The Market for Online Business Opinion

John Koblin

has the scoop: Slate is planning to launch a new site next year, "devoted

exclusively to business news and opinion". Slate editor David Plotz is

quite right to say that "there’s an opening for a really smart, analytical,

opinionated Web site that could be Webby and fast and agile". What’s more,

that space, which was very empty at the beginning of this year, could fill up

very rapidly, to the benefit of all concerned.

Of course, this is the space where lives, and this website is

doing very well indeed: check out its

performance relative to, for instance. Indeed, one can’t help but

suspect that the success of helped to persuade Plotz that there

was a viable business model here in the first place.

And then there are sites such as, Marketwatch,, and

Seeking Alpha, all of which provide a lot of smart analysis, albeit aimed largely

at investors rather than a more general public. Bloomberg, too, has some excellent

columnists, but they don’t seem to get read all that much online.

But the big unknown in this space is the FT’s hugely respected Lex column.

Back in 2000, a pair of Lex journalists, Hugo Dixon and Jonathan Ford, went

independent and launched Breakingviews, a website which is definitely smart,

analytical, opinionated, fast, and agile, even if it isn’t very webby –

it still doesn’t even have RSS feeds, for instance, let alone a comments system,

and I’ve never once seen them actually link to anything. But in any case none

of that really matters: they went for a subscription model, which essentially

makes them invisible to 99% of the web.

The obvious next move for the FT, then, would be to launch a free version of

Breakingviews, under the Lex brand name – the amount you could charge

for ads on a site like that would be stratospheric, and if it was really free

it would get a huge amount of link love from the econoblogosphere.

If Lex did become a free website, that would instantly help to legitimize the

whole business-opinion space on the web, and while in one sense such a site

would compete with the likes of and, in a bigger sense

it would probably mark the point at which business executives started really

feeling comfortable heading online for smart news and analysis. When that happens,

advertising – which is already growing very quickly in the business space

– will move to a whole new level.

That’s the great thing about the economics of content-based websites: often,

the more competition you have, the more successful you are. At the moment, I

feel closer to the blogosphere than I do to any big-media sites. If the likes

of the FT and the Washington Post Company start getting involved, that would

be a great leap forward in helping the business world to start moving away from

newspapers and proprietary terminals, and start moving increasingly online for

their news and analysis.

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