The idea has been discussed around The Wall Street Journal offices for years. It just took awhile for the technology to catch up. On Sept. 17, a "Weekend Edition" will start hitting subscribers' front steps (or be collected and delivered by their doormen) Saturday mornings.
While 70% of Journal subscribers receive the newspaper at home on weekday mornings, the Journal is currently collecting weekend addresses for the other 30%. "In the past we didn't have the physical capacity, but computer technology makes it possible to keep two sets of addresses and two sets of delivery routes," says Managing Editor Paul Steiger.
Though Journal executives deny the tepid market for financial and tech ads is inducing them to cast a wider net with the edition, Dow Jones & Co. deserves points for investing in the new product after Journal ad volume slipped 0.5% in 2004.
The paper's sixth day has been championed by a group of Dow Jones "deep believers," along with readers who've been pushing for it, says Journal Publisher Karen Elliott House.
"I think the truth is our customers have been the true driving force," says Scott Schulman, senior VP-sales and marketing. A subscriber study makes it clear that the eyeballs are ready and waiting: Nearly 75% of readers "are looking forward to it," says Ms. House. "It's not some vague thing to them."
"Financial newspapers are in the marvelous position of never having explored two days a week when general newspapers make all their money," says Earl Wilkinson, executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association.
Advertising executives and analysts also appear keen on the plan of a weekend Journal. While Brett Stewart, senior VP-managing director at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, New York, was "dubious" about what he would see when he met with Journal executives for an advance look at the "Weekend Edition," he ended up "quite excited about it. [The leisure section, titled `Pursuits'] was of particular interest."
The response from advertisers has been "the most `Bring it on' I've ever seen," says Jill Kaplan, general manager for the "Personal Journal" and Friday "Weekend Journal" sections, which will continue to roll along with their new Saturday sibling.
Exact details of the "Weekend Edition's" look, feel and content aren't being released yet, but the paper's structure has been in place since 2003 when the editors created a prototype. "It will look more relaxed but still recognizable," says Joanne Lipman, deputy managing editor of the Journal and editor in chief of the "Weekend Journal" section.
"The whole package is designed to be read over the course of a weekend," says Mr. Steiger. "We think this is the great advantage of getting it to them on Saturday morning."
A JUMP ON MONDAY
As always, the Journal will be business first. "Friday is one of the biggest business days of the week," Mr. Steiger says. "This gives us the opportunity not to have to wait until Monday to talk about things of great interest to our readers." The first section will feature the Journal's "classic main news section," says Mr. Schulman.
The second section, titled "Money & Investing," will focus more on personal finance than the weekday editions.
And then there's "Pursuits," the section that everybody's buzzing about the most. "This is really about people's passions," Ms. Lipman says. Executives say it's a natural evolution of the "business of life" reporting that started with the 1998 launch of the Friday "Weekend Journal" section and continued with the 2002 introduction of the "Personal Journal" section. In a recent reader study 90% of respondents said "Personal Journal" makes the paper more valuable to them.
"There's a lot out there about what to do with your weekend. But the niche of [reaching out to the] upper scale of upper income [readers]-that could be a good strategy," says Brenda White, Chicago-based director of print investment for Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA.
In addition to its usual ad category targets, the Journal says it will go after advertising in personal-finance and leisure-related areas, including food, fashion, home and home design. Ads for the "Weekend Edition" will follow the same Monday through Friday rate structure, it says, with a charter program available to all advertisers.
Although Ms. House rejects the notion that the launch is a direct response to the need to diversify the Journal's ad base because of the persistent downturn in business-to-business ads, analysts cite the slide in technology and financial advertising in their reports and discussions of the launch. The Journal's financial advertising did climb 7% last year, though technology advertising fell 24.1%.
"Their core advertising has been in recession for four years," says Peter Appert, a San Francisco-based publishing analyst with Goldman Sachs, and "it's not coming back all that quickly."
"The weekend edition further gives them an opportunity to diversify their ad base," Mr. Appert says.
$50 million in advertising
The "Weekend Journal" pulled in $50 million in advertising in 2004 and the "Personal Journal" racked up $40 million, Mr. Appert says. He believes the "Weekend Edition" could become an earner, at the earliest, by 2007.
Mr. Appert is watching to see if advertisers add dollars to their Journal buys or split current budgets six ways instead of five.
One subject almost everybody agrees on is that Saturday was the right sixth day to choose. Saturday "will have some weekend utility-and that's one of the real action words we try to get clients to understand," says Sammy Papert, chairman-CEO at newspaper consultancy Belden Associates.
Since local and regional papers tend to put the weekend emphasis on the Sunday edition, says Ms. House, Journal subscribers "don't have much to read on Saturday morning. I think we will change their weekend reading habit.
While general-market papers find it difficult to add weekday readers, Mr. Wilkinson says the situation at the Journal is the complete opposite: "The challenge in newspapering is [getting] the weekday reader. [The Journal has] mastered the weekday reader. There really couldn't be a more unique situation."
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Newspaper Estimated sunday circulation
USA Today (Fri./Sat./Sun. ed.) 2.67 million
The Wall Street Journal 2.11 million*
The New York Times 1.68 million
Los Angeles Times 1.29 million
The Washington Post 1.01 million
Chicago Tribune 963,900
*Daily circulation since the Journal had no Saturday edition during this period. Source: The circulation numbers are estimates based on Sunday paid circulation for the six months ended Sept. 30, 2004, reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.