journal. We ma my go into Europe some day .. . . but it's not a part of our planning at this point," he said.

The Journal was started in 1889 by two young New Englanderss, Charles H. Dow and Edward D. Jones, who had formed Dow, Jones & Co. in 188222 and published a "Customers Afternoon Lettter" of financial news. The newspaper today has 13 news bureaus in the U.S., 4 in Canada and n4 overseas.

There are some 16 million shares of Dow Jones stock outstanding but about two-thirds are owned beneficially or through interest in trusts by descendants of early owners.

For example, the two largest shareholders are Jane B. Cook (2,889,774 shares, or 18.2 per cent) and Jessie B. Cox (2,367,495 shares, or 14.9 per cent), both of Cohasset, Mass., and both stepdaughters of Clarence W. Barron.

A former Boston reporter for the Journal, and the newspaper's first correspondent outside New York (starting in 1887), Barron was sold a major share in the company in the early years of this century and he quickly moved to broaden the news organization and added more modern printing equipment. He began a training program for the news staff and started Barron's, the financial weekly, in 1921. He died in 1928.

The Journal is published daily at 10 printing plants across the country and an 11th is slated for the Pacific Northwest. A sophisticated communication system, including a cost-saving satellite transmission of facsimile pages to the Orlando, Fla., plant, insures, with perhaps minor exceptions, uniformity of news content for all regional editions. The satellite system one day will link all the plants, an official says.

While many circulation - conscious American newspapers are tinkering with flashy, more eye - catching layout and design to help attract and hold readers. the Journal for decades rigorously has maintained its stolid and gray -- some would say forbiddphotographs. The Page - 1 makeup, broken only by a graph or chart and occasionally a small drawing, is as montonously vertical as you can get. But circulation continues to climb.

What Journal reporters. editors and Dow Jones executives -- many of whom have a news background with the paper -- stress is quality writing. Many of the in -depth articles, for which the Journal is noted. take weeks. even months, to research and write. A staff of editors is employed to do nothing but review -- and often extensively rewrite -- these stories.

Unlike some other newspaper executives. Phillips isn't disturbed by a recent statement to a publishers association by Rupert Murdoch. the Australian press magnate who owns the New York Post, that American newspapers must liven up or fade away.

The Journal, he says."is certainly an advocate of lively writing and lively presentation, because one of our techniques through the years has been to try to tell what could be dull and dry - sounding information in ways that point up the drama and color. So I would endorse his call for liveliness.

"Another aspect of this description, if I understand it correctly, is to play up the parts of the story that have the gtratest impact on the individual. get to him where he lives, and I think that's just plain good journalism, whether it's as espoused by Mr. Murdoch or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or anyone else. I don't think what he proposes is necessarily synonymous tories are carefully developed. But at least one former reporter says there are gaps in coverage. A. Kent MacDougall. who covered the publishing beat for the Journal fornine years and now reports for the Los Angeles Times. wrote several years ago in a critical article for (MORE) a journalism review. that the paper doesn't always make full use of its resources.

"Given their head. many ... reporters would eagerly provide some first - rate crusading work. But crusading is a dirty word at the Wall Street Journal. The paper seldom gets riled by any amount of evil, suffering and stupidity in the world. Unjust wars, unnecessary famines. environmental rape, even unwise government regulation of business don't seem to anger the cool (some would say cynical) man who run the paper." MacDougall said.

Dow Jones isn't used to failure. But last month weekly, the National Observer, it started in 1962.

The paper had struggled financially since its beginning and finally fell victim to advertising and circulation declines. direct-mail promotion costs and higher postage rates.

The Observer. which had its editorial offices in the Dow Jones printing plant near suburban Silver Spring. had a consumer news orientation. A few weeks before the demise. Phillips in an interview with the Post called the paper "an artistic success but it has not been a commerical success yet."

He says the Observer's deficit was "very small" and "if you removed it tomorrow. you would not really notice the effect on the earnings for example. of Dow Jones. So it is not a heavy burden to bear."

The company has never owned any broadcast properties. The reason: "We were not anxious to get into a government - regulated industry and have the Wall Street Journal. in a sense, in a position of (being) a hostage in the government's hands.) says Phillips. That reson, he adds, is not as valid today as it once was, because the Journal is stronger and less vulnerable. and the industry's business operations are regulated by many other agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission. the Federal Trade Commission and the Postal Service.

Escalting postal rates are a big concern of the company. ITs major publications are delivered chiefly by mail. and postal costs tripled from 1971 to $18 million last year. By 1980. officials expect the cost to skyrocket to more than $30 million.

To cope with that problem. the company has developed a cost - cutting private delivery system. More than 100,000 copies are delivered daily by Dow Jones personnel or private contraopy compared with 6.8 cents by the Post Service. Executives expect private delivery of 300,000 copies daily by the end of 1979.

Phillips says Dow Jones is in the market for other newspapers. mostly through its subsidiary. Ottaway Newspapers, Inc., which operates 13 newspapers in 7 states. But acquisition traffic is heavy. The company constantly is running into other chains searching for the same papers, he says.

Phillips is troubled by Rep. Morris Udall's (D-Ariz.) legislation to study concentration of ownership in several industries. including newspaper. publishing. "I don't think it's Congress' job to examine and seek remedies for the adequacy of the service newspapers are performing. I don't see the threat that he and some others seem to see in the group ownership trend. because I don't think that the quality of American newspapers is declining." Phillips says.