Buy Side Holiday Handbook from WSJ Extends Affiliate to Print Channel

Today, the Wall Street Journal published a special Buy Side from WSJ Holiday Handbook delivered inside the Wall Street Journal Print edition. The special section was delivered to subscribers and is available on newsstands today only.

Key Takeaways

  1. WSJ’s Buy Side has launched a Holiday Handbook print supplement that was published today.

  2. The guide extends the company’s performance marketing brand into a new channel and leverages QR codes to connect print readers to site content.

  3. The edition was a reminder of print’s unrivaled ability to help a reader discover new ideas and products.

This morning I set out on the Upper West Side to buy the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. I went to two bodegas where I used to buy the morning paper. Only the New York Post and its enduring headlines remain on their newsstands. I went to an actual newsstand, where the owner explained the Journal did not print today because it's a holiday (not true I told him!). I finally found a copy at a second newsstand and forked over $5. It was a tour of the past, and the future.

Print forces decisions about what is and is not included. Print is final and mistakes are more punitive. When print is at its best the design and writing are better than its digital counterparts and it helps a reader discover things they did not know they were looking for.

The Holiday Handbook extends the Buy Side’s performance marketing revenue model to the offline world. The Buy Side team designed this print edition to serve subscribers and newsstand readers seeking fresh ideas ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

The Handbook is a gift giving guide divided by the type of people you are shopping for: A Dad who has everything, A Mom who says she wants nothing, coffee lovers, cat lovers, dog lovers, golf lovers . . . and peppered with articles to help manage holiday spending. They even managed to sell some traditional ads.

Buy Side from WSJ is the affiliate-supported review and recommendations site developed by the Wall Street Journal team. The site, which is not gated with the WSJ paywall, has an independent review team that evaluates products and services and surfaces recommendations for the best product, best value, and other rankings. Revenue for the site is driven primarily via affiliate links. In addition to product reviews and recommendations, the site also provides personal finance tips and tutorials in keeping with the essence of the WSJ brand.

Traditional online and offline publishers have moved aggressively into performance marketing as the leading tech platforms, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon, have captured 74% of global digital media spend, according to media trade journal Digiday.

Affiliate revenue enables content publishers to monetize traffic and attention successfully outside the tech platforms’ footprints. Other publishers with significant performance content presences include Conde Nast, Hearst, New York Times/Wirecutter, and New York Post. Additionally, the Dotdash acquisition of Meredith was heavily driven by the potential for performance marketing revenue.

The domain, including Buy Side, captures about 80M monthly unique visitors, according to SimilarWeb. By keeping Buy Side outside the paywall, the company hopes to drive sales from subscribers and nonsubscribers to the Wall Street Journal.

According to Emily Welsh, Buy Side Head of Business Development and Marketing, “the special print edition of Buy Side focuses on thoughtful, unique gifts for even tricky-to-buy-for loved ones along with holiday-timed money advice including budgeting and a guide to year-end tipping. The model is designed to expose more people to the richness and comprehensiveness of reviews and product information available on the site.”

The print edition leverages two revenue models: traditional advertising buys and affiliate revenue from QR codes printed in the publication and available in accompanying digital newsletters. Said Jessica Mara, Senior Communications Manager at WSJ Parent Dow Jones, “we developed a process where readers can scan QR codes which direct to our Buy Side articles, getting them into the Buy Side ecosystem where they can browse additional gift guides and content.”

QR codes are increasing in popularity as a marketing tactic in the US. According to eMarketer, 83.4 million US adult smartphone users (representing 37.5% of smartphone users) will scan a QR code in 2022. This share will rise to 42.6% by 2025.

The Buy Side team reports that creating this first print edition of Buy Side was challenging but gratifying. “This was an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for us as we had the chance to work on an entirely new product that touched several different functions across The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones,” said Leslie Yazel, Editor at Buy Side. “We leveraged our collegial and collaborative relationships to make this happen, and everyone was super helpful and on board with what we were looking to accomplish. We look forward to producing these special sections in the future.”

With print’s readership continuing to decline it is unclear if this edition was a marketing exercise or a profitable new revenue stream that will help maintain the viability of the medium. Either way, it was a delight to see the effort made to merge two mediums and to stroll around the Upper West Side on a crisp fall morning.

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