The Wall Street Journal plans to launch a Saturday edition one year from now that will enable it to report Friday's financial news the next day and present softer content that the company hopes will attract more advertisers.
The nation's second-largest paper, with a daily circulation of 2.1 million, has struggled to overcome a depression among its two biggest advertisers -- technology and financial services firms. It has battled the problem by increasing its ad base, adding feature sections that attract advertisements for luxury items such as Bentleys and resorts. In starting the Saturday edition, the Journal faces more prosaic tasks, such as acquiring the home addresses of the 30 percent of its subscribers who take the paper at work.
The Saturday edition, which is to launch on Sept. 10, 2005, will be heavy on the sort of lifestyle coverage the Journal runs in the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal sections added in recent years, the paper said yesterday.
"Friday is a big business news day, and now we don't have to wait until Monday to tell our readers about that news," Journal managing editor Paul E. Steiger said. "But also there are parts of the Saturday edition that will be a more leisurely read, and there's an advantage to putting that in the hands of the reader on Saturday morning so they can decide when to read it over the weekend."
The Journal plans to add 150 employees to staff the Saturday edition, about half of whom would be responsible for producing stories. The rest would do advertising, marketing and distribution work.
The Journal, owned by Dow Jones & Co., was among the hardest-hit of newspapers in 2001, the worst year in advertising since World War II. While other newspaper companies, such as the Tribune Co., the New York Times Co. and The Washington Post Co., began rebounding in 2002, the Journal lagged.
The paper added the Personal Journal section in 2002 to capture a more diverse base of advertisers. The Saturday paper will seek more such advertisers, the newspaper said.
The Journal still faces a tough advertising market. Last week, Dow Jones reported that the paper's advertising linage is up 3.3 percent so far this year. Even so, the company expects a September drop-off and reduced its expectations for the rest of the year.
The Journal showed a 12.2 percent August increase in general ad linage, which includes luxury goods, auto and health care services, offset by a 26.4 dive in technology ad linage, compared with August 2003.
Still, the paper believes it's a good time to add another edition.
"We're convinced from the research we've done with advertisers and readers that it is a product that our readers want," Journal Publisher Karen Elliott House said. "If it's a good idea, the sooner you start it, the better."
The Journal recently concluded a turbulent contract negotiation with its newsroom personnel, with writers withholding their bylines to protest the paper's offers. House and Steiger said the contract talks did not delay announcement of the paper's Saturday edition, which could mean extra work for employees.
"From the standpoint of our news people, this is a great opportunity to . . . scoop their competition that they didn't have before," Steiger said. "We're adding enough staff so we can cover the additional desk turns comfortably under normal operating conditions without requiring overtime."
Subscribers will receive the Saturday Journal at no extra cost. The Journal published a Saturday edition from 1889 to 1953, when Wall Street ceased Saturday trading.
USA Today is the nation's largest paper, with a circulation of 2.3 million a day. Like the Journal, USA Today publishes only five days a week but has no plans to add a weekend edition, Gannett Co. spokeswoman Tara Connell said.
The Journal partners with The Washington Post to share content. Post articles appear in the Journal's Europe and Asia editions and The Post is considering whether to publish Journal stories at some point.