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Summary:

People today want news to come in shorter packages that are easy to read on the go. Seeking Alpha, a popular investors site, hopes apps will give it “mind share in mobile.”

Seeking Alpha screenshot logo

Seeking Alpha, an investor site that relies on “crowd sourced financial journalism,” is making a big push for the mobile market with a series of financial news apps. The apps, which cover verticals like tech, ETF’s and energy, provide on-the-go news for the growing number of people who use their smartphone to catch up on the bus or in a Starbucks line.

While there’s nothing earth-shaking about a financial news app (Bloomberg, TheStreet and others are in the game too), Seeking Alpha is worth watching because of its mobile strategy and the unusual model that drives its content curation — the articles are churned out primarily by investors rather than professional journalists.

According to founder David Jackson, the article pays $500 for an article that affects a major stock and $150 in the case of a small cap one. Other contributors receive smaller amounts based on how many people see the article. Jackson said by phone last week that the site paid out $800,000 to writers in Q1 of this year, while also “weeding out” list-based content.

From a strategic standpoint, Seeking Alpha isn’t trying to make money directly from the apps but hopes instead that the apps will juice sales of the site’s premium product.

“It’s a huge opportunity to take mind share in mobile. We can give away the content for free because the marginal cost to us is zero.”

The mobile content itself is a stream of one paragraph news summaries, a list of sector headlines and a portfolio page with stories tied to specific stock symbols. The fare doesn’t compete with “Angry Bonds” and other offerings from Bloomberg, which has its own app store, but is likely to prove a “good enough” solution for many investors.

Seeking Alpha’s push into mobile content comes at a time that  startups like Summly and Circa that aspire to make reading more efficient.

Jackson said Seeking Alpha, which is owned by three VC firms, has 110 employees but would not divulge information about revenue or profitability.

  1. Why would you ever listen to anything from seeking alpha?! You could get better information from a flying pig!

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  2. Thanks for the nice write-up, some quick data not mentioned in the article:
    - More than 1 million people have already signed up to get real-time alerts on our mobile-friendly short-form news product (Market Currents).
    - App usage is a rapidly growing part of this with 100,000s of app downloads and 70,000 people are now actively using our apps every weekday (up 100% in the last 4 months and growing!).
    - These users are able to set up a portfolio to create their own filtered view of the 400-500 unique news & opinion pieces we publish every day.
    - Our suite of apps spans both Android and iOS, you can see more about them and links to download them at http://seekingalpha.com/page/sa-mobile-apps.

    If you have any questions or feedback for us, please contact us at apps@seekingalpha.com.

    Best wishes

    Avrom Gilbert – Seeking Alpha

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  3. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the great article. I just wanted to clarify our positining vis a vis Bloomberg, as you mentioned it in the article.

    The core of Seeking Alpha’s apps is a stream of real-time news summaries. Because we operate in financial markets, the speed, breadth and depth of our news coverage has to be outstanding. Our news product competes with Factset’s StreetAccount and Bloomberg’s FirstWord, with the difference that Factset costs thousands of $$ per year per subscriber, and Bloomberg FirstWord is only available to Bloomberg terminal subscribers ($1,800 per month). Seeking Alpha is providing an institutional-grade product for free.

    As Avrom said in his comment above, we have over 1.1 million subscribers to this via email alert, but the biggest growth is in mobile.

    The apps also provide access to articles by Seeking Alpha’s 7,500 contributors. Answering Ashraf’s question above, the reason why 600,000 to 800,000 use Seeking Alpha every day is because these articles are now viewed by the buy side as critical for their research, and they move stocks.

    Case in point from yesterday: http://seekingalpha.com/currents/post/1153772

    Thanks again for a great article,
    David Jackson

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  4. Warren Wright Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Excellent apps and support. I use them
    several times a day. Support from Adam
    is wonderful, could not ask for more .
    Great articles

    Warren Wright

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  5. Wanted to add more detail about how we’re thinking about monetization of the apps:

    Our approach is to optimize for user experience, and monetize only in ways that at the least maintain a great user experience, and ideally actually add to the user experience. We then use our revenue to pay our contributors. This has been highly successful, and has resulted in Seeking Alpha being the highest paying contributor content model.

    Current ways to monetize apps aren’t great for users, so we’ve decided to avoid monetization for now. But eventually ways to monetize that are good for users will emerge, and when that happens our revenue will increase, increasing the amounts we can pay contributors.

    As the article mentions, we do have a subscription product for investment professionals. Seeking Alpha Pro costs $250 / month and gives subscribers an early look at the most compelling long and short ideas on Seeking Alpha. Pro subscribers also get access to our Small-cap Insight articles, which are closed to other readers after 30 days. We’re seeing rapid growth in our paying subscriber base (we don’t want to give out numbers for competitive reasons). Introduction of our Pro product has allowed us to meaningfully increase payments to our best contributors.

    But I’m not convinced that upselling users to Premium services will be the best way to monetize the apps. We’ll wait and see.

    In the meantime, the apps (Seeking Alpha portfolio, Tech Investor, Energy Investor, ETF Investor and Dividend Investor) are entirely ad-free – a fantastic user experience compared to what else is out there.

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