WSJ does battle with FT in Europe

As Wall Street Journal Europe ushers in a new editor, David McCormack assesses the publication's influence and asks how PROs should engage with it

The Wall Street Journal - a media institution in the US - has remained in the shadow of the Financial Times since it was launched this side of the Atlantic in 1983.

But, in a bid to grab market share, WSJ Europe was relaunched in a more compact format late last year, and this week welcomed a new editor, Michael Williams. Previously southern Europe bureau chief, he has taken over the
hotseat from Raju Narisetti.

‘We are the daily read for the global business elite,' says Williams. ‘Our role isn't a narrow one and we must report on all issues that business people need to know about.'

The Wall Street Journal has a greater global circulation than the FT. But in Europe the roles are reversed. The FT sells 268,500 copies across Europe, while WSJE sells around 87,000.

According to the European Business Reader Survey 2004, WSJE can claim to have the more affluent and
influential readership - with more senior managers (64 per cent compared with the FT's 59 per cent) and higher earners (with the average reader earning £110,000, compared with the typical FT reader's £103,000).

‘We don't have the circulation in Britain that the FT has, but we punch hard on beats such as mergers and
acquisitions,' says Williams.

Sphere of influence
Owned by Dow Jones, WSJE is part of the world's largest network of business journalists. The close ties between the two organisations means that WSJE uses content provided by Dow Jones Newswires and vice-versa - a fact often missed by PROs. WSJE also influences other media, with PROs likely to gain follow-up interest after appearing in the publication.

The Wall Street Journal itself has a global staff of more than 600, including 58 in Europe, working from eight news bureaus. WSJE is published five times a week (Monday to Friday) and is edited in Brussels, although Williams is based in Paris. The London bureau, headed by Paul Beckett, consists of 15 journalists based in the City.

Reporters on WSJE start work at 9.30am - each afternoon they meet at 4.30pm to decide which stories will
appear the next day. ‘The deadline for stories is 4.30pm -  after that it will be harder to get reporters to talk to you,' Williams advises PROs.

He adds: ‘To feature in the longer pieces it is best to get in touch a couple of weeks in advance.'

One of the principal columns is Breaking Views, which has the same kind of importance as the FT's Lex, providing analysis behind the figures and company results. ‘Breaking Views is something that can concern clients, and they need advice on how best to construct a dialogue with the writers behind it,' says Burson-Marsteller tech director
Jonathan Dinkeldein.

The paper is not all business news and current affairs. The Friday edition (dated Friday-Sunday) comes with
supplement Weekend Journal. It is a 20-page pullout covering lifestyle features, travel and culture.

‘Our coverage is consumer-oriented; we focus on how people can enjoy Europe and make the most of it. We are interested in high-end luxury topics,' explains editor Dagmar Aalund, who prefers receiving releases by email. Weekend Journal goes to press each Thursday, which Aalund says is a bad day for trying to contact her. There is a planning meeting for the next issue each Friday, but much of the content has already been organised well in advance.

‘The supplement allows us to take a slightly different approach and we can engage with a more product and lifestyle orientation,' says Merran Wrigley, Sony Ericsson global corporate PR head. ‘It has a demographic with which we want to engage, and a readership aged 30 and over with a business focus - early adopters with opinions on new trends.'

Unique attraction
Even after last year's redesign, WSJE remains a publication that looks unlike any other on the newsstand. It is text-heavy, with long stories focusing on in-depth analysis, although there is now more use of colour pictures alongside the characteristic line drawings.

‘It is so much better since the redesign. You used to lose track of stories when they went over a page, but now it is much more accessible and has more of a European flavour,' says Edelman director of strategic media Jo Sheldon.

Yet despite the redesign and Weekend Journal, WSJE's main purpose remains the same: to provide global business news and insight for European-based executives operating in the international arena.

WSJE's approach can sometimes be frustrating to the PRO pushing for quick, one-hit coverage, because the analysis-style stories rarely focus on a single company. But long-term engagement remains a virtue: ‘With WSJE maybe a briefing would not create an instant return, but it could form part of a wider industry or tech story at some stage,' explains Sony Ericsson's Wrigley.

In addition, one should not underestimate the reach of WSJ Online -  which is claimed to be the largest paid subscription news site on the web, with 761,000 signed-up users (Q1, 2006). focuses more on breaking news, with 1,000 stories added daily.

Despite a lower circulation than the FT, Williams claims his title's global perspective and style makes it superior: ‘In terms of reach and influence globally we are indisputably on top.'

Finally, with a nod to how PROs should approach the paper, he adds: ‘Because of our analytical style, if you have a complex story, WSJE is a good place to tell it.'

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