In March, traffic for TheStreet.com Inc.'s sites surged, increasing 32% over February's totals. Unique monthly visitors for the sites—which include TheStreet, RealMoney and Stockpickr—rose to 6.5 million from 4.9 million in that timeframe. The increase landed TheStreet.com's sites on comScore Media Metrix's “Top 10 Gaining Properties” list for the period. How did 15-year-old TheStreet.com experience such a boost in visitors? CEO Darryl Otte attributed the jump in part to the ongoing installation of a new, open-source content management system and content partnerships with PBS' “Nightly Business Report” and the Journal Register Co.'s local newspapers and websites.
“One of our strategic challenges [is] we're trying to migrate to more open-sourced software,” Otte said. “At the moment most of it is proprietary. Our content management system and our commerce are proprietary. We are migrating to Drupal, to open-source, modern CMS. There's going to be no big bang. We're migrating over time. Some of our more popular, premium services have been migrated already or are in process of being migrated. ... I think of it as fixing the airplane while you're flying.”
Otte said the new CMS has aided in search engine optimization.
TheStreet.com's partnerships have also helped boost traffic to the company's various sites. “What we find is the world is recognizing it's pretty tough to cover the financial markets with half an editor working in the local newspaper,” Otte said. “We view our content set as a real strategic advantage for the company, and we are looking for ways to place that content with other brands in front of incremental audiences.”
TheStreet.com's revenue from its ongoing businesses totaled $14.1 million in the first quarter, up 7% from the year-earlier period. It has a blend of revenue streams, including paid subscriptions, advertising and marketing services. Marketing services revenue increased 19% in the first quarter, while the average number of paid subscriptions increased 7% to 92,228.
Otte said he's not a believer in the metered paywall approach being implemented by The New York Times and pioneered by the Financial Times.
“We've been doing this for about 15 years, and we have a pretty well-evolved sense of what works and what doesn't,” he said. “I think some of things that we see other folks trying we haven't had success with, like the metered approach where you get something for free and suddenly you get denied access to the content. Instead of that, we try to have a less exclusionary approach and a more aspirational approach.”
Otte added: “You get basic markets coverage and business news free, and then to get actual access to trading ideas and the thinking of top investing professionals, it's behind the paywall. You get a sense of the markets and some trading ideas for free, but the real kind of hardcore investment information is behind the paywall. And the paywall is not binary—you pay or not. There are grades of service. Entry level pricing is a couple hundred bucks a year, and there's $5,000 a year.”