Dow Jones’ Managing Director on the media industry’s changing fortunes
When Wall Street Journal (WSJ) publisher, Dow Jones & Co., joined the FIPP network at the beginning of 2019, Global Managing Director, Jonathan Wright, outlined bold expansion plans. With a particularly strong focus on international growth, the company signed a number of high-profile deals during the course of the year, and this is where Wright begins:
“Dow Jones has done a number of partnerships over recent months that we think are really instrumental in driving the future of our business. Apple – with Apple News Plus, Twitter – with the video partnership we have, and most recently Facebook.”
“Facebook’s important because we’ve had a dialogue with them for many years, and the partnership we’ve launched with them sees headlines appearing in their news tab, but most importantly, that traffic coming to our site and Facebook paying for that content. So it really underscores the value of content and the ability for publishers to work with these platforms as they get into the new space, protecting the origin of their news, and also our business models as media owners.”
When social media platforms first began making their way into the mainstream – and arguably encroaching upon publisher eyeballs – a number of years ago, a lot of the dialog centred around a ‘Friend or Foe’ debate. Does Wright feel that this conversation has now evolved, both in terms of the way we talk about tech platforms and the way we talk to them?
“Yeah, I think social media and tech platforms are really changing how they work with publishers. And I think there have been huge developments in those dialogues. There were problems in the past. Echo chambers were created. News was – the origins of it – were nullified. And ultimately the business models and revenue streams that help sustain media weren’t taken into account. I think now those conversations are certainly developed and the deals and partnerships we’re seeing, whether it’s with Apple, Twitter, or indeed the recent Facebook deal, are incredibly positive moves forward for that dialogue and those industries.”
***Dow Jones EVP Almar Latour will be at DIS2020 (Digital Innovators’ Summit) to look at the growth of business media and how Dow Jones (and Barron’s Group, where he is Publisher) have undertaken highly successful brand extensions and created new revenues sources.
DIS2020 takes place on 24-25 March in Berlin. See the agenda here and the list of confirmed speakers here (with more to come). Sign up by 31 January to save on final rates.***
We know that Dow Jones has looked a lot in recent years at subscription and membership based revenues, seeing them as being both profitable and sustainable media models. Is this still a focus for the company?
“Subscription or membership revenue is crucial to Dow Jones and to the Wall Street Journal. As many people know, the Wall Street Journal put up a paywall in 1996-97, but over that time we’ve really developed that business model, and it’s now one of the biggest revenue streams that we have at Dow Jones.”
“The important thing is to ensure that we understand what readers are expecting from us, the experience they want, the content they want, the platforms they want to engage on it. So it’s not just about building our membership models, and looking at churn rates, and acquisitions rates, it’s really about the engagement of those customers once we have them on the platform, once they’re experiencing the content. So there’s a lot of work and innovation and different ways of incorporating the storytelling that we’re trying to do, whether that’s AR or AI and different platforms. So membership is crucial to the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones and is a very core part of our business.”
It’s no secret that the traditional journalism industry and more importantly the public’s trust in it has suffered in recent years, particularly because of fake news and the spread of misinformation online. There’s also, on the commercial side, been the Facebook-Google ‘duopoly’ to deal with when it comes to competing for digital advertising dollars.
But in a year that saw privacy scandals and antitrust issues dogging social media, with greater calls for media-tech regulation being made, there is a sense emanating from the industry as we go into 2020 that traditional journalism is beginning to fight back.
“I mean I mentioned on stage the Edelman Trust Barometer, which has shown a 22 point increase in engagement with news. I think the professional news outlets are absolutely starting to, and more importantly, the readers and the customers are starting to see the opportunity around trusted professional journalism.”
“Consumers have had challenges with different platforms and big tech companies where they’re getting their news from. Echo chambers have been created. So if you look at all of the leading indicators across news outlets, not just the Wall Street Journal, we’re seeing increases in paid membership and engagement. And I think that means that we’re in a very interesting time for professional news and professional media outlets, that they can absolutely build sustainable revenue models to ensure the future of professional journalism.”
“At the end of the day, a free press and a professional press is the cornerstone of democracy, holding the powerful to account. Therefore it is important that we do that, and I think we’re starting to see that happen.”
And finally, we asked Wright to assess the success of Dow’s international expansion plans, and the importance of the industry working across borders and boundaries as a whole.
“So for Dow Jones, part of my role is to look at our international footprint and strategy, and we’re really excited about some of the new initiatives that we’ve launched in the last twelve months. Whether that’s the launch of Barron’s China with Caijing based out of Beijing, WSJ Magazine with Huasheng Media, Mansion Global with custom content in Japan. We’re really seeing an international expansion of our readership, of our brands, of our live journalism events, and we’re expecting that to continue, as well as our partnerships with other publishers around the world.”
“Internationally, we’re very excited about the next 12 months. We’re looking forward to being back at the FIPP Congress next year and talking to more publishers about what we’re doing and really engaging in a dialogue. We think events like this are absolutely fundamental to helping share ideas and to share experiences with other publishers. The media industry has to come together and work together, and that’s why we’re delighted to be here and supporting the FIPP annual congress”.
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