WSJ Talks Circulation As Murdoch Gains More (Official) Control Over Content

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
The circulation increases that began before News Corp acquired Dow Jones continue for the Wall Street Journal, according to a bare-bones announcement today timed to match the six-month FAS-FAX numbers . On the digital side, WSJ.com hit 1,035,085 paid subscribers, up 11 percent over last year. No numbers on Barrons.com, which had been ahead of FT>com in paid subscriptions, just a vague statement about The Wall Street Journal Digital Network (WSJ.com, MarketWatch.com, Barrons.com and AllThingsD.com) showing year-over-year growth "in terms of both visitors and page views." Based on internal Omniture numbers, the company says visitors to the WSJDN increased 70 percent while page views increased 32 percent.

As for print, WSJ increased "individually paid subscriptions" to 1,351,396, up 1.6 percent in the past quarterand 12 percent over the past four quarters. Total paid circulation rose a scant 0.3 percent to 2,069,463 but still a positive number when others are seeing shrinkage.

Meanwhile, the reverb from last week's arranged resignation of managing editor Marcus Brauchli continues. The NYT's David Carr captures much of the emotionand the absurdityby juxtaposing the firing of well-respected general counsel Stuart Karle with Brauchli's decision to leave a seemingly protected post. Brauchli hosted a farewell dinner for Karle just after his own resignation went public. Both men are leaving with packages that include non-disparagement clauses:  "Here you have two people who are icons of freedom of expression and they can't talk because of NDA's they signed," said one reporter who was in the room but did not want to be identified speaking ill of his former bosses. "It was disgusting. They were talking about preserving the culture of The Wall Street Journal when it's clear that the buffer is gone and that culture is history." Brauchli's package, which includes continued employment by News Corp (NYSE: NWS).  is reported to be in the low millions.

It was a pretty slender buffer at that. Murdoch has been on a full-tilt course to remake the Journal as a more general newspaper with a franchise in business news rather than a business newspaper that also covered other things. Robert Thomson (NYSE: TOC), the WSJ publisher who had editing oversight and is now the top editor officiallythe title is interim but it appears to be indefinitealso gets the NYT treatment today as a man of mystery. He suggests describing him as "the head of content." He disagrees with the notion that being general is antithetical: "We've increased the pagination to display more domestic and international news, not reduced the business story count. It is highly amusing that left-wing media commentators who tend to regard all businesspeople as criminals or reprobates are worried about us alienating business readers."


By Staci D. Kramer