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Dow Jones agrees to buy MarketWatch

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New York—Dow Jones & Co. announced late Sunday that it had agreed to acquire MarketWatch for about $519 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. In reportedly outbidding the New York Times Co., Yahoo! and Viacom, Dow Jones paid a higher than anticipated price. The move represents a shift in Dow Jones’ Web strategy to focus more on paid advertising. The Online Journal site has more than 700,000 paid subscribers, but that exclusivity limits the ad programs the site can garner when compared with the millions of monthly unique visitors being attracted by competitive Web sites such as Forbes.com. "They were smart," said Seth Alpert, managing director at media investment bank AdMedia Partners. "In the early years they realized they couldn’t live on advertising, but I do think that the world has changed. There are folks who are living off advertising, and [Dow Jones] would be in a tough spot to ramp up that kind of audience from scratch." Instead, the company decided to purchase MarketWatch, which includes MarketWatch.com and BigCharts.com. These sites attract about 8 million unique visitors per month, the kind of traffic that is increasingly attracting big ad dollars.

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