The Wall Street Journal announced on June 18, 2015 that they will be laying off roughly 100 staff and most of their personal finance journalists. The news isn’t a huge shock given Dow Jones’ results were down 11% YoY in the third quarter of 2015. But it was a surprise to see that most of their personal finance journalists will be let go if you follow the #WSJperfi hashtag on Twitter.
In a world where there’s not enough good personal finance education, it’s sad to see that there will now be even less by one of the best publications in the world. I’ve personally reached out to some of the reporters if they want to do some freelance work, but no responses as of yet. Here are some thoughts about the layoffs.
WALL STREET JOURNAL LAYOFF IMPLICATIONS
* Maybe personal finance doesn’t really matter? If personal finance mattered, the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t let their staff go!
* Maybe personal finance does matter, but isn’t as lucrative a topic as others. Unless you are hawking credit cards with each article, it’s hard to make a lot of money in personal finance.
* Are personal finance bloggers partly to blame for the downsizing of WSJ’s personal finance department? They do say they are downsizing due to all the free, competing content out there. I would rather read personal stories about personal finance than read the news or derivative messages about personal finance.
* It’s important to own your vertical. At the end of the day, journalists are employees who have a harder time controlling their own destiny. It is extremely impressive to get a job at a place like The Wall Street Journal, where you immediately have credibility and a massive platform. But what I think is more important is to create your own brand by owning the entire business vertical.
* Maybe personal finance bloggers will gain more respect? Respect is still hard to come by in the blogging world. I remember inquiring about the Knight Fellowship program for Journalism back in 2012 and getting the cold shoulder because I didn’t come from a traditional journalism background or work at a traditional publishing house. But I recently checked to see what the graduates are doing, and many are now just freelance journalists. Everybody in the blogging world knows that you can make plenty of money blogging. People are slowly realizing how difficult it is to build your own online publishing platform from scratch into a viable income source.
* The Wall Street Journal is hiring! Despite the latest round of cuts, The Journal is in the process of creating dozens of new jobs in digital-journalism roles including mobile, interactive graphics and data. Yes, there will still be a net negative loss, but someone with the right skills will get a sweet new job. The key is to have the right skills.
* Do not go into journalism. If you are a student, it’s probably best not to spend your four years in college or another year for a Master’s degree in journalism. If you just love journalism, do it as a minor and focus on Finance, Online Media, Coding / Computer Science instead. Pay has been massively reduced. What you need to do is build a large following of your own.
NOTHING HAS REALLY CHANGED WITH BLOGGING
There continues to be a surge in readership towards blogs that have a good voice with a consistent output of strong content. Google continues to get smarter, while brands continue to get stronger. If you’ve built a good community, then you may want to consider building a bigger company by creating products.
One of the ideas bantered around Twitter is for all the laid off journalists to start their own personal finance blog. That’s a great idea, and many journalists have created their own blogs in the past, such as Pando Daily and Re/Code. But if they actually go with the idea, they’ll have to execute. And as we all know, building something from nothing is a lot harder than joining an already massive platform.
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