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Dow Jones' reorganization gets mixed reviews

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B-to-b marketers had a mixed reaction to Dow Jones & Co.'s plan to divide its operations into three distinct business units to cater more effectively to customers' advertising demands.

The centerpiece of the plan, which was announced Feb. 22 by new Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino, is to meld print ad sales with online because an increasing number of marketers are shifting their ad dollars to the Web.

But marketing executives said that's much easier said than done, and that they'll wait to see if the operational changes prompt a boost in their media spending with Dow Jones.

"A number of media companies have tried to merge their traditional and online properties with little success," said James Murphy, chief marketing and communications officer for Accenture, which is a major advertiser in both The Wall Street Journal and WSJ.com. "We've talked to the Forbes, Fortunes and BusinessWeeks , and it feels like we find ourselves almost dragging the information into the online space in a combined way with traditional media."

He added: "Just because a company is gathering media doesn't make it automatically relevant to buyers. That being said, the Journal is still the No. 1 media property to get a broad-based business audience."

Other marketing executives were upbeat about Dow Jones' plans. "If they get it right, it'll help our business," said Jim Speros, CMO of Ernst & Young.

"B-to-b marketers are looking for more cross-platform solutions rather than stovepipe solutions," he said. "When any publishing company, or broadcast company, makes the shift from marketing channels to marketing ideas, that's the pivot that all companies have to make when they switch to being media-agnostic."

The reorganization combines the print and Web editions of The Wall Street Journal in a new Consumer Media Group. That unit also includes the financial news Web site MarketWatch, Barron's and SmartMoney , which is a joint venture with Hearst Corp.

WSJ.com, with a paid circulation of 764,000, has been a big success for Dow Jones. But the print Journal continues to combat declining ad sales. While the company's online revenue rose to $507 million last year from $381 million in 2004, print ad revenue fell to $916 million, from $949 million.

A second division created under the reorganization, the Enterprise Media Group, includes Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Licensing Services, Dow Jones Indexes, Dow Jones Financial Information Services, Dow Jones Reprints and Permissions, Factiva and Stoxx.

The third division, the Community Media Group, includes Dow Jones' portfolio of 15 daily and 19 weekly Ottaway community newspapers in nine states.

"What we need to do a better job of in this structure is to deliver all 14 million people of our audience to advertisers in more valuable ways," said L. Gordon Crovitz, president of the Consumer Media Group, who, as part of the reorganization, was also named publisher of the Journal . "[Ad sales] will now be based on who the customers are and will be channel-neutral."

Crovitz said Dow Jones Integrated Solutions will begin to ramp up its efforts to train traditional print salespeople to make online sales and, he stressed, to train online salespeople to sell print.

Accenture's Murphy sees three hurdles facing Dow Jones-or any large media company-that is attempting to bridge traditional and online advertising sales.

First, he said, each sales division has separate profit centers. Second, despite computerization, geography still plays a significant role when companies try to combine disparate operations. Third, advertising salespeople are conditioned to selling either print or online, which are totally separate mediums, Murphy said. "It's too early to tell" whether the reorganization will succeed in being able to deliver more integrated ad packages, he said, adding, "Some other [companies] have stumbled."

Webex, which markets online meetings, is a regular advertiser on WSJ.com, and has gradually increased its spending on the Web site in the last few quarters, said Van Diamandakis, VP-corporate marketing.

Diamandakis was noncommittal when asked if Webex would now advertise in print as part of an integrated sales package, although he would not rule it out. "I'm not sure we'd advertise in print just yet," he said. "We've had good success online with lead generation."

Diamandakis added that if Dow Jones could create an end-to-end marketing program that effectively reached his audience via print and online he would consider it, but only if he could deal with just one sales rep.

"There are a lot of smart people [at Dow Jones] and I don't think [merging print and online ad sales] is impossible," he said. "It's all about the execution."

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