Dow Jones has been building up its financial newsbrands Marketwatch and Barron’s in the UK and Europe – where it hopes to make them as well-known as they are in the US.
Marketwatch recorded the biggest traffic increase among business news websites serving the UK over the two-year period from Q4 2017 to Q4 2019, according to Press Gazette research, with average unique visitors up 62%.
Marketwatch and Barron’s are part of Barron’s Group, itself part of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones – a subsidy of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (which owns the Sun and Times in the UK). Barron’s Group also publishes Financial News, Private Equity News, and Mansion Global.
Marketwatch aims to deliver fast and accurate news on the financial markets for everyone from professional investors to those with a keen interest. It is a counter-weight to Barron’s, which offers “actionable insights” and financial advice for long-term investors.
Barron’s claims an audience of high net-worth individuals and their financial advisors in the US. It also has a weekly print edition in the US but is digital-only in Europe, as is Marketwatch. Both sit behind a paywall.
‘It started out with… a trailblazing experiment’
In 2018, Barron’s Group bolstered the ranks of its UK-based newsroom by half again to a total of seven editorial staff, including a dedicated reporter for Barron’s, formed of experienced journalists for sage advice and “young rising stars” to be quick to respond to fast-changing markets.
Head of international at Barron’s Group, Francesco Guerrera, told Press Gazette: “It started out with essentially what was a trailblazing experiment for Barron’s Group: to create a team of reporters that would produce content for more than one publication.
“We had never experimented with that before – the publications all had their separate newsrooms. And so we decided that there was the potential to create good content for two publications, in this case Marketwatch and Barron’s, by pooling the resources of a team of reporters.”
Guerrera said there is a “huge amount of interest in the markets in the UK”.
“The component blocks of the Marketwatch and Barron’s audience in the US also exist in the UK, and to a certain extent in Europe.
“So we thought these two brands have probably been punching below their weight, so we should try and see whether we can expand in a way that is helpful, not just to this UK and European audience which we thought existed, but also whether we can better service the US audience.”
Since November 2018, when the UK team was set up, the number of unique visitors to Marketwatch has increased by more than 88% in EMEA and more than 66% globally, according to Dow Jones.
Pageviews of stories produced by the UK team were up by more than 178% in Europe (EMEA) and more than 56% globally.
The number of unique visitors to content produced by all Barron’s reporters around the world increased by nearly 250% in Europe and 131% globally, Dow Jones said. Uniques to content produced by the UK team on Barron’s have gone up by more than 2,000% in Europe and 710% globally.
The number of page views of content produced by the UK team have increased by 2,528% in Europe and 843% globally on Barron’s.
‘We needed to adapt to… the needs of the local audience’
Guerrera said creating coverage that appealed to both the “local” – UK and Europe – and global audience was key.
“We thought that by leveraging the Marketwatch and Barron’s brand we could take it to the European and UK markets, but we needed to adapt it to the demands and the needs of the local audience,” he said. “When you look at the stories that have done very well, they tend to be either of global impact or have a very interesting European angle.”
As well as covering localised UK and European financial market news, the team’s time difference with the US means it is well placed to cover out-of-hours US news – preparation ahead of markets opening or a late-night Trump tweet, for example.
“When Pfizer announced the first development of its vaccine, the first good news about the vaccine, it happened in European hours, so we were able to jump on it,” said Guerrera.
Stories fall into three “buckets”: those targeted only at a UK and European audience, those that work for both the UK/Europe and the US, and those that are US specific.
The team also curates the homepages of both Marketwatch and Barron’s with European content during European hours before passing the baton over to the US team with more US-focused content as the day goes on.
“There’s a curation that bears in mind the fact that the European audience is the one that is awake at that time,” said Guerrera. “And then we use data and analytics, like everybody else, to decide which stories play well with different audiences and which buckets they should belong to.”
Pivoting to cover the pandemic
Setting up the team over two years ago meant Marketwatch and Barron’s were well placed to cover the coronavirus outbreak for a UK and European audience, as well as the US, even while working remotely under pandemic restrictions.
Marketwatch and Barron’s saw a spike in traffic globally during lockdown, as seen across the news industry. Over the six months from March to October 2020, total traffic from Europe (EMEA) for Marketwatch and Barron’s more than trebled (up 267%) compared with the previous 12 months.
“In terms of traffic, we obviously, like everybody else, pivoted our coverage to things that were related to Covid,” said Guerrera.
“The one thing about the pandemic really is that the markets have been extremely resilient, if not buoyant. So telling that story has been one of the most interesting parts of our job during this period…
“There’s been volatility, of course, but the markets have been very stable and growing, especially in the US. Telling the story, and this explanatory role that we have to play, was very interesting for the team.”
Guerrera partly put the team’s success down to the fact its coverage is “a little bit different from what other news outlets in the UK and Europe produce”. “If you read Barron’s, there’s always a point of view – it’s analysis of the news and what it means for you and your savings,” he said.
“That’s something that’s not very widespread in the European media landscape. Marketwatch manages to combine speed, accuracy analysis of the market with a way of presenting which is actually very accessible. And so I think that’s also very useful.”
For Barron’s, unique visitors from the UK only were up 130% in 2020 compared with the year before, according to Dow Jones. Uniques from Europe were up 103% year-on-year.
At Marketwatch, UK unique visitors were up 112% on the year before, with uniques from Europe up 83% year-on-year. In 2020, 2.65% of all unique visitors to the website were from the UK alone, rising to 10% for Europe.
Barron’s has always been funded by a hybrid of advertising and subscriptions, which includes print in the US but not in Europe. Marketwatch has been mostly free for the last two years, funded mainly by digital advertising, but it is now experimenting with a paywall. Guerrera said the trial was still in its early days, but that “results are positive”.
The paywall decision was made in the US, but Guerrera said it “came from the realisation that a proportion of the Marketwatch audience valued its content, a lot. So there was interest in the content and an engagement in the content that suggested that we could try a closer relationship [with readers]”.
Guerrera said the priority for Marketwatch and Barron’s now “is to see whether we can make sure that these brands become important outside the US… because the content is there”.
‘The recovery… would be a great story to tell’
He said that, despite everything, the pandemic has been “quite an exciting time for financial and business journalists”.
“The importance of what we do has never been greater. There’s huge demand for an explanation of what’s going on, for accurate information, for incisive analysis and authoritative advice.
“So all of those things – however, we deliver that and whatever the business model – will be in demand… and we have seen this. So I think that’s positive. I hope that once Covid is in the distant past, this will still be true, because the markets and business will, if anything, be more active and there’ll be more happening in that space; and the recovery from this would be a great story to tell and a positive one.”