Business model innovation is perhaps the hardest kind of change to envision and implement and Dow Jones will give it a go by attempting a radical shift in the venerable Wall Street Journal. It is trying to achieve two major goals with one move—always difficult and often confusing.
First, it will cut the size of the WSJ itself and cut the news hole—the amount of space devoted to news. That should save a lot of money by cutting the cost of print, publishing and journalists.
Then it will move beyond the news into the meaning of news in its coverage (news goes online completely and deeper, in-depth stories go in print). To me, that’s the tricky part of the strategy, because that’s what newsweeklies (like my own Business Week) already do. Two questions come to mind in this strategy. Do consumers of business information really want a daily diet of “meaning.” Can they absorb it? And can the WSJ produce meaning in this way. It takes a different set of skills and values to write insightful, analytical business journalism. The WSJ clearly already has many such journalists because it does some of the best business journalism on earth. But it will need to revamp its entire staff to do this day after day after day. And it will be expensive. And the WSJ will have serious competition in the “meaning” space.
Finally, there is the question that Jeff Jarvis raises—why should the Journal even bother to do a print version? Why not do both news and analysis online? My answer to that is that most middle and senior managers around the world still get most of their news off paper. And if you’re into meaning, then finding the right moments in the week when you have the time and energy to really focus on an in-depth story lends itself to paper, not pc. This may change over time, but not yet.
I’m wishing the Journal well in its business model innovation. We’re going through massive changes at BW as we grow online, change how we offer print and integrate the two. It’s no accident that in a year and a half, I’ve left editing the editorial page (which no longer exists), launched the Innovation & Design site, launched the Inside Innovation brand, and integrated the two. We’ve done the same with B-school coverage and small business.
And it’s all just beginning.
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