Despite the media meltdown, online publications of big business brands such as Forbes.com, Time Inc.'s Fortune.com, McGraw-Hill Cos.' Business Week online and Dow Jones & Co.'s WSJ.com are pulling out all the stops to lure readers with exclusive news, personalized content, improved navigation and other premium services while also attempting to give parsimonious marketers some new ad options.
Time-strapped executives hungry for exclusive news may check in for only five minutes a day, but online business pubs want to make the most of these on-the-fly visits.
"We want to be the dashboard for business decision makers, the place to go for personal and business information," said Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO of Forbes.com. The online editions of Forbes, Fortune and Business Week offer free content. Forbes does charge for real-time stock quotes and analyst reports. "When we're one of the last three or four places where you can get business information, then we'll charge [for all content]," Mr. Spanfeller said.
Mr. Spanfeller and others say advertisers want more-efficient targeting by geography, job title and income, pre- and post-campaign research, ad measurement by session, such as New York Times Digital's Surround Sessions and improved reach and frequency programs. Insiders say top management executives go back online at home to work, but also to plan leisure activities.
Business readers tend to prefer customized content in the form of personalized portals such as MyJournal.com, part of WSJ.com's recent overhaul. Online business magazines need to generate new revenue. But at least one analyst warns that could backfire: "It's very difficult to get people to pay for something they can easily get somewhere else or to pay for something you've given them free before," said Allen Weiner, VP and principal analyst at online researcher NetRatings.
However, obscure and detailed information that's hard to find elsewhere are good bets for paid services. "If you offer people stock quotes, you can't charge them, but if you charge them for gold futures, you can," Mr. Weiner said.
Advertisers, grappling with tight budgets, are looking for better value and, naturally, return on investment. That's put online media under increased pressure to deliver timely results of digital marketing campaigns.
With Surround Sessions, New York Times Digital shifts the measurement debate from technology-Superstitials and rich media-to giving advertisers a way to tell their product or service story in five to seven minutes.
"They've [NYT Digital] moved the ball from selling eyeballs to selling consumer attention," said Jim Nail, Forrester Research senior analyst.