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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Big Financial Websites Jockey For Wampum


The largest financial websites in the country are fighting for traffic as more advertisers of luxury goods look to them for customers. Discount brokers and mutual funds already pay them a king's ransom for their upscale audiences. Sites like MarketWatch are adding premium ads from products like Skyy Vodka to run alongside Charles Schwab.

According to Comscore, the top financial news sites are fairly close to one another in size, which raises the issue if whether any of them can add features that might push one ahead of the pack.

In October, MSN Money was in the lead position with 10.9 million unique visitors. This was a big tumble from the same month a year ago, a drop of 9% year-over-year. Next on the list is Yahoo!Finance with 10.8 million unique visitors, up 16% from the same month last year. AOL Money & Finance was slightly lower at 10.6 million, an increase of a very healthy 19% over October of last year.

After the internet portals, the figures start to fall off. Dow Jones has 5.9 million unique visitors, down a sharp 19%. Forbes performed even worse. Its visitors dropped 22% to 5.1 million. CNN Money also had an audience of 5.1 million, off 13% from last year. Reuters rose 10% to 3.5 million unique visitors. BankRate was down 3% to 2.9 million. BusinessWeek rose 84% to 2.7 million. Someone at McGraw-Hill must be getting a raise.

For the largest websites, the problem is offering features that the others don't have. It my be why their audiences are so close together. All offer headlines from Reuters, AP, and other news services. All have charts and quotes. All have company profiles. And, all have personal finance sections and areas to cover bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.

At the next tier, investors find more differences. Sites like BusinessWeek and Forbes have a lot of content that is written specifically for their readers. So does CNN Money.

One would imagine that the people running these properties are looking for an edge that would put one of them well ahead. The idea that one site could have 15 million unique visitors is not farfetched. If it comes up with a set of features that are not duplicated easily somewhere else.

The search for a better mousetrap.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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