Financial Websites See Ad Growth

by , Jul 24, 2002, 12:00 AM
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Despite a rocky time on Wall Street, some financial-information websites are seeing strong advertising gains.

TheStreet.com announced last week that advertising revenue jumped 74% to $1.2 million from the first to the second quarter. The Motley Fool has seen strong ad-revenue growth over the past six months. And CBSMarketWatch.com has seen success with a number of initiatives, including a new opening.

Executives at TheStreet.com attributed the quarterly jump to internal initiatives that started paying off. Those initiatives started by going back to the basics of advertising and client relations, said Robert A. Verrico, SVP/Advertising and Sponsorship. Verrico joined TheStreet.com earlier this year.

Verrico said TheStreet.com hits an upper-level demographic, with household incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 or more, 88% male. Beyond the traditional financial-services sector, Verrico said increased efforts were made in the categories of luxury goods like automobiles and travel, preventive health and diet and technology. The latter category was spotlighted because 40% of TheStreet.com’s regulars are decision makers in technology at their companies.

There are similar demographics at CBSMarketWatch.com, which also has seen success with several new initiatives. EVP/Sales and Marketing Scot McLernon said one such effort, an eight-second message that greets visitors to the site, was introduced at the end of the first quarter and has been a hit with advertisers.

“The eight-second message has really appealed to branded non-endemic categories” like beverages, telecom, packaged goods, sporting goods and automobiles, McLernon said. “They’ve really embraced this.” McLernon said it isn’t surprising that MarketWatch has been successful in the financial category but there’s been “a very nice pulse in a lot of the non-endemic categories too.”

MarketWatch has also been successful in other efforts, including reaching out to other publishers like the At-Work Brand Network advertising consortium and a new focus on integrated media that combines content on MarketWatch’s radio, TV and interactive media.

“There are a lot of optimistic signs,” McLernon said.

The Motley Fool has also seen increased ad revenues, both on its website and its sponsored email newsletters. Ad revenues on the site are up 64% over the same period a year ago. Email sponsorships were up 150% in June compared to January. Ted Ryan, VP/Advertising Sales, said The Motley Fool’s bedrock businesses are strong.

Motley Fool spokeswoman Jamie Patten said conventional wisdom has pronounced it a hard year for financial websites, but that it isn’t the case.

“Advertisers are coming back to the Internet media,” Patten said. “It’s still the easiest to track, easiest to target and gets the greatest results for the dollar.”

Patten said Wall Street’s troubles actually help The Motley Fool, which builds its site around the individual investor. She said its independence – and its broad content on personal finance – gives it strong customer and advertiser appeal.

“Advertisers look at us, look at our brand and the trust that we’ve generated with our customers, and say, ‘This is where we want to be,’” Patten said. The site has 5 million registered users.

And another site, Hoover’s Online, said advertising revenues have held flat, not seeing much change.

“We haven’t seen a lot of market indicators that it’s going to pick up anytime soon,” said Joe McWilliams, VP/Advertising Sales at Hoover’s Online.

But not every financial website accepts advertising. Economy.com got rid of its advertising when it became a subscriber site last December. Senior product manager David Pogemiller said it didn’t seem right to have intrusive ads pop up on customers who were paying for unfettered access to the site.

Pogemiller said there’s been talk around the company about re-instituting advertising, although it would have to be the right kinds of ads.

“We’re not going to force our subscribers to use pop-ups,” Pogemiller said. “It’s almost as if they’re paying to be annoyed.” The company has discussed advertising, although nothing is imminent. “We haven’t taken a close look at it,” he said. Pogemiller declined to release how many subscribers economy.com had, although he said that the company has been happy with the results since the conversion to a premium service.

Hoover’s also frowns on intrusive ads for its customers, reserving most of the pop-ups and pop-unders for the small portion of the site that is free.

“We try to keep that away from our subscribers,” McWilliams said. Hoover’s Online has been a subscriber service since 1995.

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