The Wall Street Journal is launching its first ever standalone book review, a "significant" weekly pull-out section, according to The New York Observer. Given that nearly all newspapers except for The New York Times have ditched their own book reviews in recent years, the move is getting a fair amount of attention. Of course, The New York Times-Wall Street Journal war going on adds some dramatic context as well.
'Clearly Mr. Murdoch ... Has Chosen His Next Battle Ground,' writes The New York Observer's John Koblin, who broke the news. Gawker's Hamilton Nolan comes right out with the key phrase: "market share." Adds New York Magazine's Lane Brown: "Also, the Journal's section will be included in Saturday's paper, meaning it'll arrive on newsstands a full 24 hours before the NYT's. Checkmate."
- Does This Make Any Business Sense, Otherwise? "The Washington Post cut its standalone book section last year, The Chicago Tribune did it the year before, and the L.A. Times did it the year before that," observes Koblin. "Perhaps the WSJ sees an opportunity in all the cutting of books coverage-founding a new section now makes the paper one of the last to feature stand-alone books coverage," offers Craig Morgan Teicher at Publisher's Weekly. Hamilton Nolan is more skeptical. It's "an expensive and probably unnecessary endeavor from a strictly bean-counting perspective," he says.
Let's clarify that: it doesn't make financial sense at all in the short term. And Murdoch certainly doesn't care. And if Kindles and their kin lead to a new explosion in book-reading over the next decade, this will look prescient. But it won't put the NYT out of business.
- A Word from the Competitor Jeremy Peters covers the move for The New York Times, and is much more restrained: "The paper's book reviews are among the more popular features with readers," he points out. "And there are signs that the advertising market for the book publishing business is picking up, which could have figured into the thinking at The Journal." Any reference to the aggression in the move is veiled:
Among the dwindling ranks of newspaper book review editors, competitive spirit seems to have given way to camaraderie.
"The more the merrier," said John McMurtrie, book editor of The Chronicle. "Any attention that is drawn to books is a positive thing. How could it not be? This is hardly somewhere we can be competitors."