CEO Q&A: Lex Fenwick, Dow Jones

Brittaney Kiefer talks to Dow Jones CEO Lex Fenwick about evolving the brand through global expansion and new products.

Brittaney Kiefer talks to Dow Jones CEO Lex Fenwick about evolving the brand through global expansion, new products, and engaging employees.

What is DJX and why did Dow Jones launch it?
We took all our content at Dow Jones – data, news, analysis, and software – and packaged it together in one product called DJX.

It's the first revolutionary thing we have done to take everything we've got and put it all in one integrated package. Everybody will pay the same user price. This will make for a better user experience.

Previously we had many products with different niches. We sold access to our information to enterprises and they would then distribute that content in different places.

Now we're believers in building a product rather than providing a feed. When you provide a feed, you don't know who your end customer is. You lose control of how your service manifests itself. Your product does not have a recognizable face because everyone is used to seeing it in a different way.

How do you want the Dow Jones brand to evolve?
When I wanted to leave Bloomberg in 2012 and join Dow Jones, I told someone about it and they asked me,  ‘What is Dow Jones?” It's amazing how often people ask that.

Nobody really knows what Dow Jones is because it didn't have a product. The organization was a holding company for many different products. It was a feed that people took and paid for. It was faceless. That's what we're trying to solve by creating a product, DJX, that's fundamentally Dow Jones.

Talk about your focus on improving customer service.
Very often, customer service is the meaningful difference between two products. We are building our customer service organization around the world. Hopefully by the end of the year, we will be 24/7. Customer service will evolve to being more of a chat system as opposed to telephones or emails.

How is Dow Jones expanding globally?
We have aggressively opened up Turkish, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, German, and Korean websites. We also have plans for Spanish and Portuguese sites.

Some of the content we create does not travel well, such as sports or politics, but business, finance, and luxury do. We take a subset of our content, translate it into Turkish or Japanese, and build a local site for that culture with our content, which is as valuable and impactful in Japan as it is in the US.

Dow Jones' brand resonates most in the US, but we can make it meaningful in other countries. Digital distribution is more advanced in the US than anywhere else in the world. People are not very used to paying for content with a digital subscription in Indonesia, for example, whereas that's become prevalent in the US. Different areas of the world are at different stages. 

Where do you see the role of traditional media in the company?
Sometimes the press overemphasizes the time we and our competitors agonize over the future of print. Producing content is our real expense – in other words, the journalists. We believe there will always be value to quality, independent journalism.

There is an expense in adapting the content for different distribution mechanisms. We would prefer there to be fewer choices of distribution, but it's up to the subscriber. If a person prefers one of our newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal, delivered to their door, we charge for that. A number of customers like that method. Data shows newspapers continue to be a popular way of receiving content. But if a person would rather have content on a pair of glasses, tablet (left), or phone, we adapt and charge for that, too.

How do you engage employees?
The more employees in more diverse areas you have, the more difficult it is.

We do our best electronically with newsletters, emails, and an intranet site. However, there is no substitute for old-fashioned town halls. I go to Asia and London several times a year, meet with different groups to explain what we're doing, and take questions. You have to be as open and communicative as you possibly can. Guiding large companies is difficult. I understand why employees get nervous, but I hope they trust us and know we're doing the best we can.

Any takeaways since you became CEO?
I try to learn lessons every day. The question is how much I adapt my behavior around them. The older you get, the tougher it is to adapt and change.

We're trying to be as transparent and meritocratic as we possibly can. We want to encourage an environment where people feel comfortable taking risks, trying new things, and understanding a large number of those things will fail. That's perfectly okay. It's not all about success.

You want to create an environment where people feel they've got an equal chance. You want to say to staff, “Here's a place where if you work a bit harder and try new things, you will do well and evolve.” That is what people want and should expect.

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