The US edition of the WSJ has brought in colour on its front page, has upped its daily page capacity from 80 to 96 pages, has stepped up the number of colour-capable pages from eight to 24, and has a new section, called "Personal Journal". More modest changes have been made to the Asian and European editions.
These changes say a lot about the paper's current readership, the WSJ's desire to attract new readers and even something about the current state of the advertising business.
The WSJ is not a paper I read regularly. I do read it on aeroplanes and in hotel rooms if someone is kind enough to offer it to me, but it has always seemed a bit rarefied to me. Certainly, it covers its area superbly well - but it has always seemed a bit like hard work. I imagine that the redesign is in part aimed at attracting a broader readership base, in attitude if not in demographics, into the title.
These days, there is a constant blurring of the line between business and leisure. Any serious business journal needs to reflect this, which I would imagine is the thinking behind the "Personal Journal
section, which covers personal finance, cars, health and family, travel, leisure and the arts. This it gives new readers a more accessible way in to the paper, and it makes the paper a more attractive proposition to more advertisers.
These advertisers might have always craved the demographics delivered by the WSJ, but maybe not the appropriateness of its editorial content.
Now they can reach the demographics, in a relevant environment.
What about the increasing use of colour? As well as being of commercial benefit (think of those new target advertiser categories) the paper does look more modern, more approachable, just easier to use, while still maintaining its traditional feel and unique look. I was pleased to see that those "pointilistic
little portraits still appear in black and white.
The WSJ has pulled off a difficult trick. The new paper will no doubt attract new readers, without upsetting the traditionalists. It has also invested substantially in a product improvement, which in itself is a vote of confidence in the short-term future health of the advertising business.