Rebranding the Wall Street Journal

The “new” Wall Street Journal debuted last week.

Hawkin’ newspapersIt features a broader editorial policy with increased “focus” on politics and international news, and on weekends, sports and culture.

I’ve blogged before about this transition. I think it a mistake.

Rupert Murdoch, the WSJ owner responsible for the redesign, wanted the Journal to compete with the New York Times rather than focus on its “traditional, pin-striped base,” according to Johnnie L. Roberts, a reporter for Newsweek.

But many media and communication experts argue that the Journal will not be a threat to the Times even with all the changes; in fact, the changes may damage the Journal brand.

“Turning a paper into an old-fashioned variety show–we have a little of everything–I don’t think is the route to success,” said a former senior Dow Jones executive. “The risk you run is that you are not best at anything.”

Amen. I can’t say it any better.

I don’t think New York Times readers will switch horses; first, because the Journal will still be perceived as the financial paper, and second because few New York Times readers are disillusioned with their paper. Yes, there’s a liberal bias, but it’s still authentic, respected and habit-forming.

I don’t think the Journal’s new design and focus will hurt short term, but long term the paper will lose its focus, its position and its loyal constituency.

It’s a big gamble. From a branding standpoint, I still believe it a mistake of grand proportion.

Martin Jelsema

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