SmartMoney Interactive joins a growing number of online financial zines, such as Time Inc.'s Money.com, which launches a subscription service called Money.com Plus in beta this month, and TheStreet.com, which launched in November.
A CONSUMER AND INVESTOR SERVICE
However, SmartMoney President-CEO Steve Swartz said he considers the competition to be online services such as Microsoft Corp.'s Investor Net and the financial offerings of America Online.
SmartMoney Interactive is targeted at both consumers and investors with a broader offering than Money.com Plus and TheStreet.com, he said.
Subscriptions to SmartMoney Interactive will be offered in combination with subscriptions to Dow Jones' sister online publication, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, at $49 per year.
A discounted rate of $29 per year will be offered to print subscribers of either SmartMoney or The Wall Street Journal. Money.com Plus is priced at $49.95 per year for new subscribers and $29.95 for print subscribers.
Two years in the works, SmartMoney Interactive includes proprietary content such as tracking the accuracy of financial pundits, its own mutual fund analyzer and Java-based worksheets for investments such as college, home ownership and retirement.
The full-time staff of 27 technical, production and editorial workers is led by Editor Marc Frons, formerly senior editor of Business Week, who has spent the last two years honing SmartMoney Interactive. The site also includes original content with about 10 stories posted daily, Mr. Frons said.
Added Mr. Swartz, "Some magazines are rightly skeptical of what the Internet can do for them. But for all service-type magazines, the Internet is a tremendous tool."
STARTING WITH 10 SPONSORS
The first advertisers on SmartMoney Interactive will be limited to a charter group of 10 companies through yearend. Those signed up so far are the American Stock Exchange, Acura, Fidelity Investments, Liberty Financial Cos., Quick & Reilly, T. Rowe Price and Waterhouse Securities.
Charter members are guaranteed a minimum of 600,000 impressions over the three-month launch period. Rates for three months are $58 per thousand impressions, with discounted rates available for advertisers of either SmartMoney or the Journal Interactive.
A PROMISING CATEGORY
Peter Storck, group director of online advertising for Jupiter Communications, said financial services is a particularly promising category for success in the online publishing business. One reason is that the group of users of online financial services has higher-than-average educational and income levels that are desirable to advertisers, he said.
Also, financial services companies are one of three mainstream consumer categories leading advertising spending online, he added. The other two categories are automotive and travel services, although financial services may show greater online promise.
"Ordering tires or ordering breakfast online are far off days," he said. "But the days of choosing a mutual fund, signing up for a checking account, doing a