As with the increased viewership enjoyed by cable TV's CNN during the Gulf War, the market's losses were online publications' gain-elevating traffic, credibility and advertiser interest. Whether those gains will stick when the market stabilizes remains to be seen.
GAINS FOR THESTREET.COM
TheStreet.com, a paid, online-only subscription service founded by money manager/columnist James J. Cramer and Martin Peretz, chairman and editor in chief of The New Republic, added 5,000 new subscribers. That raised its base to 15,000. Traffic soared 300% above average to 2 million hits per day, according to Chief Operating Officer Brendan Amyot.
"Yahoo! Financial has been pointing to our site [since the market turmoil began] and we've picked up a deluge of referrals-25,000 in one day," he said.
The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, also a subscriber-based Web service, had several of its biggest days of the year for signing up new subscribers; it claimed its total subscriber count is approaching 150,000. Traffic was running 30% to 40% above normal, said Editor Neil Budde, reaching a level the online service didn't expect to hit for another two or three months based on past growth patterns.
"People no longer entrust the information they get, especially financial, to a television programmer," said Jonathan Fram, Bloomberg L.P. general manager of new media. "Personalized news is not a revolution. It's not in the future. It is simply today."
Other online financial pubs' boons include:
SmartMoney Interactive saw a 60% increase in traffic over normal usage. The usual staff of 25 was beefed up by SmartMoney magazine staffers, who pitched in to produce dozens of news stories throughout the week.
Traffic to Bloomberg's free Web site doubled over average levels. An area of the site that allows subscribers to track their personal portfolios also saw traffic double.
nMoney's Money.com free Web site and fledgling Money.com Plus premium site claimed its traffic levels also doubled as the market went on its roller-coaster ride.
"What this shows for us is brands matter," said Brett Zickerman, new media director at Money. "In a panic situation like this, people want to go to a place they trust."
Advertisers also took notice. SmartMoney Interactive said several advertisers called to find out when their ads would be running during last week's activity. Other sites said their salespeople fielded a higher than usual number of calls from potential advertisers.
"I'm very sure that current advertisers are getting exciting responses with the heightened viewership," said SmartMoney President-CEO Steve Swartz. "It's a very exciting time and kind of justifies why we're involved online."
Although the increased traffic led to slowdowns at some sites, most said they were able to handle the added burden.
"I'd be disingenuous if I said everything went perfectly fine, but I think there were only a couple of times when it was slower than I would have liked," said