INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/Will advertisers trust the electronic market?; Financial media brands battle to reach a dream audience

Electronic businesses are set to take an increasing share of advertising cash. Report by Michele Martin

Electronic businesses are set to take an increasing share of advertising

cash. Report by Michele Martin

There is a dream audience for interactive advertisers - young affluent

business people who are early adopters, either through personal choice

or work.

So it’s hardly surprising that the battle has begun among the UK’s

electronic media brands to prove that they can deliver this audience to


Last month Reuters went on the the offensive, claiming that it carries

‘more advertising than any other electronic medium’, while business

publishers on the Net are going through a flurry of relaunches,

spearheaded by the Economist, the Financial Times and the Wall Street

Journal. Hardly surprising, perhaps, when research commissioned by CNN

International last year revealed that 16 per cent of European business

people and 23 per cent in the UK are online.

The jostling is a sign of an immature market getting its act together in

the realisation that the next 18 months will reveal the main players and

spotlight the full potential of interactive business media.

The electronic business sector falls into two main categories. First are

closed systems, represented by Reuters and Bloomberg, which primarily

supply live data to City firms and financial companies on private

terminals without Internet access.

These offer advertisers small, targeted audiences, mainly in London and

the South-east, through special leisure pages, such as Reuters’

Cityscreen and Bloomberg’s Magazine. Reuters offers text-only sites to

advertisers, while Bloomberg offers graphics, but full interaction with

either is only possible if the advertiser has a terminal.

The second and most significant medium is the Internet. As indicated by

the number of recent and imminent site relaunches, quality has been

patchy to date, but is improving fast. Publishers are tightening up on

registration in an effort to improve audience data - a move which,

combined with international reach and the chance to use graphics, has

started to tempt advertisers.

On the face of it, the closed systems appear to be faring best in the

war for mainstream consumer advertisers. Cityscreen has lured names such

as Heineken to its rugby coverage and Dunhill to its golf pages.

Non-business advertisers have been slower to use financial sites. The

FT’s site is currently devoid of popular consumer brands and most CNN

advertisers have opted for the main site rather than the financial site,


The reasons for the rush to use closed systems are numerous and do not

necessarily indicate the state of the broader interactive business

market. Reuters and Bloomberg have proved popular because they are

cheap, localised marketing tools, delivering a highly desirable


Neil Morgan, the managing director of Cityscreen, says: ‘People who use

us most effectively use us as a direct marketing tool.’

Nor can the systems be called truly interactive. A recent competition on

Cityscreen drew 60 telephone responses, 40 faxes and just four e-mails,

prompting Morgan to say: ‘City men don’t see themselves as typists.’

Both factors reveal that closed systems and Net sites are actually very

different animals that only bear comparison because of the immaturity of

the Internet, which cannot yet deliver the details of audience sizes and

profiles that its competitor can.

But that will change very quickly, according to Tony Blin-Stoyle, the

planning director of FT Media. ‘Once the coding and registration of Net

users is well-established, advertisers will be able to focus their

messages just as closely as closed systems can now,’ he says.

When Net sites are able to offer the same targeting as closed systems,

it follows that they should be able to attract advertisers in a similar

way, too.

There seem few detractors from this theory, with the Internet

consultancy, Intervid, predicting that the value of total Internet

advertising will increase from an estimated dollars 100 million in 1996

to dollars 500-600 million in 1997. Certainly the industry is bullish.

Dan Stone, the senior vice-president of Turner Interactive Marketing and

Sales, says: ‘We see a very broad application for our sites with both

consumer and business goods.’

As Net sites become more sophisticated and closed terminals become

better at selling what they are good at, the likelihood is that both

will attract a bigger share of the advertising pie.

At the moment, the fight for sector market share seems gentlemanly.

‘There will always be a role for the Bloomberg and Reuters of this world

and for now we are quite happy to live together,’ concludes Stone -

revealing, perhaps, that the dominant partner in this particular

relationship can afford to be magnanimous. For now, at least.

The main Business players


Description: Closed system, real-time financial/business information

service. Ads on Cityscreen pages.

Audience: 40,000 in the UK.

Ad cost: pounds 475 per page, per week.

Current advertisers: Include Dunhill, Majestic Wines and Tesco.


Description: Closed system, real-time financial/business information

service. Advertising on Bloomberg magazine pages.

Audience: 8,000 terminals in the UK.

Ad cost: dollars 13,200 per page, per month.

Current advertisers: Include Cathay Pacific, BMW, IBM.

The Financial Times

Description: Enhanced newspaper Website (

Audience: 300,000 hits per week.

Ad cost: pounds 5,000 per month

Current advertisers: Flemings, Global Asset Management.


Description: Runs three Websites: CNN, AllPolitics with Time magazine,

and financial specialist, CNNfn. (

Audience: CNNfn generates up to two million page views per week.

Ad cost: dollars 10,000-dollars 35,000 a month.

Current advertisers: Fidelity Asset Management, Sprint and AT&T.

Wall Street Journal

Description: Enhanced newspaper Website. Soon to be relaunched as Wall

Street Journal Interactive Edition. (

Audience: 325,000 registered users.

Ad cost: dollars 10,000-dollars 20,000 a month.

Current advertisers: Wells Fargo, Fidelity Asset Management.