Journal Gambles on Weekend Edition to Reach New Advertisers

Upscale Wal-Marts, toy inventors and avant-garde cuisine were some of the stories featured in The Wall Street Journal's new weekend edition. The 64-page first issue appeared Sept. 17, ending the company's 52-year tradition of only weekday publishing.

Priced at $1.50 on newsstands versus $1 for the weekday Journal, the weekend edition covers business and financial news through the close of Friday's global markets. It also contains a new section called Pursuits that extends its Business of Life franchise.

Reaction to the inaugural issue was somewhat negative, with comments posted to and calling it boring and disappointing. Still, others reminded that it was the first issue and that the stories were well written.

The Journal could use some good news. Over the past five years, the company's stock price has dropped more than 40 percent. For the second quarter, ad linage is down 6.3 percent from the previous year. New York magazine said the weekend edition's launch is “so expensive and complex that Journal management considers it the most important gamble in the company's recent history.”

The Journal hopes the move yields incremental advertising, especially in categories like automotive and travel that spend heavily on newspapers on weekends. Peter R. Kann, chairman/CEO of Dow Jones, and his wife, Karen Elliott House, publisher at the Journal and a Dow Jones senior vice president, specifically are gambling on attracting new advertisers in consumer categories such as wine and spirits, apparel, retail and other lifestyle products and services. Another area the company hopes to grow is personal finance, a subject many households dwell on over the weekend.

Stories in the Pursuits section covered comfortable dress shoes, fall gardening and bicycles built for women.

Journal readers should be a desirable market. According to its most recent subscriber/reader profile, 60 percent are in top management, the average individual employment income is $191,000 and the average household net worth is $2.1 million.

The first weekend edition featured 74 display ads, not counting its travel, real estate and auto showcases. Among the inaugural advertisers were Lands' End, Home Depot, E*Trade, Jeep, Travelocity, Cole Haan, Crate & Barrel and Palace Resorts.

One of the biggest changes for the newspaper appeared on the front page of the Money & Investing section: an ad for Barclays Capital. This marked the first time the Journal allowed an ad on a section front. The change has even carried into the Journal's weekday editions, too.

“Maybe I would have objected to it when I was a 25-year-old newsman, but advertising is an integral part of the paper, and no mature person would say that advertising detracts from the news,” Kann told The New York Times last week.

Founded in 1889, the Journal was published on all days except Sunday until 1953, when the New York Stock Exchange ended Saturday trading.

The Journal also made changes to its weekday edition last week, including adding a “What's Ahead” section to its “What's News” column on page 1. Because of the weekend edition, Monday's Journal will focus on management news and not on news from the previous Friday.

“Since we are covering the weekend's business news in Weekend Edition, we need to update our approach on Monday, too,” managing editor Paul E. Steiger said.

Under current plans, the weekend edition will be delivered free to all Journal subscribers and be sold on newsstands nationwide. Subscribers can give a separate address for weekend delivery. Sixty-seven percent of Journal subscribers get their copy at home. The print Journal has a U.S. circulation of 1.8 million, and the online version has 744,000 paid subscribers worldwide.

Tactics such as print ads and direct mail will work to persuade current subscribers to ask for the weekend edition Journal at home. Similar marketing will be used to generate new subscribers and newsstand buyers. So far, Journal readers seem inclined to give their home addresses to the newspaper. The publication also expects to benefit from pass-along readership, particularly husbands and wives sharing copies at home.

“Because Weekend Edition will arrive early on Saturday morning, it will enable advertisers to reach our affluent readers immediately before they make purchase decisions on Saturday, the biggest shopping day of the week,” House said in a statement.

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