After covering the Vietnam War for the Journal, he helped launch the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1976. "The broadest innovation was actually moving from the concept of the Journal as a publication in a market to the concept of the Journal as a franchise that cuts across media and geographical boundaries," he said.
Since Kann took over as chairman-CEO of Dow Jones in 1991, he has greenlighted many changes to the company's portfolio, nearly all of them focused on the delivery of editorial content. Dow Jones added the Online Journal, which charges subscription fees, in 1996.
Kann dismissed the notion that charging for content online was innovative. "I actually don't think we were so much visionary as traditional," he said. "I could not see the logic of charging people $200 a year for this body of highly proprietary, essential content in print and then giving that and more away for free just because someone said the Internet is supposed to be free."
Kann has also overseen many changes to the print Journal. On his watch, the company overhauled the newspaper in 2002, introducing the first significant change to the front page in half a century, adding color and presenting a new section, "Personal Journal."
Later this year, the newspaper will launch "Weekend Edition," which will be delivered on Saturday. A goal of these moves is to lessen the newspaper's dependence on cyclical b-to-b advertising and increase its share of luxury consumer goods advertising.
Over the past decade, Dow Jones has introduced or purchased a number of electronic and Internet properties. It helped launch CNBC with NBC Universal in 1997. It introduced Factiva, an archive, with Reuters in 1999. It has also acquired Internet-oriented properties such as MarketWatch, a broad Internet site, and Technologic Partners, a narrow business focused on covering venture capital.
Acknowledging that mistakes sometimes teach more than successes, Kann said Dow Jones' purchase of Telerate, a provider of financial services benchmarking information, taught him a valuable lesson about how to build the company. "We came to realize that [Telerate] was not actually a content business in the sense of everything else we had," he explained. "It was a data aggregation business and terminal sales business, and thus it doesn't really play to the core competencies that we had." -Sean Callahan