From Netsavvy

Websites that report on financial news and information were always going to crack it online. The web is the perfect medium for delivering up-to-the-minute financial news and data. Moreover, the LSM of the average business news reader matches that of the online reader: Both are high.

The five biggest consumer-focused business sites, reporting on general financial news in South Africa, are engaged in a tussle to capture a bigger share of this lucrative reader and advertising market.

Fin24.co.za, the sister website of the bilingual weekly Fin Week, is the biggest in the sector, followed by IOL’s Business Report. Both are helped by their association with their big mother-portals IOL and News24, which pass through big volumes of traffic.

Moneyweb and Business Day’s websites are comparable in size in terms of local readership, with Moneyweb slightly bigger. Business Day is the bigger site overall in terms of the total readership, which includes overseas readers.

Although not the biggest offering, Moneyweb appears to be the only business site with the biggest dedicated online editorial team, substantially outnumbering the other publications with about 15 journalists pumping out copy primarily for the online site. The other sites have fulltime editorial staff that number in the low, single digits.

Moneyweb boss Alec Hogg reminds us that business information works well online because “information is at its most valuable when it’s freshest”.

“It has an immediate impact on people’s pockets and if it’s the one thing people worry about it is the impact on their pockets. The apartheid system denied people an opportunity to become financially literate… only 2% of people here invest in shares compared to other developed markets so there is a huge opportunity and hunger here,” says Hogg.

Similarly, Nic van den Bergh, the business manager of Fin24.co.za, thinks that business information works online because in the old days “you would have to phone a broker, but now you can do that research at home on the internet. It is available 24/7. It’s all available for the user, who is able to access it quite easily.”

Most of the business sites, bar Moneyweb, borrow heavily from their respective print publications for original content, which is mostly supplemented by wire services. Fin24.co.za separately commissions journalists from Fin Week to write specifically for the online version.

All the websites claim they are profitable operations, apart from the Business Day and Financial Mail websites, which say they are on track to break even at the end of 2006. It is also interesting to note that both the biggest and the smallest website on the list are paid-content offerings, although Financial Mail has had a more aggressive model that has been in place much longer than Fin24.co.za.

In the business-to-business sector, it is also worth mentioning Creamer Media’s strong online offerings, which include Engineering News and Mining Weekly, which overall attracts around 132 000 readers, probably making it one of the biggest in the b2b sector.

Hogg reckons that print is “massively” under pressure, whereas the other business websites – specifically those that are attached to print publications — are generally more circumspect, saying there is room for growth for both mediums.

As far as Hogg is concerned, the delivery vehicle for information is changing—and the delivery vehicle that can get information to the reader first and in an intelligible manner will be the winner.

This competitive sector of the online publishing industry is beginning to hot up in a big way, especially with the recent recovery of the online advertising model. If you want to know where it’s all going, this is a key sector to keep your eye on.

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