The Power of Quality Content: Why the WSJ Gives Me Warm Fuzzies


I have never been much of a "brand" person. My purchasing choices are not dictated by brands allegiance, quality, or cost, but primarily by time. I like things that make me productive. The world is a fascinating place to me, and there is so much I want to do, that I would rather pay a few dollars more for something than to spend time looking for a better deal. I don't think of it as wasting money but rather, saving time.

I spend my attention the same way. I'm a business news junkie, but I spend most of my time on the handful of sites that give me the most bang for my buck. I try to balance breadth and depth. I want new things, and I also want deeper thoughts about things I'm familiar with. That's why I love the Wall Street Journal.

I know it's weird. Most people in my demographic probably prefer Business 2.0, Fast Company, and similar titles. I don't know anyone else that subscribes to the WSJ. As a matter of fact, people like telling me what they hate about it, why it's irrelevant, and why they dropped their subscriptions. Their views must have affected me because in early January, with my subscription expiring, I chose not to renew. It just didn't seem worth the price.

Three weeks went by, and I began to feel different. I felt stagnant in my thinking. I was getting almost all my news from the web now, which means I had plenty of breadth, but very little depth. The deeper insights I used to get from reaching a more thorough understanding of a new topic were fading. Was it the the lack of the WSJ? Surely not. But that was the main thing that had changed in my intellectual life.

I thought about subscribing to the WSJ online but, truth be told, I don't like their site or the navigation. Plus I find myself easily distracted when I'm reading on a computer, meaning I probably wouldn't finish the longer articles. After two more weeks of stewing on it, I decided to re-subscribe.

Late last week, I left the house one morning and found my first issue in our paper box. Arriving at work, I sat down with a cup of coffee and spread open the paper. I felt a strange warm fuzzy kind of sensation, kind of like returning home after a long trip.

The feeling left me with a bit of cognitive dissonance. Why did this brand have such an effect on me – the guy who doesn't care about brands? Is this what people feel like when they buy Nikes or Starbucks or whatever it is they have some allegiance too?

I've listened to a bunch of people here at SXSW talk about the end of major media and the power of user generated content, but I just don't seem many bloggers or random people writing the kind of great stuff that's in the WSJ. They don't toss softballs. They don't boil down complicated business issues into three cheesy bullet points. They make me think. They show the subtle complexities and tradeoffs that that quick-hit business-by-bulletpoint media don't realize, and can't appreciate.

If you're a music lover, you would probably rather you would probably rather hear Bach from a full orchestra than on a single instrument, otherwise you miss many of the complexities of his work – the things that the average listener may not there are people I feel the same way about business. While others complain about articles measured in the thousands of words, I think they can still be interesting and relevant. Maybe I'm an anomaly in a world of business media gone ADD, but I'm a believer that quality content will always have a place and that branding yourself as the best of the best can be a great way to compete in the future.

  • I know exactly what you mean. It started with the Friday edition, because of the wine column. Then I’d occasionally get other editions. Finally I started subscribing and go into withdrawals if I don’t have my fix. For the very same reasons that you’ve mentioned, plus the fact that there are interesting stories all the time that I wouldn’t necessarily come across by a targeted news search.

  • You do know someone else who subscribes to the Wall Street Journal. I read it every day. Some days I find things. Other days I don’t. The reason I read it is for the randomness what what they will bring him. Blogs play off the popular and controversial.

    WSJ gives me depth behind some of the big things going on. Their coverage of health care in the last year has been stellar. Add to that the backdating scandal that they first uncovered.

    Everyone in business should read it every day.

  • The Wall Street Journal is my favorite paper because it does things right. Yes, I love business news, but it’s also about the original content and investigative reporting that few other newspapers seem to do anymore. Content is king! I don’t need to read about stuff that happened yesterday and has already been repeated about 100 times by the time the newspaper arrives. Like I wrote on my blog, papers must provide what readers can’t get elsewhere, not another rehash of stale news. The WSJ does this and the recent changes have made the paper much better in my opinion. Now, it’s easy to hold, easier to find continuing stories, and there’s less of the general news everyone already knows. Great job!

  • My point of view has always been that brands are more important now than ever. What has changed is the way those brands are crafted to achieve the emotional connection with their core audience. With publications, their content is truly their relevant differentiating benefit — it is what makes the WSJ resonate in your (and my) mind in a way that others in the space just can’t touch. And I too just reupped my subscription last week for many of the same reasons you did.

  • shuchetana

    Hi Rob! I don’t subscriber to WSJ, but I’m pretty convinced by this, and another previous mention of yours, to start. Is the same content available on the web?
    I’d also like to mention how much I like your blog. I’m a typical shy lurker, but a post (on another blog) about how much bloggers appreciate comments, convinced me to let you know that this is one of my favorite blogs :) Don’t retire, i love your refreshing and honest perspective.
    O, and do you read the Economist? That’s my current read–weekly, global and reasonably indepth.

  • I’ve maintained electronic clipping files in a sweet little program called AskSAM for several years. Last summer in my semi-annual review time, I did a little study of which
    publications generated the most articles that I thought were worth keeping. Note that business news is one of my passions, but leadership/management/supervision in all forms is a passion and so are books. Two publications accounted for about 60 percent of my clippings all by themselves They were the Journal and the New York Times. Close to them was The Economist.

  • Have avoided the WSJ in the past because the right-wing editorials don’t jibe with my politics, but gave in and subscribed recently when I found so many articles I wanted to read referred to by other news sites or blog posts. It’s been worth the money in my opinion. I also prefer the paper. Got the online subscription, too, but I think I wasted $ there as I don’t think I’ll ever read it online.

  • I think what I get from the WSJ is the story behind the story. Not in all cases, but in enough cases to make it worth the read. It’s not like so many articles, where you read it, find it somewhat interesting, then realize you can’t possibly apply it to your own situation. With the Wall, I usually find one story or more per issue that gives me some insight I can apply. Actually I subscribe to both the online and paper versions, and find that I read the paper version while traveling and the online version at work. Great site, by the way.