The Battle for the Hearts and Wallets of Business Readers

by Jillian Burt

6 November 2007


Wall Street Journal Content Folded into The Australian

When Rupert Murdoch’s offer for the Wall Street Journal was approved in August, the New York Times commented that: “Mr. Murdoch has talked of pumping money into The Journal, bolstering its coverage of national affairs and its European and Asian editions, which could pose a serious challenge to competitors like The Financial Times and The New York Times. That could mean losing money in the short run, something Mr. Murdoch has always been willing to do to attract readers and gain influence.” Murdoch has already started running Wall Street Journal print edition reports in a special section in his national newspaper, The Australian, and feeds from the Dow Jones newswire on The Australian’s website. On November 1, The Guardian noted that: The Australian is the only national broadsheet in Australia, and previously held a content syndication agreement with WSJ’s rival the Financial Times, which also publishes in Australia….

Mr Murdoch told the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco last month that he had plans to expand the WSJ beyond its roots, including using its content with the rest of News Corp’s properties.

“We have a lot of plans and a lot of ideas that need to be refined,” he said. “But I want to improve it in every way: in what it does now in finance to start with, but I also want to add more national and international news.”

In a report on the website of the Australian, the paper’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell said the WSJ deal marks “a new era of business journalism” for the title and underlines its “commitment to world class journalism.

Jemima Kiss. Guardian Unlimited. November 1, 2007

Last week I noticed a lavish, luxurious new advertising campaign for the Australian, with massive full-colour glossy adsheets running up the centre of the escalators at the Martin Place railway station in Sydney’s CBD (where many financial companies have their national headquarters) and a full-colour glossy band around the paper saying that it’s content is now “broader”—whatever that means. I’m not in the habit of visiting The Australian’s website so I hadn’t noticed the slogan “the heart of Australia” running underneath the masthead online. This slogan used to be on the car numberplates of the Australian Capital Territory where Canberra, the seat of Australia’s government is located.

The leading source of financial news at the moment is the national Australian Financial Review, published by Fairfax, which also publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne. The AFR relies on wire service reports from Bloomberg and print stories from The New York Times. Each Friday it publishes a liftout section based on The New York Times’s Sophisticated Traveller magazine. The AFR’s website has all of its content locked behind a subscription wall.  The AFR courts luxury business advertising with several ultra-glossy stiff-paged colour magazine liftouts that market executive toys and trips, profile executives and illuminate fashionable management and sales strategies. The Australian publishes a similar luxury magazine, Wish, every month. 

On September 17, a news release from Dow Jones announced that the Wall Street Journal will begin publishing a monthly glossy magazine, Pursuits, in September of 2008. The magazine will be delivered free to subscribers of the Wall Street Journal and the content will be freely available online.

Pursuits will build on the success of the Journal’s business of life franchise and will showcase the Journal’s lifestyle coverage for readers and the advertisers who want to reach its unique, affluent and influential audience.

“Pursuits will extend the Journal’s highly successful business of life franchise that began with the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal sections of the newspaper by offering unique access and insight through lifestyle reporting that only the Journal can provide,” said L. Gordon Crovitz, executive vice president, Dow Jones & Company and publisher, The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth correspondent Robert Frank, the author of Richistan, will be involved, and “Pursuits will offer compelling journalism, vivid imagery and an unmatched guide to wealth, fashion, collecting and travel,” said Marcus W. Brauchli, managing editor, The Wall Street Journal. “The Wall Street Journal holds a unique passport into this intriguing world.”

This editorial ground may already have been lost to Conde Nast’s new magazine Portfolio, which launched in May and is edited by Joanne Lipman who was previously editor of the Weekend and Magazine sections of the WallStreet Journal. Portfolio is able to trade on the intellectual credibility of the New Yorker and the sex appeal and Hollywood glamour of Vanity Fair. And its articles are finely observed and engaging and its website rich with content. This may have something to do with the editorial direction, from culture into business rather than vice-versa. Along with the requisite fawning profiles (that leave a few fang marks, in the Vanity Fair style) of financial luminaries and design stories on yachts, there’s a sassy and witty examination of the finances of the porn industry being undermined by a user-generated social networking porn site, a look at how art houses arrive at valuations for auctions, and a feature on the global seed bank that’s filing away copies of the world’s food supplies in case of disaster. It echoes a New Yorker feature by John Seabrook on the same subject in August. In leiu of a complete online archive, the New Yorker has what amounts to a digital library card for features from back issues, and John Seabrook’s “Annals of Agriculture” is dryly condensed.

ANNALS OF AGRICULTURE about seeds, seed banks, and the genetic modification of crops. Writer accompanies Cary Fowler to the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fowler, the director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, was in St. Petersburg to gather contributions for the world’s first global seed bank, which is being built in Svalbard, Norway and is scheduled to open in February, 2008. Briefly discusses the history of agriculture, which began about 8000 B. C. in Mesopotamia, and the preservation of seeds by early civilizations. Tells about Nikolai Vavilov, the founder of the Russian seed institute and the first man to think of creating a global seed bank. Vavilov fell afoul of Stalin and died in a Siberian labor camp. Writer mentions the destruction of the national seed banks of Iraq and Afghanistan during the U. S.-led invasions. Seed banks in countries such as Honduras and the Philippines have recently been lost to natural disasters. Most national agricultural banks contain the seeds of crops grown in that country. The American national seed bank is in Fort Collins, Colorado. Explains the basic principles of seed storage: low humidity and cold temperatures are essential. Tells about Fowler, who grew up in Memphis and became interested in seeds while working on a magazine article about the disappearance of family farms in the South. Describes his battle with two forms of cancer. Surviving cancer motivated Fowler to become more involved in seed preservation efforts because he believed he hadn’t contributed constructively to society. Writer describes the development of hybrid crops by companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred, the first private seed company. By 1945, hybrid corn amounted to ninety per cent of the corn planted in the U. S. Tells about the green revolution, the process by which American-made hybrid seeds were sent around the world. While the hybrid crops allowed farmers to increase their yields, they also planted an American-style agrarian capitalism in developing nations. The backlash to the green revolution was led by writers and activists such as Pat Mooney and Jack Harlan, who warned that the adoption of hybrid seeds might cause traditional crop varieties to become extinct. Discusses the role played by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in negotiating international agreements regarding the sale and use of seeds. American agricultural corporations had successfully patented their hybrid seeds, many of which had been taken from developing countries, whose farmers were now forced to pay for the seeds they originally helped cultivate. Tells about the controversy over genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s). Writer accompanies Fowler to Svalbard to inspect the site of the global seed vault, which is also where the Nordic Gene Bank is housed.




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