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Slate.com sees 'Big Money' site filling financial commentary hole

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James Ledbetter, editor of The Big Money, a Web site that Slate.com plans to debut in June, insists that there's a void in business coverage. Although the last two years have seen the debut of Condé Nast Portfolio and Fox Business Network, as well as extensions of the online presence of legacy media brands such as BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, Ledbetter said there's plenty of room for a different approach to business and financial coverage. “There's a hole in financial commentary and opinion,” said Ledbetter, who was deputy editor of Fortune.com before joining Slate.com. He previously was editor in chief of the now-defunct Industry Standard Europe. (The Industry Standard, which was shuttered in 2001, was recently revived by IDG Communications as a stand-alone Web site.) “The world of business and finance is so data driven, and we want to present data in a new, compelling and even fun way the same way that Slate.com deals with political coverage,” Ledbetter said. “If we can do that successfully, we think that'll [set] us apart.” Slate.com is known for its irreverent, insightful coverage of culture, news and politics. Davis Brewer, lead digital strategist at ad agency Spark Communications, whose clients include Avaya, Caterpillar and E*Trade Financial Corp., said The Big Money should be careful with its content. “A witty, irreverent take would be a concern to me as a financial advertiser,” he said. “Money is something people take seriously.” Brewer added: “They need to make sure it's respectful with its business coverage, especially now with what's going on in financial markets and fears of a recession. It needs a point of view, without sound bites or glossy coverage.” While The Big Money has potential to attract b-to-b advertising dollars, “you wonder if there's as much of a market as some publishers may be thinking,” Brewer said. Slate.com, founded in 1996, has 4.8 million unique monthly visitors and 20 million page views per month, according to comScore. The site, which is owned by Washington Post Co., features a Business & Technology link on its home page, with columns including “The Undercover Economist,” “Moneybox” and “Ad Report Card.” Ledbetter said The Big Money will start off with a skeleton staff and initially draw on some of the existing content on Slate.com. The aim is to appeal to “a sophisticated reader with a fair amount of discretionary income” who understands the importance of business and finance but may not work in those areas, he added. John Alderman, publisher of Slate.com, will oversee the business side of The Big Money. A URL has not yet been selected for the standalone site.
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