First Look at New “WSJ’ At Today’s Unveiling

By: Jennifer Saba

Executives at The Wall Street Journal introduced a front-page prototype of the soon-to-be-cropped paper during a press conference at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York this morning. The unveiling was more dramatic than the actual changes, which will hit newsstands officially on Jan. 2.

Though executives didn’t show the full paper, it’s expected the bigger changes will come inside with more pictures, graphics, and stories that point to other platforms within Dow Jones.

L. Gordon Crovitz, publisher of the Journal, yanked aside a giant white curtain to reveal a new front page that retains many of the same elements as are in the paper today. There’s just less of it.

“Our goal is ambitious,” Crovitz told the 50 or so reporters and photographers covering the event, “we are the first to rethink what a newspaper is.”

“What’s News” — the quick recaps developed in the Journal in the 1940s — takes up two columns on the left hand side of the paper. The prototype included three front page stories, one of which was dominated (before the jump) by a giant info graphic.

Today’s Page One, in contrast, runs four text-heavy stories and a small graph.

Other elements, like the Journal’s hedcuts — the legendary dot illustrations used as headshots — are still intact.

Newspaper designer Mario Garcia of Garcia Media, who led the project dubbed “Journal 3.0,” told E&P in November that he cleaned up the traditional fonts making it larger and easier to read. The entire paper is more “scanner” friendly, with more color and graphics.

Because the Journal’s web width will be reduced from 60 inches to 48 inches, Paul Steiger, the paper’s managing editor, said the news hole will shrink by 10% — much of that through the elimination of some stock listings — and that stories will be squeezed by “tighter editing.”

One of the more eye-catching aspects on the front page is the ad that runs on the bottom right hand corner. The size of the ad remains the same as in the previous design but — because of the change in width — the Brequet watch depicted seems to pop off the page more.

“This format gives higher visibility to advertisers because people will not fold the paper,” said Garcia.

According to people who have seen the entire prototype, the changes inside will be even more dramatic.

Bryan Jackson, director of newspaper investment at OMD advertising agency in Atlanta, thought the front page hadn’t changed too much. “The bigger changes are in the Marketplace and Money & Investing sections that look more USA Today-like with larger format pictures and more color,” he told E&P.

On the front page, the headlines above the banner — “Fiat’s crown prince defends his realm,” “Why iPod may hurt your ears,” and “Top fashion houses’ retro rhapsody” — show the Journal is banking on a pop culture angle to business stories in order to attract younger readers and more women.

When asked if the Journal was going to take a “lighter” approach Crovitz said the Journal will continue to be essential reading for people of all ages. Steiger added that the it’s only one more step in an evolution the paper started taking when it introduced Weekend Journal, Personal Journal, and the Weekend Edition.

“Many young people simply don’t read newspapers,” Crovitz said. “We will make the case to them” that they need to read newspapers.

That’s an audacious move, one that has evaded practically every newspaper in this country that has tried to net young adults by punching up stories and carrying more graphics and photos. And the move could potentially alienate loyal Journal readers who value the paper for its long-form journalism.

To help attract younger readers, Crovitz said that beginning next year the Journal will introduce a mentoring program to young executives. The idea came from an Austin, Texas, ad executive who was told Crovitz that he implemented a program where young workers in his office are expected to set aside one hour a day for reading papers like the Journal and other pertinent publication.

Crovitz decided to take that idea and expand upon it nationwide — a young executive Newspapers In Education strategy.

While Crovitz said he is the only newspaper executive with the title of publisher who is optimistic about the future of the industry, the Journal is still struggling to cut costs and search for efficiencies.

Last week, the paper cut its Canada bureaus. Six staffers, including the country’s bureau chief, lost their jobs.

Steiger said the paper is constantly reevaluating how it covers the news adding that last year the Journal added “dozens of reporters and editors” to the Weekend Edition. The idea is for the Journal to cover Canadian companies using U.S. “specialist” reporters who already cover companies closely in Canada. Steiger added 20 reporters currently work for Dow Jones Newswires in Canada.

Steiger also said that right now there are no plans for further cuts, but that the paper will probably “snug up” by attrition in certain areas. Crovitz declined to say how much the company is saving with the Canada cuts.

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