Reuters.com targets small-biz sector

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Reuters.com has inked an unusual agreement with small business sites Inc.com and Fastcompany.com to run some of the magazine sites' content on the business area of Reuters.com. Four national advertisers are close to signing deals as exclusive sponsors of special brand channel microsites rolling out at the end of September. The partners will share revenue from the ad pacts.

For Inc. and Fast Company, which were purchased from Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing by private media company Manseuto Ventures in late June, the deal means the start of a strategy geared to generating more advertising revenue and increasing the online budget 40% to upgrade the sites' technology and hire more staff.

QUICK BOOST

The sites are profitable, said Ed Sussman, managing director of the two Web sites, but neither attracted enough traffic to be rated by online audience service Nielsen/NetRatings in July. (The cutoff is about 360,000 unique visitors per month. The two sites together say they get 900,000 unique visitors.) The dealcould provide a quick revenue boost for the struggling properties. The magazines are not doing well either. From January through July, Fast Company's ad pages fell 10.1% compared with the same period last year, and ad pages in Inc. fell 5.3%, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Reuters, working hard to re-brand itself as a consumer site attracting business people to Reuters.com along with offering a wire service for other news outlets, hopes the small-business area will support that re-branding effort. Reuters.com, rated consistently in the top 10 among financial news and business sites, wants to reach out to the 20 million small companies in the U.S.-the fastest-growing business sector nationwide.

Traffic is low for Inc.com and Fastcompany.com, admitted Azhar Rafee, exec VP, Reuters Consumer Services, "but the traffic they do have is very sticky and very powerful."

According to Omniture's SiteCatalyst date, visitors to Fastcompany.com spend on average 13.3 minutes each visit, while Inc.com visitors spend 9 minutes. To drive traffic to its new small-business section, Reuters has developed a new ad form, using what the company calls "wide-angle technology." The ads, which will appear during the fourth quarter on small-business trade publications' sites among others, will feature headlines and the top of stories in an RSS-type format. The user can read the beginning of stories and then click through to Reuters.com. "As the content gets refreshed, the content will change in the ads," Mr. Azhar said. Promotions will primarily be online and will include house ads and small-business stories on the front page of Reuters.com, affinity marketing and search engine keyword buys.

The September microsite will deal with a particular theme-such as innovation, technology, leadership, management or global small businesses. The sole sponsor will be from a sector appealing to the target. The microsite sponsorship deal is a flat fee, a roughly even split between the two partners. Ad units for the branded microsites will include static and rich media as well as custom-solutions that will appear continuously next to the content. Video will be added in the fourth quarter.

Content from Inc.com and Fastcompany.com will include already-published articles; downloadable tools; reader polls; and advertorials. Some of the content "will be reworked to better suit a Reuters' audience," Mr. Sussman said. Daily, regularly updated news from the magazine sites, along with Reuters.com articles will also appear.

Later this fall, Reuters plans to flesh out its business area, which it started in beta form in June. Content will include Inc.com's 500-article archive.

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