The size reduction, as well as other design changes that will take place beginning next year, are intended to make the paper easier to use and to cut production costs. The paper said it expects to save about $18 million a year in operating expenses, mainly in newsprint, beginning in 2007.
"The web-width reduction is a catalyst for rethinking and making significant changes throughout the Journal to make it even more relevant to our readers and advertisers," said Karen Elliott House, senior VP at Dow Jones & Co. and publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
Too early to comment on ad programs
House said it was too early to comment on advertising format changes or specific ad programs that will be offered as a result of the redesign.
In an internal memo sent to Wall Street Journal sales reps, Dow Jones provided answers to questions that might be asked about how the changes would affect advertising.
The memo said there are no plans at this time to change ad rates and there are no plans to add more advertising positions on section fronts. The Journal is considering converting to standard advertising units and column inches instead of selling by number of lines beginning in 2007, the memo said.
It also said the new design would provide more opportunities for advertisers to run ads adjacent to relevant editorial content.
Beginning in 2006, the Journal will introduce other design changes, such as fewer jumps and new navigational tools, the memo said.
Media buyers said they didn't expect the design changes to dramatically affect ad-buying decisions and that they were in the early stages of talking to Dow Jones about how the size changes would affect pricing and ad formats.
Chris Philip, senior VP-media director at Doremus, which places ads regularly in the Journal for the agency's b-to-b clients, said he was a little surprised that he had to read about the changes in the press. "We work with them very closely. You'd think they would have given us a heads-up," he said.
After reading about the planned changes, he called his sales rep to find out how the redesign would affect advertising. "I don't think they were fully versed on the changes and what the impact would be," he said.
Philip added he doesn't expect the changes to affect ad-buying decisions.
Allison Barnes, senior VP-media director at StarLink Worldwide, said, "I don't think it will make a huge difference."
Barnes said she has had preliminary conversations with the Journa l about the planned changes but at this point doesn't see any impact on buying decisions.
"I don't think they'll lose any business because they are a slightly smaller broadsheet," she said.
The Journal will invest $43 million over three years to retrofit 19 presses for the smaller page size. It will also spend $13 million on training, development and marketing related to the changeover.