OLD Media Moves

24/7 Wall St. and its place in business news

November 21, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Douglas A. McIntyre is editor in chief and chief executive officer at New York-based 24/7 Wall St., a finance news website. He has previously been the editor-in-chief and publisher of Financial World Magazine from 1983 to 1995.

He was also the first president of Switchboard.com when it was the 10th most visited website in the world, according to Media Metrix. He has been CEO of FutureSource, LLC and On2 Technologies, Inc. He has served on the board of directors of Vicinity Corp., The Street.com, and Edgar Online.

McIntyre is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard.

24/7 Wall St. articles are republished by many of the largest news sites and portals, including MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Aol’s DailyFinance, MarketWatch, Comcast and The Huffington Post.

The company publishes more than 30 articles per day and has readers throughout North America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The editors of 24/7 Wall St. do not own securities in companies that they write about. Other writers may have positions in companies, and these are disclosed in their articles.

McIntyre spoke by telephone with Talking Biz News on Thursday afternoon about 24/7 Wall St. What follows is an edited transcript.

How did the site get started?

Jon Ogg, who is my partner, and I had a few conversations seven years ago. I had been the president and publisher of Financial World magazine from 1983 to 1995, and at that point you could already see, before the Internet became a power, that postage was ruining that business. We look at what we thought was important about financial news and thought that doing it on the Internet was the only option. So we began the site in 2006.

What was the niche that you thought wasn’t being served by existing financial media?

I don’t think I ever viewed it as fulfilling an unfilled niche. We thought that there was room for a site that covered a lot of the same things that Barron’s did, but on a much, much smaller level, that Forbes did. The site has moved beyond that in the past seven years. But on the day that it started, it was to serve the high-end investment community.

Who do you see as your biggest competitors?

That’s a good question. I can’t figure out the answer to that. Now that the business media is not compartmentalized because there is a version of everybody’s publication online, it’s very difficult to say where people come when they come to your site. You can guess why they come.

There are little ways how CNN competes with CNBC and in some ways The Wall Street Journal. Some people say to me, you guys are a lot like TheStreet.com, and there are some aspects where that is true. And others say I find you similar to CNNMoney. And we do the much broader pieces that they do. I don’t think anybody is being completely honest if they say they know who they are competing with in the online business financial news world. It’s like a rugby scrum.

We like to think we’re helpful enough to our readers that they will come back. That’s all we can hope for.

DougHow big is your staff?

Eight people.

And what all are they doing?

Three of those people only do research and writing for our long analytic pieces. Those run between 2,000 and 10,000 words. They work on nothing but that every day.

Jon Ogg and myself and two other people tend to work on stuff that is time sensitive. I start at 3 in the morning, and work on what is going on in Europe and Asia. There’s a period of intense reader interest that begins around six and keeps it momentum until about 9:45 or 10.

And then you’re grazing around, looking at what is going on, trying to find some unique way to look at things that everybody else is looking at. We might do something four or five times a day that you might not find anywhere else.

We might look at where Tesla buys its tires. It’s not a standard Tesla story. Covering the Tesla car fires, you almost have to do it. But it’s extremely hard unless you have someone who knows the car industry. It’s very hard to give the reader something about that that they’re not getting anywhere else. Everybody has the same story. If you look at the financial websites, except for those that literally have nothing but features, more than half of the stories are everybody looking at the same things.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

What you have to do for the reader is tell them what they’re not seeing, or what they should look at that maybe is not where their attention is being driven by a lot of the media coverage. As you know, there is generally more than one side to a given story. We try to look hard for sides or stories that are interesting, but not sensational. It’s more along the lines that if Tesla is having car fires, they lose. But with almost every loser, there is a winner. So saying to a writer, there is an aspect to the story that they’re not thinking about beyond what gets covered ad naseum. So you want to take the reader some place that is not obvious.

It’s hard to do, and sometimes we fail.

How do you decide what types of stories do you like to cover?

Out stories fall into two categories. We do a larger percentage than most business content sites do, of really long form journalism. We do a story every day that probably averages 3,000 ot 4,000 words and helps the reader look at something in depth.

We’ll have a story come out a 6 p.m. today that looks at how well managed each of the 50 states are. It will be well read, and I am sure it will get picked up by our large syndication partners and our portals. It won’t get picked up in its entirety because it’s about 10,000 words. But they will take snapshots of it, and they will send traffic to us to read the whole story. A lot of people want to hear what the article is about, and they might go to the article to read how they’re state is doing.

We try to do stuff that is national and local. We can’t be a complete site. But you try to give people a look at what is not obvious. That’s very hard to do.

Is your audience still upper-end investors?

It’s grown from there, so it’s more than affluent, well-read people. A lot of people on Wall Street and a lot of people in government. And the management at big companies. So it is broader than it was a year ago.

And where does your revenue come from?

The way we handle syndication is that no money changes hand. These larger websites run stories, and we have arrangements where traffic is sent back to us. So as that traffic comes into us, the advertising accounts for about 85 percent of the revenue that comes in. The search engine traffic is the rest.

Give me a feel for page views and visits.

ComScore shows our monthly visits at 1.3 million, while Google Analytics has us at about 2 million. So we’re about the size of Barron’s or Quartz, but smaller than TheStreet. So we sit in that tier of sites that is below the 5 million level, and there might be 10 sites that sit there in that 1.25 million to 2 million visitors strata.

And how profitable are you?

The one thing that is interesting about our model is that we were very concerned about being profitable from the beginning. We never took any money. And from a business model standpoint, that sets us apart. So for every dollar in revenue, we’re profiting 60 cents. We have eight people, and other than that, we have no expenses. We do no multimedia. We’re lucky if we put photographs in stories. And we have no apps. We just don’t spend any money on any of that stuff.

So we have gone the road not taken. It was very important for us not to give up control.

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