Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker sent out the following email to the staff on Friday:
Earlier this week, Will Lewis announced major changes across Dow Jones as part of the WSJ2020 project, and an effort to accelerate our pivot toward a more digital strategy. I want to give an update of what it means for the newsroom and how our own plans are taking shape.
It will be an exciting — and energizing — time in the newsroom.
As you know, WSJ2020 is an ambitious effort to review all our operations and processes to better position ourselves so we can seize new opportunities in an increasingly digital — especially mobile — world. We can be proud of the real progress we have made already in becoming more digital. But with our business model changing quickly as print advertising recedes, and reader habits and technology undergoing major shifts, we have to do more to rethink our business model and newsroom structure, to become more creative with new products and storytelling techniques, and to better serve our consumer and professional readers.
This is important not just for business reasons — though we must remember we ARE a business — but also to ensure that our core mission — providing reliable, trustworthy, exclusive and fair news, analysis and enterprise journalism for a demanding, business-minded audience, however and wherever they want it — is not just preserved but strengthened.
As we announced this week, Matt Murray is stepping full time into a role overseeing the project. He is working closely with Kate Ortega, the project manager for the Journal, and Steve Wisnefski, the product manager for Professional News.
They are looking at everything we do, from what we cover and the state of our technology to how we train and hire, all our products and even our workflow, with an eye on accelerating the shift to a truly digital-first newsroom this year.
Many of you have already taken on a role in the process, and many more of you will in the weeks and months ahead. This is deigned to be a continuing and inclusive exercise, one that engages the whole newsroom.
In that spirit, we’ll soon schedule some town halls and brown-bags to discuss the project more in the weeks ahead. I’ll also take the opportunity at the town halls to talk more broadly about the challenges and opportunities for our journalism in 2017. For now, I’ll describe the main organizing project streams for the project to give you a sense of what we are thinking and where we are going:
We are fortunate to have millions of paying, devoted readers who love The Wall Street Journal and many more who use Dow Jones Newswires, and we have made significant strides in recent years in using audience metrics and data to inform news and coverage decisions. Still, there is much more we can do.
From a business perspective, digital success depends on recruiting news subscribers and deepening engagement with the readers we have. In the newsroom, we have to fully understand what our audience wants from us, and what brings potential audience to us.
Carla Zanoni, who already has been pioneering our audience work, has with Dennis Berman formed a team involving people from across the newsroom to look at our audience and the competitive landscape. A top priority in the immediate weeks ahead will be building out our newsroom audience team to substantially extend our reader insight and measure our performance.
Audience data and insights need be incorporated into all our product and strategy decisions, and inform our coverage decisions. Every member of the news staff should have a deep, and common, understanding of our audience expectations and performance, along with a detailed dashboard to measure how our work performs.
CONTENT AND PRODUCTS/MOBILE
We are reviewing all our products and our content in an effort led directly by Matt, with major roles taken by Matthew Rose, Rebecca Blumenstein and many others. Their charge is to evaluate all we do and make some calls on what we stop, what we improve and where we see opportunity to grow.
This includes all our websites, newsletters, blogs, verticals and platforms. We will also devise a more methodical process for developing and evaluating products and initiatives in tandem with colleagues on the business side.
The content and product team also will be asking some fundamental questions about coverage and priorities at the Journal and Dow Jones and how we should better deploy creative storytelling tools such as visuals and video to improve even more the impact and quality of our journalism.
Two areas will get particular attention. We will look closely at all our professional products and verticals — anything that reaches a deep slice of our professionally minded readers — with an eye on prioritizing and upgrading those as vehicles for growth. Done right, there is opportunity for us in providing more sophisticated content to demanding readers in the mold of products such as Risk & Compliance.
Mobile will also be important. Last week, I named Phil Izzo as the new editor leading our mobile news team. Phil’s immediate mandate is leading an effort to rethink our mobile products and content, collaborating with colleagues across the newsroom and the business side, especially Edward Roussel and his innovation group.
Mobile is the area of our most rapid growth, and we need to have industry-leading mobile news products. Beyond the products themselves, we will be looking closely at every aspect of mobile, from workflow to the type of content we produce, in building a newsroom that will be far more mobile-centric than it is today.
Last year we made significant desk changes, reorganizing into a digital news desk and a print desk. They are paying dividends; digital publication and engagement is improving, and the print paper has grown more engaging with a more focused approach that is also meeting production requirements better.
Yet we remain too print-focused in many corners of the newsroom. We need to fully develop the right processes for digital delivery. From urgents to story posting, from visuals to newsletters, our workflows need to be simpler, faster, better understood, better managed and more efficient.
Karen Pensiero, who is heading a team looking at our workflows, sent a staff wide survey in the fall to gauge how they work now. The responses were overwhelming — more than 800 of you took the survey — and eye-opening, touching on all aspects of production from stories to video. Among other things, they made clear that many of you feel we have developed too many workflows, with too many tools, inputs and workarounds and too little clarity.
Along with this effort we will look at the basic architecture of the newsroom, up to the senior ranks.
We already employ the best journalists in the world, and a strong legacy of recruitment and development in a close-knit culture. We want to ensure that The Journal and Dow Jones remain a destination employer for the best and the brightest.
Christine Glancey, who already has done much to build and advance our people processes in the last year, is leading a group to assess everything from recruitment to job evaluations to leadership development and diversity. We will make sure this department has the structure, people and resources it needs to support the entire staff.
We have heard from many of you that we have work to do here, starting with clarifying our job categories and expectations ((and growth)) and career paths for our journalists. As part of that we want to beef up training to account for the ever-changing array of technologies, tools and specialties that are central to journalism today. We will seek plenty of input on how we can better help all of you develop.
Finally, we want to make sure our recruiting efforts are robust. We need a more diverse set of journalists and skills in our newsroom. Besides great reporters and editors, this includes being set up to recruit the best visual journalists, developers, designers, data people and many others.
We all know technology is central to everything we do, from the systems we work on to the storytelling tools we deploy and to the way we reach readers.
We know we have work to do to here. Any other changes we make won’t matter if our mobile pages don’t load quickly enough, our video player isn’t flexible enough and our newsroom tools aren’t useful.
Jennifer Hicks has started a broader working stream assessing all our technology and product resources and strategies, from our tech resource needs to our content management systems and newsroom tools. Our new CTO, Rajiv Pant, will also become involved in this effort.
Besides upgrading our core products, we want to be able to better and more quickly deploy technology for innovative storytelling. We also expect to bring more tech resources such as developers and designers into the heart of the newsroom, and to better integrate them with our news providers.
It’s an ambitious list, and it will grow. We intend to move quickly. I look forward to speaking with you more in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, I encourage all of you to look for ways to help, by joining our work groups, volunteering for pilots, helping develop idea, or even stopping by to share your thoughts and suggestions. Matt is eagerly awaiting your emails and suggestions. He is. Seriously.
With a newsroom like ours fully engaged in this effort, we will strengthen and extend Dow Jones’s position at the forefront of journalism.