Why CNNMoney Matters

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CNNMoney is the 10th largest financial and business website in America, at least as audience measurement firm Comscore rates it. The site has 10.2 million unique visitors in July, which places it just behind Bloomberg and just ahead of CNBC.com, which recently signed a deal with Yahoo! Inc.’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) Yahoo! Finance that could improve the television network site’s audience standing.

CNNMoney has the distinction among large financial sites of being three sites and not one. Its own reporters and editors provide a portion of content, as do the editors of Fortune and Money. These two magazines do not have their own sites, but are part of the CNNMoney umbrella. Each of the three properties is a part of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX). Fortune and Money are part of the publishing division. None of the other large business and financial sites measured by Comscore have a similar make-up. Most others are the financial divisions of portals, like AOL (NYSE: AOL), or standalone properties with one content source, like Forbes or TheStreet Inc. (NASDAQ: TST).

CNNMoney’s success almost certainly draws from its arrangement as a three-legged stool. It can relay on the traditional business reporting from Fortune, and its company lists that include the Fortune 500. It can rely on Money for personal finance. Both Money and Fortune have relatively large editorial staffs because of their print products. These staffs and their production allow CNNMoney to have a lean staff of its own. And the CNNMoney audience and the advertising its draws helps to offset the financial trouble of the print versions of Money and Fortune. The relationships build a clever and effective balancing act.

CNNMoney may end up being the best model for future success in the financial website industry. CNBC and Yahoo! already have begun to move toward that set-up. News service sites that have their own huge staffs — Reuters and Bloomberg (which did buy BusinessWeek for almost nothing) — may never to do this. Their trading terminal bases financially support their news organizations.

Still left without partners are Forbes, which has traditionally competed with Fortune, TheStreet and IBTimes. None of these three is based on the alliances that other business sites have forged over recent years that create more efficiency in news gathering, infrastructure and sales.

The online finance website business is crowded enough as it is. Independence has become a disadvantage. A look at the benefits of the CNNMoney, Fortune and Money alliance is a proof of that.

Douglas A. McIntyre