Effect of Digitization on the Wall Street Journal
The media industry, specifically companies that had specialized in print news, have been and will continue to be significantly affected by the digital transformation. As many as 72% of media executives have stated that they expect either moderate or massive digital disruption in the industry . The low barriers to entry as media moves digital has increased competition from smaller news sources, furthering the pressures on traditional print sources . The Wall Street Journal is a leading example of a company being forced to adapt. While the Wall Street Journal, like most publications, has been a historically print heavy news source, recently there has been a strong focus on the digital content.
The Wall Street Journal’s historical business model entailed delivering the news to subscribers in an efficient, easy to consume manner. While the business model hasn’t changed significantly, there have been a few minor shifts. The company has begun to focus on the consumer as a “member” that actively participates and digests the information rather than a “subscriber” in which communication is a one way street . As people continue to move to a digital platform it becomes much easier to engage the consumer through comments/opinions. As the consumers have started to prefer news in a quick, concise manner, the WSJ has attempted to follow that by pushing content through the online and more specifically mobile platform that users can take on the go.
The WSJ has had to make numerous changes to their operating model in order to stay relevant in a digital environment. As would be expected they are ramping down their print product and pushing more of it into the digital, specifically mobile area. They recently reduced spending on the print version by combining a number of the sections (namely business & finance) and reducing the paper thickness to cut costs . They have also significantly reduced the number of journalists, especially in the greater NY area, to help reduce expenses. WSJ also completely redesigned their website in April of 2015, something they hadn’t done since 2008 . Along with a website redesign, they also created an app specifically for the apple watch to help consumers take the WSJ on the go.
As more emphasis gets put on the digital, the WSJ is pushing hard to unify it with the traditional model. According to Kristin Heitmann, general manager of WSJ Digital, “Previously, although we operated collaboratively, everybody had their own targets and their own businesses to run. Nobody was looking holistically at the business and helping to prioritize what things needed to happen and when. So while everybody was working well together, I think there was a need for this new position to really tie everything together in a cohesive way” . In a concrete effort to achieve this goal, the journal’s product team is merging with the newsroom and will be in close quarters with the editorial staff . Closer quarters should help to reduce product development cycles and create a more collaborative environment .
Additionally, the WSJ has stated that their goal is upping the subscriber base to 3 million people by the end of 2017 . One effort to kick start that user base growth has been to offer a 24 hour guest pass . By submitting an email address, a prospective user can have access to the full WSJ for 24 hours with the ability to post articles to social media sites . Doing so should enable more people to get a small taste of the content without becoming a full-fledged member.
It will be essential for the WSJ to focus on quick, concise content that is easily available to consumers in order to stay relevant as many other players join the market. The company is well on its way, but in order to continue down that track they may consider:
Varied Pricing – The upfront cost of news sources is a big inhibitor for many that prevents them subscribing. The WSJ may offer mobile specific packages that offer an extended free trial and then decreased price for the first 12 months to bring in more users.
Website Updates – Mentioned above, April 2015 was the first time they had redone their website since 2008. Updating their website and mobile platforms more frequently will be extremely important to stay relevant as a news source.
Content Focus – Finally it is extremely important to stay true to the high quality content that they have always provided. They need to be conscious not to alienate long time customers with drastic changes to the platform and content.
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 – Grossman, R. (2016, March 21). The Industries That Are Being Disrupted the Most by Digital. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from https://hbr.org/2016/03/the-industries-that-are-being-disrupted-the-most-by-digital
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 – Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from https://buy.wsj.com/wsjpstlabor16nonus/images/packshot-digital-optimized.png