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Wall Street Journal unveils redesign

The Wall Street Journal unveiled a new, smaller design on Monday that it hopes will draw new readers to the newspaper, including young professionals.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Wall Street Journal unveiled a new, smaller design on Monday that it hopes will draw new readers to the newspaper, including young professionals.

The Journal’s new look, which will go into effect Jan. 2, will also feature more color, graphics, shorter stories and fewer “jumps” to the inside of the paper. The changes were announced by the paper’s publisher and editor at a news conference in New York.

The Journal’s front page will have a similar overall look to the current paper, but with five columns instead of six and a two-column news summary flush with the left side of the page. The three-inch cut to the paper’s width will save about $18 million per year.

The smaller size will result in about 10 percent less space inside the paper for news, but about half of that reduction will be offset by moving several statistical tables to the paper’s Web site, Paul Steiger, the managing editor, said at the news conference.

In addition to the visual changes, Steiger said the newspaper would also focus more on exclusive and interpretive news, versus accounts of what happened the day before. The Journal has been making greater use of its online outlets like it Web site for breaking big news, he said, a trend that would continue.

“We are not agnostic about which channels readers use,” Steiger said, referring to the Journal’s print and online editions. “We want them to use both.”

In an effort to bring in more young readers, the paper will also launch a marketing program to make sample copies available to young professionals. Gordon Crovitz, the publisher of the Journal, said that women and young readers seemed particularly enthusiastic about the Journal’s new look and feel in focus groups.

Mario Garcia, a longtime newspaper design consultant who worked on the Journal’s revamp, said the narrower size made it less likely that readers would fold the paper while reading it, something that would make advertisements more visible.

The smaller size — which will reduce the width of the paper to 12 inches from 15 — is in line with a widely used industry standard and will allow the paper to be printed in more locations, making it easier to produce and deliver to remote locations.

Other major newspapers have cut their width in recent years, including Tribune Co.’s Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Gannett Co.’s USA Today. The New York Times is planning to reduce its width in 2008.

Years ago, many major U.S. newspapers were printed in a size similar to the Journal’s, but most have since cut back, said 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 Journal, the flagship newspaper of Dow Jones & Co., has gone through a number of other changes in recent years to reach beyond its core audience of business leaders and advertisers.

In 1998, it launched a highly successful arts and leisure section on Fridays called “Weekend Journal,” and in 2002 it made a number of other changes including a new section on personal finance and consumer issues, as well as adding more color and graphics. Last year, it started a Saturday edition with yet more consumer coverage and advertising.

“Initially it may be a bit of a shock to their regular readers, because let’s be honest, The Wall Street Journal doesn’t change all that much,” said Brenda White, a print advertising buyer with Starcom, which is a unit of the French advertising and media services company Publicis Groupe SA.

“To me, this was something that has to be done to keep up with how the consumer is changing out there,” White said. “There are a lot of choices out there, and you want to make a newspaper as appealing as possible.”   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.

“They’ve been a very conservative group and I applaud their attempt to embrace change and offer greater readability and greater utility to readers,” Travis said.