Thursday, October 22, 2009

Going Pro(sumer): Wall Street Journal Pro Edition Targets Web-Aware Enterprises

I've been suggesting to my friends at Dow Jones for more than five years that they needed to consider how to use their Factiva content more aggressively on the Web as a source for virtual aggregation of news and business information. Well, five years isn't that long in enterprise content product cycles, I suppose, so when I tweeted the announcement by Dow Jones of its new Wall Street Journal Profession Edition yesterday morning, I was pleased to see that the WSJ had finally started to package licensed content from Dow Jones Factiva's news and business information database into an editorially-managed online edition. The WSJ Pro package will be strictly a premium offering, offered at first only to Dow Jones' enterprise customers starting in November, with wider availability expected next year.

In a loose sense you can think of WSJ Pro as a Huffington Post for business professionals, a mix of content developed by WSJ staff writers and six sections of sector-oriented business news and information culled by WSJ editors from Factiva's extensive database and Web search infrastructure. However, using the extensive search-based analysis tools that Factiva has amassed, WSJ Pro will also provide its subscribers with the ability to unearth trends from its content. With a year of archived Factiva licensed content available along with two years of WSJ archives, WSJ Pro subscribers will be getting access to both content and trend analysis from in-depth premium business information sources unavailable in on the Web in many instances. Other must-have features such as custom alerts for email and mobile devices are also included in the subscription package, which will cost USD 49 a month.

Some are labeling the WSJ Pro package as a shot across the bow at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, which is a shot not too far off the mark, given that for decades many financial services companies have been able to negotiate similar price points from major financial information services for people off their trading floors, who used them mostly for news retrieval and casual price quotes on securities. WSJ Pro is aimed largely at such people, who are very Web-centric already in their information retrieval habits and looking for something a little more professional-grade. The trading arena itself uses more machine-executed trades and the remaining people on trading desks using very sophisticated analysis packages, so there are fewer people who can use the high-grade financial information products developed by companies like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters. It makes sense, then, to focus on average professionals accessing better-than-the-Web information about business and finance who are willing to use a ad/subscription-supported prosumer product like WSJ Pro.

This move is also, of course, a way to counter some of the stagnation that Factiva faces in large-scale enterprise subscriptions. With central information budgets facing cutbacks in many of the enterprises targeted by Factiva and other major business information providers, using a more media-oriented model for delivering business information to specific individuals who are willing to pay for it offers Factiva a way to slide its content over into a new sales profile that can weather central budget cutbacks by appealing more to individuals who may be willing to carry a personal subscription to their products from other budget sources - perhaps even from their own pockets. Pioneering Web business information providers such as Hoover's have established the viability of this type of media/subscription model for years, so there's no reason to think that it won't succeed for Dow Jones as well.

So as much as professionals who already use Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters services may be targets for WSJ Pro, clearly a broader range of enterprise business information users may find the package to be appealing. The "prosumer" segment of business information is likely to be one of the fastest growing segments for business information use in the years ahead, as central information budgets recover slowly from the effects of the economic downturn while more aggressive executives in need of support for decision-making decide to up their personal investments in business information to close their knowledge gaps.

You can quibble a bit about the pricing, perhaps, which is not high compared to WSJ print packages but at a non-bulk price still a little high compared to some premium business information services, but no doubt WSJ has done their homework on this and is likely to meet their revenue goals with their "prosumer" WSJ Pro package. I have little doubt that this package will be a strong success - if but because both Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters are now scrambling to come up with business news assets that can help them to broaden their own offerings. When you get the incumbents moving quickly, you must be doing something right.
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