Chuck and Chrysler Sponsor Free WSJ.com Access

Newspaper readers and ad spending are moving online, and The Wall Street Journal knows it. While it still aims to boost its print audience, the Dow Jones publication sees the writing on the Web. So to woo more readers to its print paper and subscription-based site, today the publisher is offering both gratis. The company has also added six people to its online sales staff in the last three months. Charles Schwab is footing the bill for the site’s “Open House” today as the exclusive sponsor, while Chrysler will be the sole sponsor of the site’s Markets Data Center until next Tuesday.

Employing its “Talk to Chuck” slogan, Charles Schwab will promote its Mutual Fund OneSource product via an introductory page leading to the free Journal site. The Markets Data Center section, which features real-time data on stock indexes, bond markets, currency fluctuations and other market information, will feature a small Chrysler logo in the upper right corner of the main section page. Large banner ads for the week’s exclusive sponsor will run throughout the area’s inner pages.

“We extend these [sponsorship] opportunities to our largest advertisers or our partners first,” said Dow Jones Online National Sales Director Joe Gallagher, noting the publisher doesn’t exclude advertisers or advertiser verticals from sponsorship offerings. Charles Schwab and Chrysler “certainly fall into that category of our key advertisers,” he added. Chrysler, for instance, on Friday ran an interstitial ad for its 2007 Sebring that played before the MarketWatch site loaded. And Charles Schwab ads will be seen in today’s print Wall Street Journal.

At a press event last month announcing the newspaper’s new narrower size and altered layout, the company stressed its focus on including expanded story coverage on its Web site, as well as its plans to publish more breaking news there. The publisher also aims to feature a total of 12 blogs across the WSJ.com, Barrons Online and MarketWatch sites within the next 30 days, according to Gallagher.

The firm’s outgrowth of blogs is “a result of consumer demand,” Gallagher told ClickZ News. A blog with a rare print component, “The Wealth Report” gets its start today on WSJ.com. Each Friday it will migrate to print in the Weekend Journal, a section laden with coverage of and ads for pricey properties that will provide a fitting home for a blog column discussing subjects like art collecting, philanthropy and estate law. The “Informed Reader” blog, a wrap up of news clips from multiple international resources, will also be seen in print. “The Juggle” is a recent online-only blog addition focusing on balancing work and family.

“If we can wrap around that an advertising opportunity that does not disrupt the blog content [or value to users], we’ll obviously do that,” Gallagher noted.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, almost 57 million people in Q3 2006 visited newspaper Web sites each month, up almost 24 percent from the same period in ’05. Ad spending online is increasing, too. It rose 23 percent in Q3 over that quarter last year to $638 million, while spending in print newspapers dwindled 2.6 percent in that time, according to the NAA.

“Our focus on online is a natural evolution of the growth of the medium,” said Gallagher, who moved to Dow Jones from Tribune Interactive three months ago. “It’s somewhat proactive, anticipating what the market conditions will be so we are fully able to respond to any sort of product demands.”

The company has taken on six additional online sales staffers in the last three months, supplementing its mid- and southwest management team, according to Gallagher. “Dow Jones Online continues to be in aggressive growth mode in terms of vying for continued ad revenue growth,” he said.

In addition to packaging its Web site, blogs, podcasts and print offerings for advertisers, the publisher hopes to boost online ad dollars through sponsorships of its Markets Data Center modules, to be offered later this month.

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