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07-20-15.epsOn October 15, Dow Jones celebrated the first anniversary of Barron’s Asia, the regional edition of its signature investment publication, Barron’s.

Launched in 2014, the digital edition delivers sophisticated financial advice on the United States and Asia, including China, Hong Kong, and Japan.

The publication, which is based in Hong Kong and has a presence in Japan, also produces content on international investment for high-net-worth individuals in Asia and around the world.

In an exclusive interview with Barron’s Asia, Managing Editor Robert Guy spoke about the publication’s market position in the region, as well as its recent appointment of Japan expert and commentator William Pesek as executive editor.

Guy also spoke about Barron’s Asia offerings to readers, its editorial policy, and its prospects in the Asian market.

Can you tell us about Barron’s brand in the US and Asia?

Barron’s in the United States was founded in the 1920s as a weekly newspaper. Its heritage is of a publication that provides information and analysis of stocks, sectors, and managed funds.

Anything to do with investments, we cover it.

Our readership consists primarily of institutional investors and hedge fund managers, and sophisticated retail investors who are engaged in investment and who want to know how they can protect their wealth as well.

The differentiating point between Barron’s and other investment publications is that we are very opinionated—but in a good way.

We don’t just report the news; we also provide an opinion on what we think of a deal, or of a new fund management product or stock, and so on, and we couple that with transparency.

Barron’s US regularly updates readers on how its own stock picks have performed—and that is something that you don’t get with other investment publications.

Tell us about tapping William Pesek as executive editor.
The strategy behind hiring William Pesek is that he is one of the best. If you are familiar with his work, [you will know that] it is excellent—his columns, his knowledge, and his access to key insiders comes through in what he writes.

Pesek has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best in economics, politics, and policy in the Asian region. That is the sort of capability that any media organization would want, so we are lucky that he has joined us.

Barron’s Asia is 100 percent digital; why not print?
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, digital is the future. How do people consume news in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong? It’s all on their phones, tablets, and so on.

I used to be a print journalist, but I would never go back. I think that digital is a far better, and a far more immersive user experience: not only do you have text, you have video, and you have graphics. And that’s what people want from media these days.

As an example, we recently had our first Asia roundtable of leading fund managers and strategists.

We sat them around the table and asked a number of questions such as: “What stocks do you like?” “What’s your view on China?” “What’s your view on Japan?”

The roundtable ran in the print version in the US alongside event photos; here, we also had snippets of video from the event and infographics on some of the stocks that they talked about.

I think the job of the media is to deliver as much high-quality content to as many people as possible, distributed at the lowest cost possible. Digital allows for that.

Tell us about the magazine’s content and editorial policy.
In terms of the sections, we have “Up and Down Asia,” which is Pesek’s column, and that is a broad view of economics, finance, politics, and policy across the region.

I think he has great skill for explaining what is going on in Asia, and putting it in context in a well-written and easy-to-understand way.

We have “Streetwise Asia,” that’s written by Wayne Arnold. He is very experienced, having worked at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times . . . . His column looks at broader, macro developments, and breaks that down to stock-focused opinions or commentary.

“Penta Asia” is also a very important section for us. Penta is our wealth management, private banking section. It is aimed at high-net-worth individuals. It’s edited by Abby Shultz, who is very experienced.

A key focus for her has been private banking. As you may appreciate, private banking is a fast-growing market in Asia. And Shultz has done a great job of talking to all the private bankers in Asia, and getting a really good understanding of what Asia’s wealthy face.

She has done some coverage of issues such as succession planning, family offices, and all those issues that Asia’s wealthy need to know about.

Shultz also has written exceptionally well about education, and that has been really popular; readers love it. There is a real demand in Asia, among families and parents, to understand how they can get their kids into schools in the United States, and other issues like that.

She also has a fun side to her job—not only does she inform readers on how to protect and grow their wealth, she also gets to write about how they spend it: wine and art collecting and all that fancy stuff. Readers just love it.

“Stock Picks” is where we talk about stocks that we like and don’t like. Again, this is all about well-argued opinions, and it’s written by Daniel Shane, who recently joined us.

We also do “Q and A,” a question and answers column with fund managers where they talk about stocks that they like, and so on.

Further, we have “Barron’s Take,” a column by Isabella Zhong. This is our quick take on news and events, as well as merger and acquisition deals. The column allows us to express an opinion on events in a timely way.

And finally, we have “Asia Stocks to Watch,” written by Shuli Ren. This is our blog and it represents our real-time coverage of what is happening out there: broker upgrades, broker downgrades, economic information, and so on.

Do your writers promote personality-driven journalism?

Yes and no. I think when you have experienced, well-connected people on your staff, you should let people know that. Pesek, Arnold, and Shultz all tick those boxes. But it’s not just about personality per se.

At the end of the day, it is about the quality of content, and whether that makes a difference in the lives of our readers—whether it makes them make money or avoid losing it. So it is a combination of both, but in the end, it is all about outcomes—and the outcome is quality content.

How is Barron’s Asia doing after its first anniversary?
The website has done really well. All the important measures are going up and to the right. What’s more, our readers are engaged—and we can see that from the data analytics we run.

So we know what stories are read more than others. And we have taken those learnings to try and produce a better product.

At the end of the day, our goal is to keep our audience happy, and to give them the content that they want. Modern web analytics allows us to do that.

Some of the stories that have proved popular are on big companies that everyone knows, anything on the Internet in China, and any anything on commodities. If you write about gold or oil, the Internet just goes crazy. These are the kinds of things that people find interesting.

Online communities are ever more important. What’s your approach to social media?

We put our work out on all of them, including Twitter and Facebook, as they both have reach and it would not make sense not to use them. Again, it’s about reaching as many people as possible. If you’ve worked hard on a story, why not share it with as many people as possible.

What 2015–’16 Japan and Asia stories excite you?

Well, there is no lack of stories in Asia. Just looking at Japan—everyone is looking at Abenomics. We have China’s rebalancing; we are looking at how South Korea will manage an economy sandwiched between high-tech Japan and low-cost China. How will Australia navigate multi-decade low commodity prices?

There are great corporate stories out there, such as the restructuring of Samsung. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is another. Southeast Asia—including Indonesia, with its massive market, which makes for many good stories—and how it fits into the picture is yet another.

How do you view market sentiment in Japan and Asia?

A good way to gauge market sentiment, actually, would be to read our content and consider the people we speak to. Obviously, China is the big issue, given it’s such an important part of the global economy now.

[But] can they stabilize growth? At what pace is progress [being made] to rebalance their economy? Abenomics: Will it gain traction? Will it raise both inflation and growth?

How do countries like Vietnam benefit from the TPP? The other elephant in the room is the first FED interest rate hike. This has been looming out there, and I think people just want a bit of certainty on that issue.

Are you optimistic about the future?
We are, naturally. We would not be here if we were not optimistic about growing our business in this part of the world.

We have a great heritage; we have a great brand that people trust and find credible; and we are taking that and opening it up to new markets, while innovating and trying new things.

So yes, I’m very optimistic.


We don’t just report the news; we also provide an opinion