Competition for the Business News Reader Intensifies
First published at Outsell, March 12, 2010
Important Details: In 2010, we foresee lots of competition for the digital news reader, with everyone from national start-ups to hyperlocal upstarts aiming for attention. It is the business news reader, though, that may be drawing the most intensive attention. That attention is coming mostly from large, increasingly global news purveyors, all sensing the same opportunity. Business-reader-oriented advertising still fetches among the higher effective cost per thousand rates in the industry, especially as companies narrow their targeting to business niches. In addition, readers and/or the companies for whom they work are more likely to pay for the news and information itself, providing another revenue stream.
Just since the first of the year, we see these marketplace moves:
- Dow Jones bought the half of SmartMoney magazine that it didn’t own before, price undisclosed, from Hearst. SmartMoney was launched as a 50/50 joint venture in 1992. Its circulation has dropped to about 800,000 monthly, with some deep discounting; ad pages were down 23% in 2009. Dow Jones gets another personal finance weapon, solely for its own use, as it expands its reach in its consumer arsenal. For its part, Hearst takes a payment and moves on; Hearst Business Media, under Richard Malloch’s savvy leadership, has seen double-digit revenue growth last year from its 20 business units (see Insights 25 April 2008, Plotting a Course to the Workflow, Hearst Business Media Acquires Map of Medicine). Dow Jones’ Wall Street Journal has launched Digits, a new daily web broadcast, utilizing the synergy of diverse business news holdings, as it leverages personalities from the Journal, Barron’s, All Things Digital, Dow Jones Newswires and Fox Business Network. Finally, the company’s Marketwatch — a free business news website – has begun adding to its subscription newsletters, launching Revolution Investing and planning to extend Mark Hulbert’s newsletter franchise.
- Reuters has just hired the Financial Times managing editor Chrystia Freeland to be Global Editor at Large. The company says that its new re-designed US website — one aiming most directly at the business news reader — has so far pushed time on site up 25%. The US site is a test bed for other top Reuters sites in UK, Europe and Asia. In addition, the company’s Reuters Insider, a video-based financial news site, will officially launch in Q2.
- The FT — now the emerging poster child for paid content “metering” models – signs up Paypal to provide a pay-per-view alternative for payment, to its already successful subscription programs.
- Bloomberg launches an ad campaign, promising to “reinvent the business magazine”, and its unveiling of the new Bloomberg Business Week, bought for a pittance during the recession, goes forward on April 23. The company also closes on its acquisition of Eagle Eye publishers, a government-oriented data firm, as it sculpts its new Bgov strategy (see Insights 11 March 2010, Bloomberg Moving Further Afield With Acquisition and New Government Information Business).
Implications: As companies come out of their recession-era bunkers, they’re looking for areas that will produce the most bang for a few bucks of investment. That roadmap for many companies now points to the global business reader, the investor, the savvy consumer. Even paid content experimentation is built on the experience of two business news publishers, the FT and the Journal.
Outsell believes that the push in business news shows several key trends in the marketplace:
- Niching. Beefing up “news” in general is out; targeting select readers is where investment is going.
- The action is greatest among the Digital Dozen, the term I’ve originated to describe top globally-oriented news concerns, those that seek to profit from almost-free internet distribution, leveraging costs across a variety of products, platforms and brands.
- Business models are, reliably, two-fold, focusing both on reader (or company) payment for content and advertising.
How transferable digital business news journalism is to other topics, including health, travel and entertainment, is uncertain at this juncture. The digital business news push, though, in text and in video, will gain momentum this year and next, with a handful of victors dominating the market.