INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MEDIA: HOW TO NET EXECUTIVES - From the Financial Times to CNN to The Wall Street Journal, there are plenty of news sites to tempt business people. Robert Gray checks out what’s on offer

By ROBERT GRAY, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 October 1999 12:00AM

Early next year should see the launch of TheStreet.com, the UK version of the US financial news website. Against this background, there have been persistent rumours that a couple of Financial Times journalists are planning to break away and start a business news website of their own - a possibility denied by the newspaper which, in the shape of FT.com, already has its own well-established online site.

Early next year should see the launch of TheStreet.com, the UK

version of the US financial news website. Against this background, there

have been persistent rumours that a couple of Financial Times

journalists are planning to break away and start a business news website

of their own - a possibility denied by the newspaper which, in the shape

of FT.com, already has its own well-established online site.



There is no doubt that this sector is highly competitive and becoming

ever more so. Most of the leading players in financial print and

broadcast media have extended their brands on to the internet for

several compelling reasons. First, the global nature of the net means it

offers them the chance to reach audiences who might not otherwise have

easy access to their products.



The second factor is more specific to what they are offering. Website

content can be updated throughout the day, giving investors prompt

access to business and financial information. This is clearly a very

attractive proposition for investors, as receiving news swiftly could be

the difference between them losing or making money.



It also appears an attractive option for media owners. The research

company, Forrester, has estimated that the market for web delivery of

business information will be worth dollars 11 billion by 2004.



In their efforts to cut themselves a piece of this action, however,

different media owners are offering different models. The Dow

Jones-owned Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition charges a

subscription while most of the content on FT.com is free.



’We don’t believe there’s any future for the subscription model for

content sites,’ FT.com’s marketing communications director, Paul

Waddington, says.


’More and more news content is being made available on the web and

there’s a finite market of people prepared to pay relatively small

amounts to access this. The two types of content people will pay for on

the web are very high quality market research and pornography.’



For these reasons, FT.com has been reducing the amount of content for

which it makes charges and has adopted a business model based on

advertising and sponsorship revenue. Due to its clearly defined and

affluent audience, it has been one of the big successes at attracting

advertisers among content sites. Advertising revenue for 1999 is on

course to reach pounds 6 million by the year-end.



However, the Wall Street Journal Interactive’s vice-president and

editor, Neil Budde, takes issue with Waddington’s assertion that there

is no future in the subscription model. ’Our view is that we’ve shown

people are willing to pay for it. If we deliver a site that has value

and depth of information, they’ll go for that. It’s up to us to make

sure we can get people to adopt a regular habit of usage,’ he says.



There is evidence to suggest that Wall Street Journal Interactive is on

the way to achieving that aim. Its most recent subscriber survey found

daily usage had increased from 40 per cent to 56 per cent.



Another finding from its research, and one of interest to advertisers,

was that among those users who researched products online, 88 per cent

made an online purchase. Clearly its subscribers are increasingly active

online buyers.



Intriguingly, Dow Jones has its own business information website,

dowjones.com, and is also involved with the website for the business

television network, CNBC. The former has more of a focus on providing

information that helps business people do their jobs, Budde says, while

the latter is designed in part to help promote the TV service.



’Just as on the newsstands there are plenty of publications covering

business, there is plenty of room on the web for sites covering

different aspects of business and finance,’ Budde adds.



It’s a good job because there is already a lot of competition out

there.



Magazines such as Fortune, Forbes and The Economist have all set up

content sites that draw heavily from the pages of their printed

publications.



Broadcasters have also entered the fray. Aside from CNBC, CNN and CBS

have both established websites, cnnfn.com and cbs.marketwatch.com, that

carry the latest financial news.



Finally, as one would expect, the traditional financial information

suppliers are also ensuring that they are not being left behind. Reuters

is investing heavily in the web as is Bloomberg, which last year also

launched a print magazine, Bloomberg Money. Bloomberg’s site is targeted

at the individual investor but is fed by information from the

professional services division of the company that specialises in dealer

and fund management information.



The site can be accessed by anyone but there is a subscription-only

element offering portfolio management tools. Advertisers include Mercury

Asset Management, Lexus, Barclays Stockbrokers, Bank of Ireland, France

Telecom and AMD Technology.



There was some concern among media owners that their activity on the web

might damage their print or broadcast products, but for the moment this

does not appear to be the case. Most claim that their web activity is

helping to attract a new audience.



The Economist’s executive editor, Anthony Gottlieb, says the magazine’s

website is stimulating 500 new print sales a month. So far, The

Economist has not gone for the regular online updating of financial

information that some of its rivals have done, but it is in talks with a

newswire provider and is planning to increase its investment in the

web.



’The internet will not abolish the need for weeklies because it does not

abolish the week,’ Gottlieb says. ’But we will offer more online-only

content and there is no reason why that should come out at the same time

as the printed paper.’



Looking across the board at the leading financial websites, one has to

say the quality is pretty good.



While they lack some of the whizzy gimmicks of consumer sites, layouts

are crisp, they are packed with useful information and navigation is

generally straightforward. This, one suspects, must be exactly what

time-pressed business users want.



Encouragingly, quality looks like it will improve further still as media

owners continue to invest heavily in new media. The following are four

on-line highlights of news sites for international business people.



FT.com



The strategy for FT.com is for it to be ’open so as to attract as many

people as possible’. This appears to be working: in August, it achieved

650,000 unique visits and 13 million page impressions.



As it is charging for little of the information contained on the site,

the majority of its revenue is generated by advertising. This is on

course to hit the pounds 6 million mark for 1999. Key advertisers

include IBM, Charles Schwab, Intel, Ericsson, Bank of New York, Nokia

and State Street Bank.



The site is targeted at world business users who need information and

business resources of a ’genuinely global, non US-centric’ nature.

According to the company: ’The typical FT.com user works as a senior

manager for a large international technology company. Aged 36, he’s

globally mobile, travels frequently on business between London, New York

and Santa Clara. Working as part of a globally dispersed team, he

communicates with colleagues in different time zones via e-mail, as well

as relying on the web to find everything from general business news and

stock prices to toys for his nieces and nephews and books and CDs for

himself.’



The Financial Times also has a personal finance website under

development.



The Wall Street Journal Interactive



Launched in April 1996, the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition had

(at May 1999) 306,000 paid subscribers - making it, say its owners, the

largest commercial content site on the web. Its audience fits a younger

demographic than the print edition as nearly two-thirds of the online

version’s subscribers do not subscribe to the print version.



It is positioned as appealing to those who need or want business or

financial news from around the world at real-time speed. It also offers

fast access to relevant in-depth background information. About 90 per

cent of subscribers are based in the US, but the Interactive Edition is

stepping up its expansion in Europe.



The subscription price is dollars 59 per annum, reduced to dollars 29

for subscribers to The Wall Street Journal.



Revenue is split almost 50:50 between subscription fees and

advertising.



Dow Jones is predicting that the venture will become profitable next

year.



It has more than 60 dedicated reporters and editors, on top of which it

can draw on material generated by the print edition and from Dow Jones

newswire reporters.



Research among subscribers found 70 per cent noticed the banner

advertising on the site and that 17 per cent made a purchase after

seeing a banner ad.



Front pages are tailored to reflect local news. Access to the global

front page is at http://www.wsj.com in the US, http://www.wsje.com in

Europe, http://www.awsj.com in Asia, and http://www.interactivo.wsj.com

in Latin America.



CNNfn



An accompaniment to the US financial news TV channel of the same name

founded by the broadcaster four years ago, the website at cnnfn.com can

also be accessed easily through cnn.com, the main CNN news website. Most

of the website audience is US-based but it is increasing its

international reach.



It serves up more than a billion page impressions a year and attracts

two million unique users a month, as well as a slew of financial and

technology advertisers. Advertising accounts for the majority of the

site’s revenue.



There are 50 staff, two-thirds of whom are editorial. But the site can

also rely on news fed through from its sister TV network and elsewhere

in CNN.



’Everything we offer is free,’ CNNfn’s general manager and

editor-in-chief, Scott Woelfel, says. ’We haven’t ruled out doing

something that’s subscription-based in the future but as yet we haven’t

worked out anything that’s compelling enough to make charges for.’



Intriguingly, Woelfel points out that, when there is a bull stock

market, viewing figures for the CNNfn TV network rise. But in a bear

market, TV station ratings fall and website traffic rises. It is not yet

clear whether this is just a coincidence.



CNBC



The business TV brand, CNBC, has three websites serving different parts

of the world: cnbc.com for the US, cnbceurope.



com for Europe and cnbcasia.com for Asia. Advertisers include Saab,

Philips, DHL, Sun Microsystems, Motorola, Airbus Industries, Singapore

Tourism Board and United Airlines.



The websites are positioned as an online extension of the CNBC business

news and information network. They are promoted on air to inform viewers

of new features and to increase traffic numbers to the benefit of CNBC’s

advertisers and promotional partners.



A lot of web advertising is integrated with on-air advertising.



Research has found that 89 per cent of CNBC Europe’s viewers are

connected to the internet. According to CNBC Europe’s marketing

director, Jane Gash, ’a more interactive and personalised’ version of

the site is being developed for launch in the first quarter of next

year.



Key site features include live news and weather updates, programming

information and schedules, distribution and reception details, a listing

of hotels across Europe that receive CNBC (and a booking facility for

those hotels direct from the site), and a guide to the CNBC financial

information ticker.



Gash says: ’Through our dot-com and regional television networks, which

are leaders in business television news, CNBC has the ability to offer

both regional and global marketing solutions through sponsorship and

advertising.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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