Monday, December 04, 2006

Whither Goest “Yesterday’s News?”

You may have heard earlier this year about the Wall Street Journal’s plans to shrink the size of the print edition in Jan. of 2007.

Today the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) revealed its plans in a Letter from the Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz, and the New York Times (subscription required) also gave its interpretation. The impact of the change transcends mere size reduction and extends to the nature of what will be reported in the print edition versus what will go online.

I hope this development — combined with the New York Times’ announced intent to shrink its size from 13.5 inches to 12 inches in August 2007 — will be major ammunition for corporate communications directors to finally persuade senior management that online media are important and they should participate.

But beyond that, these changes are undoubtedly going to further change the competitive dynamic within traditional and social media. With a smaller news hole, and "yesterday’s news" relegated to snippets, the spotlight will shine more on bloggers and social networks.

Here are the highlights of the Journal’s changes:

1. In paring the size of the paper by 3 inches, it will reduce the news content of the print edition by 10 percent.

2. In the print edition, there will be a greater emphasis on analysis and insights, and what is expected to happen later in the day.

3. "Yesterday’s news" will be shrunk into multiple news briefs columns in the inside pages, for each industry sector, called "In Brief," and will constitute approximately 20 percent of the content of the daily paper. The paper also plans to use more "infographics" to make it easier to access more information.

4. The print edition is working towards making 80 percent of its print content based on exclusives. Obviously, this is going to have a major impact on how companies release major news developments.

5. "Breaking news" will be covered on wsj.com.

6. Stories that start on page 1 and continue will be jumped to the two pages before the editorial page, to make them easier to find.

7. The paper will double the number of leisure and arts stories in "Personal Journal."

There’s an old Wall Street proverb — "Buy on the rumor, sell on the news" — that makes a clear distinction between that information which passes almost instantly from person to person and that which is officially sanctioned by the media. The distinction is fading fast. With the WSJ printing what Crovitz describes as "what the news means, not just what happened the day before" and "more forward-leaning coverage, with headlines featuring predictive and explanatory words like 'will' and 'means' and 'why'," it is clear that the key characteristics of the social media (i.e., urgency, timeliness, passion and a clear and distinctive point-of-view) are increasingly being embraced by the mainstream media as they work to ensure their relevance in today’s wired world.


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