OLD Media Moves

Behind the scenes at Barrons.com

May 24, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Greg Bartalos is the editor in chief of Barrons.com, the online site for the weekly business newspaper.

He rejoined Barron’s as editor of Barrons.com in early 2009, following his most recent role as assistant managing editor of Yahoo! Finance, a position he held since 2006. He previously served as senior editor of Barrons.com. In his role, Bartalos oversees editorial content for the site, as well as online community-building initiatives and Barrons.com’s relationships with other sites.

He joined Yahoo! Finance in 2005 after serving as senior editor of Barrons.com for four years. Previously, Bartalos served as managing editor and an editorial consultant for Individual Investor Online from 1998-2001. He was also a reporter for Bloomberg News and Institutional Investor. Bartalos began his career at Competitive Media Reporting as an audio editor.

Bartalos graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Bartalos spoke earlier this week by email with Talking Biz News about the Barrons.com operation. What follows is an edited transcript.

What is the daily coverage philosophy of Barrons.com?

We try to report on and interpret key news events while emphasizing ways in which readers can profit or at least not lose money. While the daily news cycle drives our coverage, the past informs what we do and the future is our focus. In that context, analysis remains paramount. We regularly write about securities we deem undervalued regardless of whether they are making news. Ultimately, our readers are in search of value, and our job is to find it for them. Barrons.com, which is ramping up video efforts, also provides advice on how to navigate the world of wealth management via its Penta section, which caters to families with assets of $5 million or more.

We offer a wide array of stories, including in-depth interviews with money managers and longer more analytical pieces, complemented by shorter items, often found on our blogs. Including blog posts, Barrons.com publishes roughly 1,000 stories per month on weekdays.

Who do you see as your competitors for markets news?

Many sites cover markets news and provide timely analysis but I wouldn’t single out any. We think we have sufficiently differentiated ourselves with our high-quality editorial offerings that focus on providing actionable ideas to investors. As such, we are not a news site per se. And while most of our competitors are free, we fortunately have been successfully charging for many years.

How do you decide what content is for subscribers, and what content is free?

It’s pretty straightforward. Our daily analysis is generally behind a pay wall. However, our videos, which editor Jack Otter is very effectively building out, are free as are our blogs: Tech Trader Daily (Tiernan Ray), Focus on Funds (Brendan Conway), Emerging Markets (Ben Levisohn), Income Investing (Michael Aneiro), Penta (Richard Morais) and Stocks to Watch. Our magazine content, published every Saturday morning, is for the most part behind the pay wall. But we do experiment with selectively making content free.

The site recently added a portfolio tracker. What was the reasoning?

The new portfolio is a larger Dow Jones initiative designed to encourage frequent usage. The service, provided by LikeAssets, allows readers to automatically and securely sync all their portfolios from more than 40 brokerage firms. The portfolio, which integrates Barron’s analysis and news from The Wall Street Journal, also includes breakdowns of asset allocation and visually alluring performance graphs. Readers can also track investments based on institution, beneficiary or goals.

Tell me about the new feature that analyzes markets coverage from other media.

Helmed by executive editor John Kimelman, Read This, Spike That was created early this year to help investors navigate an ever more cluttered media landscape. It’s easy to see why many feel overwhelmed by the abundance of investing advice hitting them. That’s why in John’s column he discusses the relative merit of a few stories each day, rating them on a one- to five-star basis. Ultimately, in a media-drenched environment, any guidance that can help readers navigate a complex and fast-moving market serves a useful purpose.

Does any of Barron’s content come from your sisters at The Wall Street Journal or Marketwatch?

No. Our stories are created in-house but of course we link to them and vice versa.

Who is the typical Barrons.com reader?

We have a very sophisticated and high net worth readership, composed of individual and professional investors. Average household net worth is north of $2.5 million. And the average reader makes 60 securities transactions per year. Our readers are very loyal, spending over two hours each week reading Barrons.com, with more than half that time devoted to weekday content. Time after time, I have heard readers recount how they grew up watching their fathers read Barron’s on Saturday mornings. Then they fell into the habit and found it a hard one to shake!

When you rejoined Barron’s in 2009, the site had 150,000 subscribers. Where do you stand now?

We are at about 170,000 paid subscribers. Overall, though, from a business standpoint, our focus has been on increasing overall circulation revenue.

And monthly visitors were at 2 million in 2009. Where are you at now?

We are comfortably above that. However, as mentioned above, our focus has been on growing profits — not chasing traffic for traffic’s sake.

What do you attribute that growth to?

Hopefully, the quality of our work is resonating with readers. Efforts on Facebook and Twitter are helping too. We also have expanded into mobile with an iPad app that’s proven popular along with, more recently, an iPhone app that features daily content.

What do you see as the top features of the site that attract most readers?

Randall Forsyth’s Up and Down Wall Street Daily is a big draw as is Tiernan Ray’s tech coverage. Also, Steve Sears’s options column and Michael Kahn’s technical analysis enjoy loyal followings. Jack Hough draws many readers as does David Englander who specializes in “off the radar” stocks. Barron’s Take, which analyzes companies making news, is written by Teresa Rivas, Johanna Bennett and Dimitra DeFotis. They also write the longstanding Weekday Trader feature, which highlights attractive investments.

Wall Street’s Best Minds, which showcases commentary from leading thinkers, has done very well since its January launch. And Investors’ Soapbox, a perennial draw that highlights third-party big-picture analysis, is overseen by managing editor Ed Lin. Inside Scoop, by Grace Williams, has a dedicated following, too. Finally, Richard Morais, with his witty and insightful writing for Penta, covers wealth management, philanthropy, real estate, art, food, culture and more with aplomb.

When you came back from Yahoo! Finance, was there anything that you learned there that you applied at Barron’s?

Yahoo! Finance was different in some fundamental ways. Free versus paid. Massive audience versus a relatively smaller one, etc. But Yahoo reinforced in me the importance of being nimble and timely when programming online content. When I returned to Barrons.com, I wanted to keep the analytical component of the site front and center while giving much more prominence to the daily news cycle. Barron’s Take, which we launched in 2009, is the poster child for that synthesis.

What’s your favorite Alan Abelson story?

I would suggest looking at the stories shared by Alan’s colleagues in a series of recent remembrances that appeared on Barrons.com. Words can’t fully describe how eloquent, witty and fearless Alan was. His impact on colleagues, friends and readers has been staggering. A true giant, Alan is greatly missed.

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