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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 21, 2000. All rights reserved.

Startups from Within: Neil Budde

E-mail: BarbaraFox@princetoninfo.com

Fast growing companies should plan for how big they

will be five years from now, so that the infrastructure of the company

— the funds, the personnel practices, and the internal communication

systems — will be ready, says Neil F. Budde, vice president,

editor, and publisher of WSJ.com, the Wall Street Journal Online.

Don’t take your planning a year at a time: "If every year you

say you are going to add 20 percent growth, it doesn’t necessarily

provoke you to rethink your organization, your structure, and your

systems for communication."

Budde, who supervises a staff of more than 150 people including 60

reporters and editors, is the keynote luncheon speaker for the capital

conference sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority

on Friday, June 23, at 8:30 a.m. at the Princeton Hyatt. Cost: $35.

Call Kathleen Gaines at 609-341-2065.

Budde spoke in a telephone interview from Heathrow Airport in London,

where he had just finished presiding on a panel for Wall Street Journal

Europe’s CEO summit on the digital economy. He will discuss how he

tried to build a business inside a large organization that has competing

interests in other areas, and how he is trying to find a balance between

with the old economy and the new economy. "A company like Dow

Jones has various flavors of the old and new economies, and we are

constantly reinventing ourselves, having grown from three to 250 people

in four years’ time," he says.

Launched four years ago, Budde’s fiefdom, WSJ.com, has a paid circulation

of more than 438,000 subscribers. It continuously updates coverage

of business news both in the U.S. and around the world. Subscribers

have access to an archive of news articles from 6,000 newspapers,

magazines, and business news sources, plus customized stock portfolios

that can monitor stocks and cash in 57 currencies.

WSJ.com’s global online collection also includes technology coverage

from reporters around the world, and intraday news reports on trading

activities for all major global financial markets. A "Briefing

Book" reports on more than 20,000 companies world-wide and does

stock charting for Italian, Swiss, U.K., Australian, French, German,

Canadian, Hong Kong and U.S. companies.

WSJ.com has its own dedicated news staff, but it is supported by the

resources of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones. "The Wall

Street Journal now employs more reporters and editors based in continental

Europe than any other business publication," says Budde. On WSJ.com

alone, not counting the business and sales staff, WSJ.com’s news team

has eight people in London, two in Hong Kong (soon to grow to six),

two in Brussels, three in San Francisco, and two in Washington.

Budde went to Western Kentucky University, Class of ’77, and has an

MBA from University of Louisville. One of four children, his mother

is a nursing administrator and his father is in industrial sales.

He was a reporter and editor at the Courier Journal in Louisville,

the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and USA Today. His wife, Virginia Edwards,

commutes to Bethesda, Maryland, where she is president of Editorial

Projects in Education, publisher of Teacher Magazine and Educational

Week newspaper.

Budde joined Dow Jones & Company in 1987 and was deputy editorial

director for Dow Jones News/Retrieval, supervising 75 people and supervising

the design and development of new information services, including

those in the area of natural language searching. Though he is not

a programmer, Budde worked with Visual Basic in 1993 to design the

Wall Street Journal’s first electronic media product for the consumer

market, Money & Investing Update, an interactive version of the Journal’s

third section. Also that year he was responsible for adding briefing-type

hyperlinks to the detailed information offered by Dow Jones. In 1996

this became the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition with coverage

extended to politics, economics, technology news, marketing, sports,

and weather.

Laying the groundwork for good infrastructure might involve these

factors:

Communication, which can deteriorate. Make sure everyone

understands the goals and the mission, what you are working on now,

and how it fits with the overall picture. "Before, we had someone

in every group who was there from the earliest days, and there was

a natural sharing of knowledge, ideas, and ethics," says Budde,

but a growing company loses this shared set of experiences.

Finding funds, one of the challenges in running a start-up

business within a larger company that operates under the scrutiny

of Wall Street. "To some extent, the constraints are self imposed,"

says Budde, "but at some point expenditures could start to hurt

the bottom line of the company."

Retaining employees. Another hazard for "old economy"

employers comes when dot.com companies dangle stock options in front

of their employees. "We do face it all the time, we lose people

here and there," says Budde, "and we try and address it through

compensation and packages." The dismal dot.com stock performance

of the last couple of months has been helpful, he says, in reducing

the number of WSJ workers who want to jump ship. Dow Jones is also

looking into setting up a separate "tracking stock" that could

reflect the upside or the downside of its dot.com businesses.

"Also we like to give people a sense they are working for

something exciting and challenging, that is going somewhere. There

are intangible benefits that people are looking for, other than the

pure cash and option plays," says Budde.

Budde says he first learned to "turn on a dime" as a daily

journalist. To the quick pace of journalism, Web publishing adds the

need for product innovation.

In contrast to how the Web works, a new product in a print publication

may take months and months. The WSJ’s Weekend Journal, for instance,

was years in the making. In contrast, says Budde, "If we come

up with an idea, we can implement it pretty quickly on line."

It’s always difficult to balance the release times for a Web publication

versus the print publication. "The good news is Dow Jones has

had a long history of balancing real-time news wire with the print

newspaper, and we have it well worked out internally that certain

things appear first," says Budde.

Budde travels to London every couple of months, and his "lucky

charm" hotel is the Royal Horse Guards, in a quiet area near Trafalgar

Square. On every visit to this hotel he has glimpsed a member of the

royal family. For this visit, Queen Elizabeth dedicated a monument

just a few yards from the hotel’s front door.

What’s exciting to him now is constantly evolving a product, he says.

Just announced: Expansion of localized content around the world, such

as with enhanced coverage of European stocks. Subscriptions from countries

besides the U.S. comprise more than nine percent of WSJ.com’s total

with Europe representing the fastest-growing subscriber segment outside

the U.S., increasing 41 percent in the last 12 months.


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