One person familiar with the project said work was done in an office accessible only via a special pass and freelancers involved with the redesign were told to answer queries with vague references to working on "special projects." Print buyers were presented with non-disclosure agreements when shown the pages. No media buyer who spoke to Ad Age was shown the front page, redesigned for the first time since 1944.
The changes arrive as the Journal looks to attract a more diverse base of both readers and advertisers. The redesign comes at the close of a four-year, $232 million project to beef up color and page capacity, said Journal VP-General Manager Dan Austin at a January presentation to analysts.
In his remarks in January, Mr. Austin said a $21 million consumer ad campaign (from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco) coinciding with the redesign is "aimed both at the readers we have, and those we should have: young men and women in business and the professions who can benefit from our content but who, until April 9, might have found the Journal we all know and love a bit unapproachable."
Accounts from several Journal staffers-all of whom demanded anonymity-revealed readers will see a front page that will accommodate three-column headlines for key news stories on the right side of the page. While color will now appear on the Journal's page one, the trademark Journal portraits are expected to remain in black and white.
Additionally, the "What's News" column on the front page will sport a subtly shaded color background, and the fifth column of the front page-where political junkies find "Washington Wire" on Fridays-will move off the front page. A new three-times-a- week section, "Personal Journal," will offer service pieces covering aspects of personal finance, health and technology. "Personal Journal," like the Friday "Weekend Journal" aims to attract more consumer lifestyle ads.
The new Journal will sport more white space-with additional breathing room around the columns-and present ad buyers with the prospect of "more adjacencies," as one put it, and greater flexibility in ad sizing and placement.
"It's smart," said one media buyer. "They've got more flexibility to accommodate advertisers' needs."
The ad economy continues to wallop the Journal. Year-to-date through February, linage was down 27.4%. A Journal spokesman said the company would not comment, and he would not confirm or deny key details of the redesign. Two Journal staffers with pivotal roles on the project, Design Director Joe Dizney and Joanne Lipman, deputy managing editor and editor-in-chief of "Weekend Journal," declined comment. The other top player, newspaper design consultant Mario Garcia-who redesigned the Journal's Asian and European editions-couldn't be reached.
The Journal hopes reader-friendly touches like navigational tables and teaser boxes for existing sections "Money and Investing" and "Marketplace" will win a new generation over. Mr. Austin also expressed the hope the redesign would diversify its ad base and increase single-copy sales. The design was vetted by 32 focus groups.
contributing: richard linnett
What: First redesign of the front page of The Wall Street Journal-the second largest U.S. newspaper after USA Today-since 1944 hits April 9.
Why: To win more advertisers and younger readers. The new lifestyle/service Personal Journal is one attempt to stem continuing ad linage drops, down 27.4% through February.