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MarketWatch loses less, but ad sales slip

The online financial-news site also experiences a drop in revenue in its first quarter.

Online news site MarketWatch.com posted a smaller-than-expected loss for the first quarter, but saw revenue slip along with demand for advertising.

MarketWatch, which is partly by Viacom and British media group Pearson, reported a net loss of $5.8 million, or 35 cents per share, excluding goodwill and results from its European joint venture.

Revenue was $11.8 million, down 5 percent from a year ago. Analysts had been expecting the company to post a loss of 40 cents per share, according to First Call.

Advertising revenue slipped to $5.2 million, down from $8.7 million in the year-ago quarter, but licensing revenue, which includes subscriber fees, rose 103 percent from a year ago to $5.9 million.

"This quarter has truly emphasized the significance of our content licensing business line and the importance of a diversified revenue stream, as demand for online advertising softened from the overall economic slowdown," CEO Larry Kramer said in a news release.

The number of average monthly unique users was 8.51 million for the first quarter, a slight improvement over the 8.37 million recorded in the fourth quarter of 2000.

MarketWatch said it has $40.1 million in cash on hand, and Kramer said the cash reserves would be "more than sufficient until we are generating positive cash flow, which we anticipate by the end of the year."

Cash levels have become key figures for online media companies, as advertising revenue has been drying up, and several companies have reported layoffs and missed expectations.

The shakeout has also prompted consolidation in the industry. Earlier this week, competitor CNBC.com announced plans to combine operations with Microsoft's MoneyCentral site.