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CBS to Launch MoneyWatch

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CBS sees an opportunity in the continuous stream of disastrous economic news.

Sometime this March the company plans to roll out MoneyWatch.com, a personal finance site conceived specifically with the ongoing financial meltdown in mind. The new site, a preview of which is available at MoneyWatch.com, promises to help users navigate the increasingly volatile and frightening financial environment.  

The MoneyWatch name comes from a long-running series of business-oriented segments on the CBS Evening News. However, the new site is being launched as an offshoot of BNET.com—which itself is a sister site of CNET.com, aimed at professional managers and executives. Thus, while MoneyWatch.com will cover personal finance basics such as managing debt, planning for retirement and paying for college, its editorial voice will be more skeptical and interpretative than other personal finance sites, according to Greg Mason, senior vp and general manager of CBS Interactive’s Business Network.

“A lot of people who view themselves as financially competent are feeling a little dumb after the last three or four months,” said Mason. “They are a little less trustworthy, a little less inclined to listen to conventional wisdom.”

Thus, Mason said that MoneyWatch will draw heavily on the news of the day—helping users answer the “What does this all mean to me?” question--rather than provide general service information. And its target audience will presumably be well educated and slightly more finance-savvy than the average personal finance site, of which there are many.

Indeed, despite its focus on the current crisis, MoneyWatch is entering an increasingly crowded space. Each of the three major portals—AOL, Yahoo and MSN—maintains highly trafficked personal finance channels. Plus, magazines like Kiplinger’s and Smart Money have long been on the Web. In addition, last year AOL launched a personal finance blog called WalletPop, while CNNMoney.com expanded its retirement coverage.

But Mason believes that MoneyWatch will be able to dig deeper into issues than most sites in the category. “Many personal finance sites are about news and looking up stock quotes,” he said. “Portals have to program to the lowest common denominator....This site is much more oriented to taking control of all aspects of your financial life. It will have a much more 360-degree view.”

To break through the personal finance crowd, CBS plans to pull multiple levers in promoting MoneyWatch.com. For example, both the CBS Evening News and The CBS Early Show will drive viewers to the site during their own financial segments, which will also be streamable on the site (MoneyWatch will also shoot its own video content). Plus, BNET will carry links to the site on each of its pages, and eventually CBS’ local TV and radio sites will drive traffic there as well. “This is how the audience gets big pretty fast,” Mason said.