I've had a pair of weeks now to digest the changes at both Barron's and The Wall Street Journal. The two Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ) financial publications went in for cosmetic makeovers earlier this month.

My initial reaction was that each paper was now perfectly square (once you have the Journal folded in half, in its natural state). They are perfectly symmetrical on that front. Take that monotony and like it, recycle bin!

Are consumers getting cheated? Barron's is reducing its word count by 10% and moving some of the less popular market data to its free online site. It doesn't feel all that different, though. The Journal feels a little lighter, but I'm finding myself reading it more as the articles seem to be packing more timely substance and are loaded with actionable conclusions.

Both papers are more colorful, too.

In the spirit of actionable conclusions, this doesn't mean that I'm running off to buy shares of Dow Jones. The print world is being challenged, and even the market-driven Dow Jones had to announce layoffs in its enterprise media division last week. Yes, Dow Jones also owns the popular MarketWatch site, but its WSJ.com and Barrons.com sites are still mostly walled gardens for premium subscribers.

That could be a mistake. NYSE Group (NYSE:NYX) is looking to sell real-time quotes to free financial sites. Most online brokers offer a plethora of research material. The active investor portals like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) MSN Money, and its own MarketWatch site offer a wide range of ticker-driven content.

Cynics can argue that consumers get what they pay for, yet that no longer applies in the ad-supported free site model. I don't mind the new shape of the company's physical publications, but do yourself a favor, Dow Jones, and don't try to be a square online.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still loves to read the paper in the morning, even if it usually means affirming what he had unearthed online a day earlier. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.