Why The Wall Street Journal Is Focusing Personal Finance On Its New Business Site Buy Side
The Wall Street Journal finally got into the business of trading after spending a year figuring out what that business would look like for Dow Jones.
Launched last month, WSJ’s Buy Side is an independent newsroom that operates separately from the magazine, but has the same focus on helping people make financial decisions — a joint mission of Dow Jones’ other properties including MarketWatch and Barron’s, according to the company. Chief Revenue Officer Josh Stinchcomb.
The timing of the Buy Side launch – which will likely happen just before the recession – may be a unique challenge for most commerce publishers, as audiences begin to carve out their cash and brands reconsider their affiliate marketing budgets. But Leslie Wiesel, Head of Content at Buy Side, believes these circumstances could benefit her team’s editorial strategy, thanks to the focus on personal finance featured in each article.
In the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Stinchcomb and Yazel discuss how Buy Side balances consumer product recommendations with detailed budget distributions to help readers make buying decisions from a value perspective, as well as lay out scenes about forging affiliate partnerships with financial institutions.
Here are the highlights from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed a bit for clarity.
WSJ Approach to Content Commerce
Wiesel: We have FMCG to sell and we also have personal financial advice, which we can also monetize. But at the heart of this are financial decisions, whether you buy a coffee maker, whether you decide which credit card to choose, or whether you should switch to a high-yield savings account. We feel WSJ.com has a lot of power there [and] We want it to be useful to people.
But I also think we’re in a good position to deal with the economic situation now, because one of the main things we do is we really take care of people tightly, and we do the math for people. So when I say we are very nurturing, [I mean] When you travel online and look at the best lists out there, you sometimes see “Top 19 Credit Cards” or “Top 12 Credit Cards.” We really limit that to people. When we talk about cashback reward cards, we’ve narrowed it down to four so people can make an easier decision.
We create standards for this. We work with a team of experts in the financial services industry and spreadsheets relentlessly to narrow this down, but we also do the math for people. And what I mean by that is if we’re looking, should you get one of those coffee subscriptions that are so popular right now, we’re not just looking at the tasting notes. We also look at how much an ounce actually costs because you can then compare it to what you would buy at your favorite market or grocery store.
The financial aspect of affiliated deals with financial institutions
Stinchcombe: [Financial services partnerships tend to be] More diverse in terms of [pricing] Models. I read your article about it [cost-per-click] Against CPA – the different currencies that develop in this field – and on the financial services side, it’s a combination of CPA and lead cost. There are different models. For certain types of products, it can be a percentage of the loan size and for other forms, a flat fee – only to be configured for illustrative purposes – $50 for each new credit card approved customer.
On average, I think these rewards end up being greater for the individual than for most consumer products back to the point where the lifetime value of that customer to the credit card issuer, for example, is greater. So you often have a fixed range or fee on the cost of a lead, or the cost of acquiring a new client. And these can change over time because as you grow and offer more size and success to a particular issuer, for example, you may be able to negotiate better individual rates.
Higher rates but higher barriers to entry
Stinchcombe: The financial services space is more complex. there [are] Compliance issues not found in other categories. You have to prove yourself somewhat with a lot of credit card issuers, for example, before you become an authorized partner of them. And so this is a process, you have to earn and prove your way to that and show that you have the right compliance and put the right resources behind compliance. This is an obstacle to entry.
There are major competitors but there are also partner competitors. Red Ventures is the operator of some very big sites in the space, like Bankrate, but they also have a very sophisticated affiliate offering for the publisher. We work closely with Red Ventures and are able to work with them to be a broker for many financial institutions because they have a very comprehensive understanding of compliance and complexity, and they can help accelerate our participation in this market. [It’s] It’s a bit like SkimLinks in the consumer space.