The Big Town Broadsheet Bakeoff

From a Monday New York Times front-page Business piece headlined, “Wall Street Journal Aims to Win Over The Times’s Local Audience:”

In an attempt to eat into The [New York] Times’s mass-market audience and lure away some of its luxury advertisers, The [Wall Street] Journal has already edged away from its traditional role as a national business paper, adding a daily sports page and a bimonthly magazine, strengthening foreign and Washington coverage and shifting the mix of articles on its front page.

(Indeed, Page One of Monday’s Journal featured four articles, none of which was about business or finance.)

Now The Journal, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, is making its biggest and most audacious move yet away from its roots, starting up a local news section for New York to compete directly with The Times for affluent, general interest metropolitan readers and the high-end advertisers who covet them.

The new section debuts April 12, and it has launched not only a newspaper war, but a promotional war as well.

The Times, for its part, is currently running a house ad with the headline, “Searching for an affluent audience in New York? Look no further.”

The ad then graphically illustrates that the Times’s “weekday reach of affluent adults in print in the New York market” is 908,559, while the Journal’s is a mere 515,594.

And then there’s this, via mediabistro:

The Journal has hit back with an ad campaign themed “Stay Ahead of the Times” (Editor & Publisher story here).

To top it all off, the Times and the Journal are also waging a staff war.

Personnel pirating, via the New York Observer:

Arts reporter Kate Taylor quit The Wall Street Journal today and is joining The New York Times.

Ms. Taylor, a veteran of the Sun, joined The Wall Street Journal’s New York section only six weeks ago. Up until yesterday, two sources said that Ms. Taylor was in the office making phone calls and sourcing up in anticipation of the New York section’s launch next month.

The Times, which has been under a hiring freeze for years, is clearly sending The Journal a signal by poaching one of its earliest hires. The Journal will have a New York newsroom of roughly three dozen editorial staffers.

“The truth is [former culture editor] Sam [Sifton] had his eye on her for some time,” said Jon Landman, the paper’s culture editor.

“You can’t have too many good reporters,” he continued.

And the Journal-ists did not appreciate it.

“They’re really upset,” said one Journal source. “She’s going to the competition on the exact same beat.”

Back to the Monday Times piece:

What is puzzling to analysts and industry executives — including some within the News Corporation — is that none of this makes much sense as a business proposition to aid The Journal, especially at a time when newspapers are struggling through a long-term financial decline. But for Mr. Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of the company, these people say, profit is not necessarily what all this is about.

For him, newspapering is a blood sport.

Except Murdoch is the one who’s been bleeding.

He’s already written down the value of the Wall Street Journal by a knee-buckling 60% over the past year, and he’s been losing money hand-over-fist on the New York Post for years now.

Regardless, the Times piece reports that the Journal’s new metro section is more about “killing the New York Times” than increasing the Journal’s bottom line.

Murdoch’s willingness to invest $30 million in jousting with the Times windmill might actually kill the Wall Street Journal in the process.

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2 Responses to The Big Town Broadsheet Bakeoff

  1. Michael Pahre says:

    May I nudge you a bit back to, um, er, Boston?

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