Barron’s, the Dow Jones Media Group (DJMG) publication dedicated to investing, has undergone a redesign of its web experience, tearing down its old page to make room for a clean, novel interface for its readers and advertiser partners.
The Drum talked to Daniel Bernard, senior vice president of Barron’s about the refreshed look of the DJMG publication, how it translates to print and online, and the unique brand opportunities.
“One of the goals that Katherine (Bell, Barron’s editor-in-chief) and Almar (Latour, DJMG publisher and executive vice president) had was that we make sure that as we think across Dow Jones Media Group, how do we make sure we're constantly improving our products? We’re very aware of what our customers and clients need, both from a reader perspective and advertising perspective and how you think about that ecosystem to provide the products that people need," says Bernard.
Bernard and team did its research, taking in feedback from its customers, advertisers and other partners on what was serving them well.
“We also were looking to the future: how we continue to serve our current against but also continue to grow our audience? So as we talked to people, we realized that there's several different areas that would help, that would help us continue to grow not just a little bit as that constant evolution.”
Sustainable and direct investing are major themes for today’s Barron’s audience, as well as novel talking points such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cryptocurrency. “Whole new companies are being created and existing companies are being wiped out. If I'm an investor or a financial professional who is advising people on making investment decisions,” says Bernard, “I need to really understand that so I can make the right decision. So I'm protecting my investments and growing them.
“That became one core tenet, which was thinking about our content, making sure that as the world continues to rapidly change, we're ahead of that. The signature element about Barron’s is we really bring clarity to what's happening and what that means for your tomorrow. So appearance is very much about owning the forecasting in the future and giving you insight into the future so you can make investment decisions today.”
The resulting homepage takes readers to this forward-leaning approach with an upward slant to its top banner, with a pared-down list of main columns for specific and timely interests, content from its print magazine and market data. Slightly under, top stocks of the day are off to the right, and a summarized overview of the days news — entitled ‘The Brief’ is the first thing the readers eyes fall on.
Katherine Bell, editor-in-chief, says of that first look: “We created the Brief to give readers an immediate read on the mood of the market and the news that's most relevant to their investments, updated throughout the day. When the market's closed on the weekend, we know our readers like to take the time to consider issues more deeply and think about the big picture, so we made the weekend experience a lot more immersive.”
Bernard’s team also integrated 'Review and Preview', concepts familiar to the investors that leaf through the magazine pages, into the web experience.
“That was another sort of continued evolution,” he says “which is thinking to ourselves: how do we create really great content that serves our readers and then deploy it in multiple ways on the web and via mobile?"
A lot was answered via print, Bernard attests. “We always thought that if you drive impact digitally that it should move the conversation like the cover does. We started thinking about what the user experience is for that, and how would they interact with those key goals.”
Bell adds of this simplification: “On weekdays, our readers are inundated with market news. They trust Barron's to sort the signal from the noise, to put the news in context and explain what it's likely to mean to their future. When we designed the new weekday homepage, we thought of it as a useful source of information in and of itself, not just a place to find articles, and we prioritized clarity and brevity.”
When someone scrolls down, there are very few pictures or ads to distract its user base, something Bernard’s team found to create a more efficient user experience. And that brevity translates into headers above each headline, pointing to the major topics and timely storylines that readers can follow along with, until reaching the end of the page.
Literally: there is no infinite scroll on the new Barron’s and every reader is greeted with a bold “The end, but let’s stay in touch” at the bottom.
It was a subtle touch, yet a utilitarian one based off of reader feedback. Bernard says of its weekday setup: “[Our readers] want to have a sense of completion and they want to be able to get through things fast, which contrasts with the weekend where they have a little bit more time to reflect, spend more time on the longer read and the more in-depth experience.”
The clean layout was meant for easier readability of its business insights, but its design and distinctive layout also play out well for advertisers (such as Brighthouse Financial, its launch partner) looking to craft premium content on the page.
“We've been thinking of this as a clean, well-lit environment," says Bernard. "And in that kind of environment, advertising from our partners is able to stand out more.”
Brands can place ads in a normal fashion through horizontal and vertical web banners, but they also utilize slanted banners (like the home banner) between articles in a section or on the homepage. Sponsored advertorial content shows up in gold, and brands can also take up sponsored space amongst the stock quotes and market data.
Bernard deems the sponsored funds concept an 'innovative' approach to driving in revenue. “We started talking with some clients about this. There's a lot of interest in this, because different people have these products that they want to show up, and we have the data around their products. So it's a very interesting way to kind of highlight and put it in context with what's going on with the market. We talked a lot about how the whole page can provide a flexible design architecture for branded interaction.”
His take on how brands can play into the web space: “Advertising content is seen as content as well. How we can do a better job digitally to help that experience come to life still matters. It could be video, it can be an interactive graphic, or it could be content. There's a lot of real flexibility with how different advertisers could deploy this.”
Advertisers have a larger playground through the revamped Barron's, both through the desktop and mobile experience, and through its lifestyle and philantropy imprint Penta, which went through a refresh of its own in Spring 2018. To help drive growth for the next chapter of the publication, as well as the rest of the DJMG properties and Dow Jones, the company earlier this year added on Josh Stintchcomb as its chief revenue officer.