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
(http://cbs.marketwatch.com/), 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 (http://www.consumerreports.org/)
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
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 (http://www.craigslist.org)
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.