WSJ launches new ‘Buy Side’ commerce site

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

Why is this important: Unlike The Journal’s news site, Buy Side will remain free, helping The Journal attract new audiences, while generating new types of revenue.

  • “We see this as a logical step 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 in a separate section of the Journal’s website. Keeping the section free will help the company leverage more search ad revenue from Google, Stinchcomb said.

  • Buy Side will have its own product and marketing teams. It will consist of a small team of its own writers, editors and subject matter experts, as well as a group of independent contributors to provide expertise on different topics.
  • Freelancers receive benchmarks when making recommendations to ensure they align with the Journal’s mission and editorial standards, said Leslie Yazel, editor and chief content officer at WSJ Commerce.
  • The company will review the types of products and services that appeal to a typical Wall Street Journal reader – a professional consumer navigating change back to the office and interested in the economy.
  • In addition to reviews on things like standing desks, home gym equipment, coffee makers and ergonomic chairs and backpacks for commuters, there will also be recommendations on how consumers can reduce car costs or sort various credit card or insurance products.
  • The site went live via soft launch earlier this week. The official branding will be unveiled on Monday, alongside new social media handles for the site.

By the numbers: At launch, the site will feature around 250 products in the personal finance and consumer categories, and around 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 on various social networks.
  • The Journal will gauge the 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 editors and editors will not be part of any union on the editorial side.

  • Buy Side’s branding and voice is intentionally distinct from that of The Journal, providing a more visual and colorful experience.
  • Buy Side’s backend operation is separate from Buy Side’s editorial team to ensure independent reviewers. “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 recent years to capitalize on the institutional trust they already have with readers.

  • The New York Times, for example, bought consumer review site Wirecutter in 2016 for over $30 million. He recently placed 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 the commissions publishers earn by 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 would be more tightly organized and focus on explaining each product’s ROI. “We do the math for people,” she said.
  • Stinchcomb noted that the Journal’s business expertise gives it more credibility when making recommendations on personal finance products.

And after: At this time, The Journal has no 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 indicate that “Buy Side from WSJ” will be revealed on Monday, not Sunday.