What The Street Tells About the Future of Online News

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Jim Cramer, one of the founders of The Street (NASDAQ: TST), recently said the company is in turmoil. The firm, best known for its online financial site, has just replaced its CEO and its editor. Those changes will not matter. The Street has been unable to successfully diversify beyond its old-line advertising and paid newsletter businesses. Neither has it been able to move from under Cramer’s big shadow.

As The Street has made little progress over the past five years, it has been flanked by new age media companies. Seeking Alpha and Business Insider are nearly as large at The Street in terms of audience. Seeking Alpha is a roll up of blogs, much like the Huffington Post was early in its history. Business Insider is a riot of content, ranging from well-researched and incisive articles to stories illustrated by nearly naked women and ones based rumors that are sometimes not sourced as they ought to be. There is a lesson in the success of both. Neither was built on traditional journalism standards. They did not mimic The Street, nor MarketWatch, Barron’s or Fortune.

The Street has held to the belief that a newsletter service constructed on an old industry model and an advertising business that is part of a troubled sector of the Internet are still permanent ways to grow and make money. Recent events in its industry prove otherwise. So do the financial losses at The Street. Seeking Alpha and Business Insider were born from risky innovation. A lot of other content sites tried to rush The Street and fell short. Even those failures had some lessons, and the two sites that have grown rapidly certainly do. But, despite this, The Street has barely changed in a decade, and that has begun to be its undoing.

Douglas A. McIntyre
(one of the editors of 24/7 Wall St., and a member of the board of The Street from 2000 to 2005)

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