Gerard Baker, who replaced Robert Thomson as Wall Street Journal editor on Jan. 1, has been holding town hall-style meetings with Dow Jones employees. A Romenesko reader, who took notes during one of Baker’s sessions, sends this dispatch:
When asked who Dow Jones’ biggest competitor was, he said, “Competitor or competitors?” When the questioner kept it singular, Gerry paused for a moment then responded, “Bloomberg.” He said the answer was based on both what the company is now and what it intends to be (“they have enormous resources”). He said if it acquires the Financial Times — as expected — it will have all “the parts of the suite” to compete, meaning adding a brand that the general public/consumer has interaction with. He then cited The New York Times as another competitor for “general news.”
Gerry started out saying his goal was to maintain the lead of all of Dow Jones’ platforms, while strengthening news for B2B users (Newswires).
He noted that the Journal not only has the largest subscription base — and has grown it while the industry is going through such tumultuous times (print advertising is HALF of what it was 10 years ago) — it also has the highest “believability” rating of any newspaper — by a huge margin. He cited a recent Pew Research poll that had it up at 58 percent, compared to the New York Times’ 49% rating. He said this was the key to our success.
In response to a question about the spinoff, he said it should be completed on July 1, as planned. Although he said he understood people’s concerns about it — the news division will no longer have the more lucrative Fox News and Fox entertainment revenue to bolster it up — he said he also sees the change as being an opportunity for investment.
He mentioned video as an area he thought could be grown. Gerry said he wanted to see more “big interviews” with business leaders on WSJ’s video feed. International growth was also cited — he showed a list of Dow Jones’ foreign-language sites and services: Chinese, Japanese, German, Korean and Indonesian. He said Brazil and even London were places WSJ could penetrate more.
In response to a question about job (in)security, Gerry said the changes under way — merging Newswires and Journal bureaus — were not some stealth scheme to just to lay people off. He said the staff in some area could end up being beefed up to meet needs while others could be reduced. Bureau managers would have the final say in areas of duplication.
In response to a question about whether Dow Jones, and specifically The Wall Street Journal, is making efforts to attract younger readers, he said yes. He said MarketWatch (which isn’t behind the paywall) was a good way to introduce people to the Journal. And the addition of various sections and magazines — Greater New York, Mansion, WSJ magazine — have been instrumental in attracting new readers, yet he stressed that the Journal would not retreat on its core mission to be the world’s leading financial paper.