Coupons Come to The Wall Street Journal

News Corp.'s SmartSource Moves Insert From Sunday Times to WSJ Weekend Edition

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Wall Street Journal will start delivering coupons inside its Weekend Edition this Saturday, furthering its push to become a full-service newspaper -- and taking business away from The New York Times in the process.

The coupon insert being added, SmartSource Magazine, had run in the Sunday Times for years until it stopped last month -- after SmartSource's owner, News America Marketing, decided to switch to The Journal. News America Marketing and The Journal are both owned by News Corp.

Terms of the deal with the Journal were not disclosed, but newspapers typically get paid for providing distribution to inserts such as SmartSource.

The appearance of coupons for everyday items might be a bit jarring in a paper that prides itself on an affluent audience. Journal readers had a median household income of $128,453 in the most recent round of GfK MRI research, compared to $119,499 at the Sunday New York Times; $111,615 at the Washington Post; and $80,822 at USA Today. SmartSource has recently offered $1 or 50-cent discounts on items such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Air Wick air freshener and Red Baron microwave pizza.

The Journal said coupons will just make the paper more compelling for everyone. "Who doesn't like some value, regardless of their income?" asked Michael Rooney, chief revenue officer at the Journal. "Everybody likes a good deal."

"Business is our core but we no longer are the second read in any marketplace," Mr. Rooney added. "As part of our effort to grow the business and serve our readers with a complete newspaper, this is added value."

The appearance of coupons won't drive away readers, some of whom will welcome them, but it might undermine the Journal's premium positioning in front of advertisers, according to Ken Doctor, author of "Newsonomics" and a news industry analyst at Outsell. "I think of them as being more Prada than Pillsbury," Mr. Doctor said. "It does seem to create some dissonance with the brand promise."

"It's just going to put a little thing in the back of some ad buyers' minds: Is The Journal going downscale?" Mr. Doctor added. "They're not going to run out and cancel their ads but it gets in the way of the message."

News America Marketing said the decision to switch SmartSource to the Journal was not primarily about their corporate relationship. "The Journal is a very dynamic newspaper right now and we felt it was important to offer our clients access to its readers," said West Naze, exec VP and national sales manager at News America Marketing.

A Times spokeswoman declined to comment.

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