Wall Street Meltdown Spikes Ratings at Financial News Media

Record Traffic to Web Sites, Cable Networks

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Last week's Wall Street fiasco turned bad news into good news for several media companies. A study from independent media agency Horizon Media finds that CNBC, CNN and The New York Times, among others, saw some of their biggest ratings and online-traffic spikes in the hours and days following the Sept. 14 news of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and Bank of America's purchase of American International Group.
Many media companies, including CNBC, saw huge ratings and online-traffic spikes following the news of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and Bank of America's purchase of AIG on Sept. 14.
Many media companies, including CNBC, saw huge ratings and online-traffic spikes following the news of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy and Bank of America's purchase of AIG on Sept. 14.

'Closing Bell' up 70%
CNBC, for instance, saw ratings for the 3 p.m. hour of its Wall Street news program "Closing Bell" increase 70% last week, up 254,000 total viewers from the week of Sept. 8 to Sept. 12, according to Nielsen data. The 4 p.m. hour also saw a boost, up 247,000 total viewers from the prior week. Similarly, CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" grew in total viewers by 34,000 over the previous week.

On the web, nytimes.com achieved its highest daily total page views Monday, Sept. 15, with the Business section reporting a 54% increase in page views from the previous Monday. CNN's cnnmoney.com doubled its traffic to 4 million unique users each weekday from 2 million since Sept. 14. Smartmoney.com also saw a traffic boost of about 30%, while Yahoo Finance has more than doubled unique visits since last week. All web-traffic data were provided to Horizon by the individual media companies.

Although the affected banks -- particularly Bank of America -- are among the media companies' biggest advertising clients, Bill Koenigsberg, president-CEO of Horizon Media, said marketers who traditionally advertise with the business media are probably getting an efficient boost in their media spend. "When you're taking advantage of being in a contextually relevant space online or on TV, you know there's going to be a life where the eyeballs go," said Mr. Koenigsberg, who counts ING Direct and Berkshire Hathaway's Geico among his agency's clients.

No price hikes expected
Although Horizon is still analyzing its clients' specific shifts in marketing spend as it relates to last week's events, he doesn't expect any media companies to start hiking prices for their newly valuable ad inventory. "In general, we all know the current media marketplace is one of currently less demand than apply. I think they'd be happy to take the money, and we haven't seen any significant spike in pricing."

Mr. Koenigsberg said insurance marketers, automotive companies and the stronger financial institutions are among those who will likely start shifting more of their media budgets to follow the increased amount of viewers following the ongoing Wall Street meltdown coverage. The most frequent question clients have been asking, Mr. Koenigsberg added, is "how do you take advantage of a negative situation?"

For more broad-based news organizations such as CNN and The New York Times, however, the bank consolidation is likely to have little immediate impact on ad sales. Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for the Times, told Ad Age last week, "Because we have a very diverse base of readers and advertisers, we would expect this to have a minimal effect on our business."
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