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With Ad Spend Down, Financial News Sites Turns To Subscriptions, Partnerships To Boost Revenue

Although financial news providers’ audience numbers have shot up markedly since the global economic crisis erupted this fall, that hasn’t reversed the downward slide of ad dollars. Now, more financial publishers are looking for a revenue boost from subscriptions, while those that already primarily rely on such fees are counting on partnerships to support rising audience demand for more content. Even premium products seem poised for growth as publishers seek to tap as many alternatives to the ad model as possible, an IHT piece suggests.

Surveying the burst of attraction financial content is getting from cable TV and website users — e.g.,’s uniques doubled to 40 million last month, while CNBC’s Q3 daytime viewership rose 26 percent — the IHT finds publishers like Financial Times’ parent Pearson (NYSE: PSO) continuing to emphasize reducing its reliance on advertisers, as it has for the past year. Currently, less than one-third of FT Group’s revenues now come from ad dollars. More after the jump.

Turning to subs, partners: Some of Pearson’s actions include raising newsstand rates and selling some of its ancillary European newspaper holdings. In the meantime, it began buying companies that rely mainly on subscription fees, like M&A analyst Mergermarket. But subscriptions can only take content companies so far — for companies like Thomson Reuters (NASDAQ: TRIN) and Bloomberg, that start by relying mostly on subscriptions, revenue sharing with partners is becoming more of a focus.

Broadening coverage areas: But with the severe contraction in the financial industry — Lehman is gone and companies like Citigroup are deeply in crisis — David Anderson, director of Atradia Consulting, tells IHT that finance-focused content providers will suffer along with the companies they cover. Instead of concentrating on a dwindling number of subscribers to their respective terminals, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg should hone in on providing data related to growth areas like risk-management. Or, as in the case of WSJ, News Corp (NYSE: NWS) chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has sought to broaden the financial paper’s coverage beyond business to include politics and general news, which has helped it capture luxury marketers’ ad dollars, which tended to flow mostly to NYT.

Premium content option: The idea of expanded coverage could also inspire publishers to try creating more premium content to sell to their readers. While some might hear “premium content” and “subscription wall” and think of the failed experiment that was NYT’s TimesSelect, which provided access to the paper’s online archives and columnists for an additional charge, the current climate demands that publishers try anything that could stand provide any revenue boost, however small. And it may be worth remembering that while TimesSelect had its drawbacks and detractors, NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) says it still brought in $10 million a year.