WSJ patronizes readers

The new slimmed-down Wall Street Journal prompts some caustic commentary from William Powers in the National Journal:

The debut of the smaller Journal came with a ponderous eight-page "Reader's Guide" full of throat-clearing ("Today's changes . . . are part of a tradition of innovation that began with The Journal's founding in 1889"), self-congratulation ("Embracing Change to Build on a Tradition of Excellence"), pandering ("How the Changing Needs of Readers Drive the New Design of The Journal"), and needlessly complex explanations of other design changes.

The lead piece by publisher L. Gordon Crovitz took eight long paragraphs to get to the most obvious issue: "We've reduced the width of the newspaper." He attributed this change, first and foremost, to reader requests, referring only parenthetically to what everyone knows is the crucial factor, newsprint costs.

This is classic top-down mediaspeak, pomposity rooted in insecurity. It's why newspapers are the butt of so many jokes, while relatively lightweight New Media outlets are taken seriously. They seem to speak more plainly and with less guile.

It's still way too soon to write Old Media's obituary, though.  Newspapers and broadcast still turn double-digit profit margins, which is why they're consistent targets for private equity.