New York Times Revamps Business Section Online

Move Is Latest, but Not First, Play for Wall Street Journal's Readers and Advertisers

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Even as The Wall Street Journal prepares a New York edition aimed squarely at New York Times readers and advertisers, The Times is trying to win Journal readers and advertisers with expanded coverage of The Journal's core beat: business.

NYT Business Day page
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The New York Times' new online Business Day section has been rebuilt to more resemble a home page.

A new section front for Times business coverage on the web is the latest attempt to win those readers and advertisers. The online section front has been rebuilt to more closely resemble a home page, complete with the top-left and top-right "rabbit ear" ad units traditionally limited to the paper's standard home page; an automated "latest news" box on the top-right with stories from The Times and other sources such as Reuters and the Associated Press; a frequently updated river of news down the left column; a center column highlighting analysis; and Times blog posts wherever they may fit in the news or insight columns.

The Times is also promoting the business section's web presence with ads on sites such as Bloomberg, USA Today, Yahoo, MSN and Reuters that urge consumers to see "The new Business Day."

But the paper's business coverage has already benefited from a series of hires bringing the number of reporters and editors to 85 from 78 a couple years ago, despite some buyouts along the way, according to Larry Ingrassia, business editor at The Times. Those figures exclude copy editors, whose numbers have been reduced by one or two, Mr. Ingrassia said. The paper's overall newsroom headcount, meanwhile, has fallen to about 1,170 from 1,300 in January 2008, he said.

The Journal declined to say how many business reporters and editors it employs, only saying that the paper benefits from Dow Jones' nearly 2,000 journalists worldwide, including those employed by The Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and MarketWatch. Editors from the three entities coordinate coverage.

Competition
The Times has put growing emphasis on its business coverage for a number of reasons, including the economy's increased prominence and advertisers' interest in the influential and affluent readers most attracted to business news. But that's not all.

"Let's face it, our biggest competitor has always been The Wall Street Journal," Mr. Ingrassia said. "That's even more so now since Rupert Murdoch acquired the company. We recognized that we had to be extra sharp and redouble our efforts at competing."

The expansion hasn't come without occasional hiccups. DealBook, Bits, Media Decoder and other blogs have attracted big followings, but they're also constantly hungry for content.

When The Journal spotted "apparent plagiarism" on DealBook last February, the reporter that soon resigned said his "inadvertent" reuse of language from other sources -- not just in blog posts but also news articles -- stemmed in part from working too quickly. "I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff," he told The New York Observer.

"We think it was a true aberration and not an indication of a lack of editing in general in what we do," Mr. Ingrassia said. "Do some errors get in because of speed and fact checking? Yeah. Do we often find them quickly and fix them online before they get in the paper? Yeah. There's a little bit of a tradeoff. Anybody who thinks differently is not recognizing the difference in the medium. But I think the quality of the stuff we put on the web is something we're proud of."

The Times business section has been trying to compete with The Journal on more fronts in recent years, said Leslie Wayne, a longtime reporter on the Times business desk until she took a buyout in December. Earlier on, Times business editors believed they had to carefully pick their priorities. "At that time the idea was that The New York Times might be the second read for business," said Ms. Wayne, now visiting business journalism professor at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. "They just had many more resources than we did. We had to be a second read that was competitive and that would break news, but we knew we couldn't do that in every category. I think that sort of 'pick your shots' thing has changed with the additional resources."

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