Layoffs, Bureau Closures Hit The Wall Street Journal

Read The Memo From The Journal's Editor in Chief

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The Wall Street Journal is restructuring its workforce, laying off dozens of staffers, shuttering overseas bureaus and reducing some of its coverage areas as part of "a further radical upgrade in our digital capabilities," Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerry Baker said in a note to staff today.

So today I am announcing a number of closures. The burden of these reductions is shared worldwide. Overseas, we will be closing the Bahasa Indonesia website and a number of our bureaus in Europe and Asia will be reduced in size. The bureaus in Prague and Helsinki will be closed. We will reduce significantly the amount of output we do that generates relatively little traffic or subscribers. That means a sharp reduction in the number of non-core blogs we do. In New York, we will be eliminating the small business group and the NY-based economics team to consolidate our US economics coverage in Washington DC. We will be scaling back significantly our personal finance team, though we will continue to provide high quality reporting and commentary on topics of personal financial interest to our readers.

Fewer than 30 people are being laid off today, according to a report in Capital New York, with more to come. All told, fewer than 100 people will be cut, the Capital New York report said.

But the Journal also plans to add dozens of new jobs, Mr. Baker said in his note.

Over the next few months we will be adding dozens more jobs in the critical areas of business, finance, technology, markets and global economics. We will similarly add numerous positions in particular areas of digital expertise: visuals and video, audience data and analytics; social media engagement and others. We will begin posting these jobs in the next few days.

Layoffs at the Journal -- which is owned by News Corp. -- come during a tough week for print publications. Lucky magazine suspended its print operations and let go of some staffers, as layoffs swept across Wenner Media, owner of Rolling Stone, US Weekly and Men's Journal.

Here's Mr. Baker's full memo to Journal staff:

The media environment in which we operate continues to change at a dizzying pace. New media proliferate and business models are disrupted, dismantled and reconstructed with lightning speed. For traditional news organizations, it is no longer sufficient – if it ever was - simply to seek to evolve and adapt to this climate. They must transform themselves.

In the last few years, we at Dow Jones have made impressive leaps in equipping ourselves for this challenging and promising digital world. Now we must continue and accelerate the transformation of our newsroom with a bold but simple aim: to become the premier digital news organization in the world. This process inevitably requires us to discontinue some of our activities as we invest more in others.

We know the challenges our business faces: the rapid spread of free news and content, the ascent of digitally native media companies that compete with us for readers and advertisers and even purloin our journalism; the diffusion of traditional advertising revenue across a much larger field of competitors; advertising that is increasingly targeted and sophisticated, to name just a few. Media companies that succeed in this environment will need to achieve two things: they will need to know what they do best and focus relentlessly, ruthlessly on that objective. And they simply must comprehensively re-engineer themselves to operate optimally in a digital world.

Dow Jones has, as you know, unveiled an aggressive strategy for our business, built primarily around sustained growth in circulation – for both the Journal and Newswires. We have set ourselves an ambitious but achievable target of 3 million subscribers across Dow Jones in the next few years and we aim for solid growth in our professional subscription business too. While we know that advertising will continue to contribute essential revenue for the foreseeable future, the best way of securing our future growth as a news organization is circulation growth: convincing people to pay to subscribe to our news by producing content that is distinctive, original, exclusive, high–quality and highly valuable. Even amid the turbulence and disruption of the modern digital revolution, customers have shown a marked willingness to pay good money for content they value and cherish.

To achieve this scale of circulation growth, we need to continue to produce and even increase the news and information that is most valuable to subscribers and potential subscribers. The Journal and Newswires have always had this goal as their aim, and in the last few years, thanks to deep investments in our journalism, we have been able to enrich the quality of what we do. In recent years, in times of tighter budgets, we have focused on developing our core strengths, investing in the journalism we do best, building digital capabilities and platforms, while maintaining a strong print product.

The next phase requires us to become even speedier and more efficient in our operations, better at measuring our output against our costs, more focused in the scope of our coverage, more conscious of our strengths and more attuned towards playing to them. Thanks to abundant data and research we now have much more information about what drives demand for the Journal and for our Newswires services and we need to shift resources towards those areas. That includes a further radical upgrade in our digital capabilities. We need to optimize our content for digital devices, especially mobile. We need to make further gains in our engagement with social media. We need to become more engaging visually. And we need to become much more savvy about our audience, using the availability of data to connect better with them.

As we approach a new fiscal year, it's time to make significant changes to position us to achieve these goals.

Over the next few months we will be adding dozens more jobs in the critical areas of business, finance, technology, markets and global economics. We will similarly add numerous positions in particular areas of digital expertise: visuals and video, audience data and analytics; social media engagement and others. We will begin posting these jobs in the next few days.

But, as I noted earlier, we also need to improve our efficiency and that means reductions in staff and elimination of certain positions. And in an age of constrained resources, we must also find significant savings across the news organization, at least in part to fund our investments.

This means a streamlining of our operations. We will be consolidating some areas of coverage, merging some bureaus and teams and discontinuing completely some of what we do.

So today I am announcing a number of closures. The burden of these reductions is shared worldwide. Overseas, we will be closing the Bahasa Indonesia website and a number of our bureaus in Europe and Asia will be reduced in size. The bureaus in Prague and Helsinki will be closed. We will reduce significantly the amount of output we do that generates relatively little traffic or subscribers. That means a sharp reduction in the number of non-core blogs we do. In New York, we will be eliminating the small business group and the NY-based economics team to consolidate our US economics coverage in Washington DC. We will be scaling back significantly our personal finance team, though we will continue to provide high quality reporting and commentary on topics of personal financial interest to our readers.

These closures and realignments do not reflect on the quality of the work done by these teams but simply speak to the pressing need to become more focused as a newsroom on areas we believe are ripe for growth. It is always painful to part with staff in this way but we express our deep gratitude to them for all they have done for Dow Jones and wish them the very best.

At the same time, we are seeking more efficient working practices across the newsroom and around the world. This will involve some further elimination of positions and a number of our colleagues will be taking buyouts, as is customary at the end of the fiscal year.

As I said, we will be reinvesting much of the savings in what we most need to focus on. This necessary restructuring will leave us a somewhat smaller but much more focused newsroom. We will be better-equipped and better able to exploit the opportunities that exist in the fastest growing parts of our business: with enhanced and improved coverage of the news that we know translates into additional circulation and long-term growth. Meantime, we continue to publish the best business print newspaper anywhere, and will add to the quality and reach of that product with the launch of the global Journal later this year. And of course we will be meeting all these objectives with the most advanced digital newsroom in the business.

With these changes, a renewed focus and a newsroom equipped and tasked for the digital era, Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal can look forward to the promise of an exciting and prosperous future of sustained global growth for the finest news organization in the world.

Gerry