MarketWatch Deal Seen As Giving Journal Advertisers New Reach

Just last week, CBS MarketWatch and Dow Jones were battling it out for the Web-surfing audience, with MarketWatch going so far as to run an online ad campaign emphasizing that content was always free on its site, in response to a Wall Street Journal Online ad campaign touting a free week on its normally paid-subscription site.

Although they used different pricing models, both financial sites had much in common. They each tend to draw predominantly high-income and investment-minded male consumers. The two sites also share some core advertisers--Todd Larsen, president of consumer electronic publishing for Dow Jones, estimated that around one-third of Dow Jones' top advertisers also took out ads on MarketWatch.

But, as of this Sunday, sales staff at the two sites no longer need to worry about competing for advertisers. That's because the former rivals agreed that Dow Jones would buy MarketWatch for $18 a share, or $519 billion--considerably more than the $400 billion estimate floated last month, when news of a possible sale broke.

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Of course, the sales team now has a host of new challenges--such as figuring out how and when to integrate advertising. And, while the answer is still emerging, it seems likely that one key change is that MarketWatch advertisers will have access to the Wall Street Journal's prestigious audience, while Dow Jones advertisers will greatly expand their reach.

MarketWatch boasts more than 5 million unique users a month--more than six times the number of paying subscribers at WSJ.com. Therefore, said Larsen, the deal is "creating a reach that's clearly far beyond what we've had with our own network."

Allen Weiner, research director at Gartner Inc., said he expects that Dow Jones will be able to combine the cachet of the Journal, with the sheer number of unique users of MarketWatch, to convince more marketers to take out ads. For instance, he said, some marketers who currently advertise in the print version of the Journal--such as those who sell higher-end travel, luxury automobiles, and expensive consumer goods--might now start buying online ads with Dow Jones.

Larsen said that Dow Jones intended to arrange for "very creative opportunities" for advertisers, but declined to elaborate.

Others, however, speculate that Dow Jones will offer packages that include not only WSJ.com and MarketWatch.com, but other Dow Jones properties, such as Barron's or the Dow Jones-Hearst joint venture Smart Money. Sarah Fay, president of Carat Interactive, said she expects both "more usage and more opportunity for advertisers in terms of package deals."

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