Bankrolled by Wall Street, read by the seriously rich

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The Independent Online
IN 1983 the Wall Street Journal took its product directly to Europe. A decade later the Brussels-based Wall Street Journal Europe, circulation 57,000, believes it has taken root on this side of the Atlantic.

Philip Revzin, the editor, says: 'Our approach for about the last year and a half has been to increasingly Europeanise the content.' On a typical day, at least two of the three main front-page stories will be European. The third might be an American story given a stronger European angle. There will inevitably be a strong American element to the European paper, Mr Revzin says, but on any given day 'probably more than 50 per cent of the content is European'.

He has 10 reporters and a dozen editors, plus another dozen or so stringers. Technological advances have enabled the paper to share a collective pool of news articles and a combined 'copy desk' of sub-editors in New York with the US paper and the Asian Wall Street Journal.

The European staff are a mixture of Journal veterans, particularly in the editing jobs, and local recruits. Mr Revzin says: 'The new hires I have been making recently tend to be either Americans or Europeans who have lived here a long time. It's rare that we will take somebody from Chicago and say, 'OK, come to Europe. You don't speak any languages, but we'll teach you.' '

The paper has adopted and adapted regular features of the US Journal, including columns on advertising, technology, law and small business. It has originated a column on privatisation in Russia and Eastern Europe that is available to the US Journal. When the paper began in 1983, daily circulation was around 20,000. Now it is growing by 6 per cent a year, Mr Revzin says. The largest sales are in Germany and the UK, with more than 10,000 each. Advertising revenue went up by 7 per cent last year.

Mr Revzin is unable to provide profit figures, explaining that the parent, Dow Jones & Company, does not break them down. On the accounting standard used by the company, he says, the European Journal loses money, but he argues that this does not give a true picture. An advertisement in the US Journal that originates in Europe is counted towards the profit of the US Journal, even if it was sold by the European staff. If money spent in Europe is set against revenue earned there, Mr Revzin says, 'we're vastly profitable'.

The European paper has benefited from the kudos of its American parent, and its restrained appearance seems to suit its readers in the European business community. In early years the buoyancy of the economy helped advertising, although the last three or four years have been tough.

Alastair Smellie, a media analyst for Lehman Brothers International in London, says that with an even greater European content and look, pushed by aggressive marketing, the Journal could reach a circulation of 50,000 in Britain. Non-readers perceive the European Journal's American content to be higher than it actually is, he says.

Mr Smellie believes that the complicated look of the Journal can discourage readers, and he is personally irritated at its practice of continuing stories from the front page to the depths of the newspaper. 'I don't think it's the easiest paper in the world to read,' he says.

The paper has formed a partnership with Handelsblatt, the German financial daily, that allows shared advertisements and gives the Journal a valuable route into the large German-speaking market.

The readership is three-quarters European, with a heavy proportion of senior executives, bankers and traders. The demographics, says Mr Revzin, 'are better than the American Wall Street Journal because we have a smaller circulation. The average income is well over dollars 150,000 a year.'

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