More Web sites with editorial content are hosting lenders' on-line offerings of mortgages.
SmartMoney.com, the Web site for the magazine SmartMoney, features offerings from E-Loan, iOwn.com Inc., and Countrywide Home Loans. Intuit's QuickenMortgage link can be found of CNN FN's site. USA Today's site hosts E-Loan products and services, and Bloomberg offers LendingTree loans through its new loan center.
The Internet publications say the relationships are simply business deals, providing an extended form of advertising along with simple information.
SmartMoney.com's business development director, Lou Montesano, said the company is not compromising the site's editorial content, because it simply provides advertising space and does not participate in or generate revenue from the mortgage transaction.
"There is a potential here for a very large target audience, and we deliver a much more qualified demographic. These companies are simply paying for access to our readership," Mr. Montesano said. "Most editorial sites derive a large portion of revenue from banner ads and sponsorship- similar to other, traditional media."
James Punishill, an analyst at Forrester Research, said he expects to see many similar relationships. Content and commerce need to be able to live in the same place, he said.
"Certainly these types of deals raise questions about objectivity and bias, but at the end of they day it's the only way content carriers are going to make any money on the Internet," Mr. Punishill said. "Ultimately, you might even see somebody like Bloomberg getting a piece of every LendingTree loan."
The partnership between iOwn-formerly HomeShark-and SmartMoney.com was announced last week. iOwn's director of on-line marketing, Kerry Glancy, said the new distribution channel stood to increase the lender's business substantially.
"Given SmartMoney's money focus, mortgages seemed to make sense. There is a targeted audience, and their demographics fit real well with what we want," Ms. Glancy said.
iOwn's mini-site on SmartMoney.com's Web page is part of a distribution agreement in which iOwn pays a monthly placement fee. From the editorial site, consumers can apply for a mortgage and view banner ads while reading articles.
"The deal is a hybrid of a straight ad buy and content integration. The bottom line is they are an editorial site. It doesn't fit for us to do a deal with a gaming site," Ms. Glancy said. "With SmartMoney.com, readers are interested in finance, and the next step, into thinking about mortgages, is not a big one."
Ms. Glancy said that sharing placement on the magazine's site with other mortgage companies was not a concern.
"I certainly have no problem going head-to-head with our competitors," Ms. Glancy said. "If people are looking on-line for a mortgage, they are going to look at different sites and products anyway."
iOwn also has mini-site deals with the portals Snap! and Infoseek, and on the sites quote.com and Sinnet, a Chinese-language directory.
Alison Berkley Wagonfeld, Quicken Mortgage's group product manager, said Quicken considers its deal with CNN FN to be both advertising and an additional distribution outlet.