The Wall Street Journal, whose wide pages and text-rich look have long been an icon of the American newspaper business, is about to undergo several changes that include cutting three inches off its width.
Along with the size reduction, which is equivalent to about one of its columns, the newspaper will add more color and graphical elements, including greater use of photographs. It also will have fewer stories “jump” inside the newspaper.
The changes, which take effect Jan. 2, were to be unveiled at a press conference in New York on Monday. Robert Christie, a spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., which publishes the Journal, described several of the features generally but declined to provide fuller details ahead of the announcement.
Other major newspapers have also cut their width in recent years as a way to save money, including The Washington Post, Tribune Co.’s Los Angeles Times and Gannett Co.’s USA Today. The New York Times is planning to reduce its width in 2008.
Dow Jones says reducing the Journal’s width will save about $18 million a year. It will bring the newspaper in line with a widely used industry standard, allowing the newspaper to be printed in far more places than it is currently.
As it is, the Journal can’t be printed in Hawaii because it can’t find presses wide enough to accommodate its size, meaning the papers have to be flown in, Christie said.
Years ago, many major U.S. newspapers were printed in a size similar to the Journal, but most have since cut back, according to Michael Grady, director of production operations at the Newspaper Association of America.
In fact, the Journal was the last major U.S. paper to continue to print in such a wide format, Grady said, although some smaller community newspapers still use it.
The Journal has struggled more than other major newspapers in recent years due to a prolonged slump in financial and technology advertising, which are its two mainstays.
The paper has moved to diversify its revenue streams by adding an arts and leisure section called “Weekend Journal” in 1998 and a consumer-oriented section called “Personal Journal” in 2002, which was part of a broader overhaul that also brought more color and graphics to the paper. Last year, it launched a Saturday edition with more consumer-oriented coverage and advertising.
Scott Daly, who plans and purchases advertising for Dentsu America, a subsidiary of Dentsu Inc., a major Japanese advertising company, said mock-ups of the new design he had seen suggested that it was not as dramatic a change as the Journal went through four years ago.
“It still felt like the quality Wall Street Journal that I’m used to, just more in the USA Today size,” Daly said. “From a reader’s perspective, it is more manageable.”
Dale Travis, who manages newspaper advertising buying for OMD Worldwide, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc., said he didn’t think the smaller format and design changes would compromise the newspaper’s reputation.
“I don’t think The Wall Street Journal was broken, necessarily,” Travis said. “As long as they don’t compromise their journalistic integrity, then this redesign will make the newspaper more accessible and more appealing to a broader audience.”