WSJ Joins the Blogging Crowd

The newest entrants to the blogosphere is none other than the WSJ. They are now running at least two three distinct blogs I know of, with more sure to follow.

Market Beat is so new it does not yet have a permanent address (the last entry can be found here), its a group blog publishing on (you guessed it) Market related issues. The Journal is also publishing Law Blog, which has been up and running since the beginning of the year. Washinton Wire is political analysis out of WSJ’s Capital Bureau.

The URL — blogs.wsj.com — suggests that we are likely to see a more than these two from Dow Jones; I hope they heed my suggestion from last year to turn Dow Jones Market Talk into a blog.

So let’s welcome the Journal to the blogosphere, and use this opportunity to ask them a few questions, as well as offer up some helpful suggestions:

The first question is: Why blog?

That’s a basic query, but its one the Journal needs to ask itself:

-What are our purposes and goals with this project?
-Is it to generate new subscribers? (or stem a potential print subscription decline?)
-Do we hope to sell more advertising?
-Are we trying to attract non-subscribers to Dow Jones properties?
-Do we want to develop a community within our readership?
-Are the blogs merely another product offering for (paying) subscribers of WSJ online?
-What does the WSJ hope to ultimately accomplish with their blogs?

Large companies need to avoid merely jumping onboard the latest hot trend. Having a set of objectives goes a long way towards steering clear of that danger.
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If I were in charge of the Dow Jones blog project, I would set (at least) 3 goals: Attract more paying online subscribers, sell more adverts, and generate reader loyalty (despite their regular escape to other sites). That’s a modest set of targets, achievable over time — and measurable, also. 

Here’s the first step:

-Set up one landing page for all of the Dow Jones blogs — WSJ, Barrons, DJ Newswires and Marketwatch;
-Promote the blogs across each of the sites;
-Open the blogs to the public;
-Allow only registered online WSJ subscribers
to comment (thus avoiding spam and junk comments).  Track who posts what and ban "inappropriate" behaviour; Its the WSJ and not Yahoo! Message Boards;

Second, adapt; watch what works, what doesn’t and then make changes.

Third, slowly roll out a network of a 5-10 blogs. The obvious ones come from the Journal’s and Barron’s regular coverage. Consider a few from each column:

WSJ WSJ
Barron’s
Technology Gadgets THE TRADER
Economy Careers THE STRIKING PRICE (Options)
Markets Travel CURRENT YIELD (Bonds)
M&A Homes & Real Estate INTERNATIONAL TRADER
Politics & Policy Autos COMMODITIES CORNER
U.S. Business Health & Medicine Currency
Media & Marketing Food & Wine Credit Markets
Europe Energy Hedge Funds
Asia Law Earnings

Next, I would incentivize their writers to participate in this. That’s a given if you want them to be a part of this, and I’m sure they can figure out something to make it worth their while (DJ options?).

Further, editors need to recognize that blogging sucks juice away from writing. (Trust me on this one). Anyone working on a book will tell you that either blogging — or their deadline — goes on hiatus. And if you dangle this very addictive junk in front of your reporters, you may be pulling them away from meaningful investigative assignments. Understand what you are asking of your reporters if you want them to participate in this. (I’d love to see an insider editor blog describing his work day).

I’d imagine that out of this list, a few blogs would really gain traction. Focus on those, and use them to promote the weaker sisters. The blogosphere is full of examples of blogs that were unknown for along while and then suddenly blossomed. (Its the equivalent of Arrested Development cancelled by Fox).  Again, it really depends upon what the corporate goal of Dow Jones is with these projects.

In addition to that list above, I’d like to see a senior editor and someone from the business side from Dow Jones Inc. start blogging. An inside publishing kind of thing, looking at the numbers, circulation, advertising, business dealings. Dave Kansas, or someone from the Publishing side. That would be way cool, especially if someone had the charisma and mad skillz to pull it off.
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There is a caveat to all this good advice: Don’t do this half-assed. Have the cajones to step up. Be willing to cannibalize yourselves to prevent someone else from doing it anyway. Work outside your comfort zone. Allow your writers to develop a unique voice, some snark. Give them latitude to have a viewpoint. Embrace a new business model that may hurt your present operations, but will ultimately save it 10 years down the road.

How you approach these issues will determine how successful your blogs will be . . .

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UPDATE March 8, 2006  11:48am

A few additional thoughts:

They Journal could use a "Blog Evangelist" — someone who is a champion of the blog project  both internally and externally, like Guy Kawasaki was for Apple back in the 1990s.

Also, the NYT — which is due its own Big Picture post on their blogging ventures, and is a few months ahead of the Journal in that — promotes its various blogs in its print pages. I would expect the WSJ to eventually do the same.

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