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Give The Readers What They Want,
and They Will Come

By Heather Somers

The editorial leaders of three very different Web sites shared ideas about how to make money online without upsetting the reader or the editorial balance.

Neil Chase, the managing editor of CBS MarketWatch, told the seminar participants that the key for his site was to reach highly valued users at work.

“The Web is the only way to reach employed people during the day,” Chase said, adding that this message had worked well in generating ad sales. He said that many of the people who come to CBS MarketWatch are the highly sought-after upper-income individuals—people with influence—or as he called them, the “C-levels: CEO, CFO, CIO, et cetera.” The site requires registration so this vital demographic information is easily harvested for advertising purposes.

For Consumer Reports the focus is on selling the content, since it does not accept ads.

And for the social networking site Tribe Networks, Mark Pincus, its founder and CEO, said, “paid leads”—where a company or individual pays to make a valuable personal or professional connection—is the key to making money on the Net.

The panelists all agreed that to attract money to a site, it must give users something special or useful. At CBS MarketWatch (, editors aim to be “the place Wall Street gets news during the day,” said Chase. “Why would you want to see yesterday’s stock price [in the newspaper]?” His site also doesn’t allow ads that interrupt the reader. The main emphasis, he said, is always on the editorial content.

Consumer Reports ( says its emphasis is on finding creative ways to integrate print and online content. Michelle Rutkowski, the marketing director for Consumers Union, laid out the four principles for a “winning business model”:

  • Focus on customers
  • Provide a unique and useful product
  • Extend your brand
  • Build upon your already-successful business model

Rutkowski said that one problem her publication faces is that it can’t use splashy brochures or mailers in its marketing.

“Pretty doesn’t work for us,” she said. “No one would know it was Consumer Reports. We have to be straightforward.”

Tribe’s focus, said Pincus, is on the local classified market. He said that what sets Tribe apart from other P2P or database sites, like Monster, is its combination of classifieds with a trusted identity. “Tribe is more like a referral system,” he said.

Chase said the typical CBC MarketWatch reader ranges from the grandmother who has held onto the stock her father left her 50 years ago, to the active Wall Street trader. Because the audience is so varied, Chase said, the site has remained free.

“Where do you go after you’ve read the newspaper? You need to look for that information and figure out where people go for that information,” Chase said.

He added that his site is looking into adding paid content by creating specialized newsletters that go far beyond daily reports and offer financial research

Rutkowski, of Consumer Reports, said that anecdotal evidence indicates that many of her site’s subscribers are the children of longtime print subscribers. She characterized the site’s typical reader as someone in the process of a major lifestyle change, such as buying a house or car, or having a baby.

The site has some free sections, but to view magazine content, get product ratings or see the car database a subscription is required. “We try to use the Web to channel people into the magazine,” Rutkowski said. “It’s harder to sell online to print subscribers.”

Tribe, which boasts 150,000 registered users and 250,000 unique monthly visitors, is striving to become the community classified marketplace, Pincus said. He added that the site has entered into partnerships with Knight Ridder and the Washington Post.

“It will be interesting to see how you grab onto the free, wild Craigslist ( stuff with the reputation of a paper,” Pincus said.

He said that Tribe would soon stop giving free ads and begin charging.

In the end, the panelists agreed that setting content apart from the pack and giving the user something special was the common goal they all shared.

Resources from Neil Chase:
View video of Neil Chase's presentation (30 minutes)

Resources from Michelle Rutkowski:
Watch the video of Rutkowski's speech (30 minutes)

Michelle Rutkowski's PowerPoint

Resources from Mark Pincus:
Watch video of Pincus' speech (16 minutes)

Mark Pincus' PowerPoint

Other Resources:

Watch the Q&A with all three speakers (10 minutes)

CBS MarketWatch

Consumer Reports

Tribe Networks


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