Slate gets funny with new business site

Slate is planning to launch a new business Web site, The Big Money, adding the online magazine to the long list of media outlets providing Wall Street news and information.

Slate is planning to launch a new business Web site, The Big Money, adding the online magazine to the long list of media outlets providing Wall Street news and information. The site, which doesn't have an official launch date, but is tentatively scheduled for June, hopes to build on all of the qualities that have made Slate successful, instead of traditional business journalism.

"My view is that we want to take the voice and authority that Slate has in politics and culture and apply it to the world of business and finance," says James Ledbetter, editor of The Big Money. "It's authoritative, but not dull; intelligent without being too insider-y; irreverent where it needs to be, and I hope fun. The world of business and finance, while well-covered by a number of media outlets, can still use that."

As a digital product, The Big Money is an ideal venue for the "market-driven, immediate, [and] data-rich" nature of financial news, Ledbetter adds. It targets an audience that recognizes the importance of finance without being steeped in it the way an investment banker would.

"We want to be both an original voice [as well as] an aggregator of material that's out there that's not easily digestible for the average reader," he says.

While the spectrum of business news coverage is getting wider, there's also a diverse audience in search of that information, including consumers who find traditional business news TV programs or Web sites too dull, says Evan Goetz, SVP at FD.

"It representative of a broader trend that I've seen, where business media reports the facts and [brings an] editorial voice to the way they cover companies and issues," he says.

Slate and its owner, The Washington Post Co., are following in the path of Conde Nast Portfolio and the Fox Business Network (FBN), which have recently stepped into the business news arena. Heightened interest in the economy has made the conditions perfect for additional financial coverage, even from organizations that already offer business news. However, for outlets both old and new, the key to a successful launch - and a sustained success - is targeting a niche audience with a unique point of view.

"Portfolio is going after readers that may not have picked up a BusinessWeek; Fox Business is focusing on the everyday consumer more than CNBC does," says Chris Roush, founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina. "Slate, from what I know about [its] plans, is hoping to do something more on the lighter side of business news. I could see a more... gossipy Web site working very well in the business news arena. Frankly, I don't want every business news story I read to sound like it came from The Wall Street Journal."

The remaining question is whether there's room for all business news outlets to ultimately be successful. FBN, for instance, has hit a snag with low ratings.

"It's very new, and no matter how much you prepare, it's hard for anybody to be an overnight sensation," says Jon Friedman, media Web columnist on Marketwatch.com, which, like FBN, is owned by News Corp. "People have viewing habits. It's a lot to ask of a large audience to change their habits overnight."

However, Friedman points out that by featuring personalities, such as columnists or opinionated contributors, a news outlet can add its own distinct viewpoint on a subject so viewers can relate to it and become fans.

"Consumers feel a connection to the stock market," he says. "Consumers are also stock market investors. If you have a certain personality, [consumers] will watch or read all the time."

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