Ken Doctor is a news-industry analyst for Outsell, a global research and advisory firm, and through his own site Newsonomics.com. Below is an excerpt from his new book Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get. The excerpt, about the fierce competition in business news on the web, is from a chapter titled “Itch the Niche,” which explores how subject-specific sites have largely replaced general-interest publications in the digital age.
The web and business news are a match made in heaven. Business is about immediacy, moving much faster than many other sectors (government, local events, even entertainment and sports). Business is about numbers, and we now have instant access to interactive, constantly updating databases.
For the daily press, that has created a headache. Business news sections had been an audience builder and moneymaker since the 1980s. Both weekly business sections (often “Business Monday” tabs) and daily sections whetted the growing middle-class investor appetite and made business more interesting.
The internet first changed that reader connection as digital stock listings made pages of tables obsolescent, and publishers replaced them with real-time digital portfolios. For the first time, we could see much of our net worth at a glance; it was a fun sport while the stock market boom lasted. Then it dawned on everyone: Much business news is national and global, and that has allowed the top digital media companies to provide news and data directly to local customers.
So the audience and the dollars have moved quickly online, and that has greatly reduced local daily business coverage. Dozens of metro-sized dailies, from the St. Petersburg Times to The Orange County Register to The Denver Post have dropped standalone business sections within the last couple of years. Many other dailies have substantially cut back business news space and reporting staff, as formerly robust sections thinned to a sad four pages.
But the business and finance ad opportunity on the web is large. The U.S. Interactive Advertising Bureau shows business and finance as the second-largest category (behind only retail advertising generally) for revenue, representing about 15 percent of online advertising spending, or more than $3 billion. Further, financial advertisers are now spending more than one in five of their dollars online. Not all of that spending goes to business news sites, but about a billion dollars a year does.
This article originally appeared in Newsonomics.