Result of 32 Focus Groups and $232 Million Equipment Upgrade

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NEW YORK ( -- Standing today at a lucite podium flanked on both sides by a new ad tagline -- "Business. And the business of life." -- Dow Jones & Co. CEO Peter
Photo: Hoag Levins
The first front page of the new Wall Street Journal.
Kann flashed his signature sheepish grin more frequently than he had at other recent public appearances.

Then again, his charge today was not to warn analysts of continuing ad declines at his company's flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. It was to unveil, for reporters and cameramen, the Journal's long-awaited redesign, one which required $232 million in new equipment and 32 focus groups to remake its iconic front page, among other significant changes, for the first time in 60 years.

Pastel shading, more news
As expected, pastel shading highlights the front page's "What's News" column. The new front page breaks out the day's big news story across the top of two columns on its right side. Staffers familiar with the redesign said big news stories could spread across three columns. With that, the more whimsical front page story in the fourth column (which today profiled a man whose job it is to collect quarters from motel's once-ubiquitous "Magic Fingers" bed-vibrating devices) moves down a bit, and the fifth column -- which Monday ran "The Outlook" column and on Fridays ran "Washington Wire" -- has moved off

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the front page.

Taking pains to note new navigational features and a heavier reliance on charts, Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger said the new look made it "easier to find what's important quicker."

'Relevant' for readers
In similar sound bite mode, Mr. Steiger stated the mission of a new section, Personal Journal, which has some traditionalists in the Journal newsroom rolling their eyes: "Take the news, and make it relevant" to readers' lives. Mr. Steiger described how a hard-news story on interest-rate cuts could morph into a Personal Journal feature on how homeowners' mortgages will be affected.

The new section concludes a slow shift away from the vaunted daily's exclusive emphasis on hard news. For years it resisted the lifestyle sections that have been staples for even the nation's highest-brow dailies since the '80s. (The Journal launched its popular Weekend Journal section in 1998)

Mr. Steiger and Mr. Kann also screened a TV spot from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which will be a key part of the company's marketing campaign touting the paper's changes.

In the spot, an animated, fast-talking character drawn in the stippled style of the Journal's trademark portraits rattles off a series of subjects readers may find the Journal writing about, from business to more personal matters, and concludes with the maxim: "There's more than one side of every story."

Mr. Kann today declined to specify how much the company would spend on its marketing, but in a January meeting with analysts, Dan Austin, the Journal's vice president and general manager, made reference to a $21 million campaign.

Ad slide not over
Mr. Kann made clear, though, that the long ad slide the Journal has suffered through is far from over. "Bookings are terrific today," he said, but added "the honest assumption is it remains a difficult advertising environment, and it will be late in the year" before a significant turnaround is seen.

Mr. Kann said that with the new color capacity of the Journal, he hoped to boost last year's four daily pages of color ads to "more like six" come this fall.

Asked if The New York Times' new Escapes section, which plumbs similar territory as the Journal's Weekend and Personal journal sections, would affect his hopes for ad increases, Mr. Kann said, "I shouldn't think so."

"There's lots and lots of sections in the Times," he said, smiling. "Most of them are good."

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