US Report: Fee-based finance sites on a roll

The steady progress of some fee-based online financial news suggests that if there's one thing Netizens are willing to pay for, it's investment advice, according to officials from some of the most successful finance sites.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

TheStreet.com, which offers news and commentary on stocks, funds, market trends and international market developments, has 14,500 paid subscriptions, with new subscribers being added at a rate of about 20 percent per month, even at a price of $100 per year.

Officials claim another 13,000 subscribers are in the midst of two-week free trial subscriptions, and an average of 100 trial readers are signing up for paid subscriptions each day.

The site's co-founder, James Cramer, said its mission is to serve individual investors and securities industry professionals better than "the dead-tree boys" in established financial publications by offering "accurate, timely information, on-scene battlefield reports and money-making ideas". All of these are delivered more effectively on the Web than in any other medium, and are a proven revenue source in the online and offline world, he added.

As Wall Street Journal executives celebrated the second anniversary last week of the Wall Street Journal Interactive Web site, they took note of an encouraging statistic: of the site's 200,000 paying subscribers, only a third are subscribers to the print edition, said Tom Baker, the site's

business director. (Pricing is $49 per year for those who don't subscribe to the newspaper and $29 for those with print subscriptions.)

That means not only can the company leverage its relationships with print readers to build its online subscriber base, but also the Wall Street Journal brand is developing a whole new readership, one more in tune with bits and bytes than soybean futures, he said.

This is undoubtedly good news for the publication's advertisers, who Wall Street Journal officials hope will find a wealth of opportunity in an online readership which is, on average, 42 years old (as compared to 52 years old for the print edition) with a median household income of $120,000. Some 85 percent of the readers of both the print and online editions are men, but that's likely to change as time goes on, Baker said.

Asked what else is likely to change as the site evolves, Baker said a concerted effort will be made to cover international markets more closely.

"We endlessly debate issues of format redesign and tweaking the content," he said. "Right now, 10 percent of our subscribers come from outside the U.S., with no special effort from us to reach out to those readers, so we'll be paying more attention to overseas readers."

The site has Spanish and Portuguese language versions now, and other foreign language editions are likely, he said, but added that a time frame has not yet been set for rolling them out.

Also vying for financial news-oriented readers is Business Week Online, which last month began charging a $43 annual fee for access to parts of its Web site.

But finance sites aren't the only ones attracting subscribers, although progress has been much slower outside the Wall Street space.

Microsoft's online magazine Slate, after six weeks of charging $20 for a yearly subscription, has more than 20,000 users signed up, according to publisher Rogers Weed. Although Slate's traffic was closer to 150,000 monthly readers when all its content was free, the 20,000 figure is on target with where officials expected it to be at this stage, Weed said.

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