For over a year, a special team of editors within The Wall Street Journal analyzed the state of the newsroom and produced a detailed, lengthy report on what the paper is doing right, and, more important, what the paper is doing wrong.
The stakes are high. Subscriptions to The Journal are growing — but not fast enough. News Corp, the company that owns The Journal, wants the broadsheet to double its readership. The study, called The Content Review, concluded that that goal would be difficult without sweeping changes.
The Journal, it said, needs to rethink how it gathers news, what kinds of topics it covers and who its audience is. The report was intended to serve as a blueprint for how the paper should remake itself for the digital age and insure its future.
But the company has effectively shelved the report, which was completed last summer; most people in the newsroom have not seen it.
What The Content Review is about.
Section One: The Mission and The Audience
The Journal needs to find better ways to connect with its audiences instead of relying on what the report calls its “heavy readers,” the hard-nosed executives, intense Wall Street traders and retirees who make up a bulk of its audience.
Subsisting on this group alone has created a traffic ceiling. The paper can’t seem to break the barrier of 50 million readers a month when it needs twice that amount.
Who is The Journal’s audience?
Section Two: Recommendations
The Journal needs new readers — specifically, women, people of color and younger professionals.
What The Journal should do, and what it shouldn’t.
Section Three: Coverage Goals
The report laid out in stark terms how much more traffic and engagement each department will have to deliver to hit The Journal’s target of 100 million monthly readers. The report added that the paper needed to reach 55 million readers a month over the next year. Spread over its six main coverage areas — corporate, Washington, arts, finance, national, international — each department, it said, will “need to bring in about 1.9 million more nonsubscribers above where we were last Fall.”
What editors at The Journal need to know.