Jun 11, 2022 - Economy

Exclusive: WSJ debuts new commerce site "Buy Side"

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal on Monday will unveil a brand new commerce website called "Buy Side from WSJ," featuring hundreds of reviews for various consumer goods and personal finance products.

Why it matters: Unlike The Journal's news site, Buy Side will remain free, helping The Journal attract new audiences, while also bringing in new types of revenue.

  • "We see this as a logical step for us to take," said chief revenue officer Josh Stinchcomb, who will oversee the new venture.
  • "It's an extension and expansion of our mission, which is to provide the most trusted source of journalism, data and analysis to help people make decisions."

Details: Buy Side will launch as a separate section within The Journal's website. Keeping the section free will help the company tap into more search ad revenue coming from Google, Stinchcomb said.

  • Buy Side will have its own product and marketing teams. It will be staffed by a small team of its own writers, editors and subject-matter experts, as well as a group of freelance contributors to provide expertise on topics.
  • Freelancers are given criteria to reference when making recommendations to ensure they align with The Journal's editorial mission and standards, said Leslie Yazel, the editor and head of content at WSJ Commerce.
  • The company will review the types of products and services that cater to a typical Wall Street Journal reader — a professionally driven consumer navigating return to office changes and has an interest in the economy.
  • In addition to reviews for things like standing desks, home gym equipment, coffeemakers, ergonomic chairs, and commuter backpacks, there will also be recommendations for ways consumers can cut back on car costs or sort through various credit card or insurance products.
  • The site went live via a soft launch this week. The official brand will be unveiled Monday, alongside new social media handles for the site.

By the numbers: At launch, the site will feature about 250 products across consumer and personal finance categories, and about 50 articles explaining them.

  • In addition to the website, Buy Side will launch a newsletter shortly after launch, written by Yazel. Buy Side-branded social channels have been set up across various social networks.
  • The Journal will evaluate success of the new site based on traffic, return visits, sales conversions and revenue generated.

Between the lines: The Buy Side team is completely separate from The Journal's newsroom, and writers and editors will not be a part of any editorial-side unions.

  • The branding and voice of Buy Side are intentionally distinct from The Journal's, offering a more visual and colorful experience.
  • The backend operation of Buy Side is separate from Buy Side's editorial team to ensure reviews are independent. "For example, a writer won't know how much money was made from an article they wrote," Yazel said.

The big picture: Several traditional news publishers have launched commerce websites in the past few years as a way to capitalize on the institutional trust they already have with readers.

  • The New York Times, for example, purchased consumer review site Wirecutter in 2016 for over $30 million. It recently put the site behind a paywall.

Be smart: Review sites offer traditional publishers access to affiliate revenue, in addition to advertising and subscriptions. Affiliate revenue is commission money publishers make from featuring external products on their websites.

  • At launch, Buy Side will have a handful of affiliate partners, including Skimlinks, Red Ventures and Amazon. Over time, it plans to expand its list of partners and work directly with certain retailers or manufacturers.
  • Asked what differentiates Buy Side from other affiliate news websites, Yazel said it will be more tightly curated and will focus on explaining the return on investment for each product. "We do the math for people," she said.
  • Stinchcomb noted that The Journal's business expertise gives it more credibility when making recommendations around personal finance products.

What's next: For now, The Journal doesn't have plans to create and sell its own products, but "anything is possible," Stinchcomb said. Yazel noted that Buy Side plans to expand its editorial team over time.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say that "Buy Side from WSJ" will unveil on Monday, not Sunday.

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