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Time Inc. Waves Goodbye to CNNMoney and Its Digital Profits

What's that? A website, run by traditional media companies, that makes money? Yes, Time Inc. used to have one of those.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

When Time Inc. splits off from parent company Time Warner next month, it will also say goodbye to CNNMoney, the financial news site it ran as a joint venture with the cable network. CNN is keeping the site in the divorce, and says it will make a “significant investment” to bulk it up.

Too bad for Time: It turns out that the site was a nice digital business for the publisher, which can use all the digital juice it can get as it heads off on its own.

A new SEC filing from Time Inc. offers a brief glimpse into the site’s economics: In the first quarter of the year, CNNMoney generated $9 million in revenue, down from $11 million last year. After splitting the profits with CNN’s parent group Turner Broadcasting, Time Inc. recorded a $1 million profit of its own.

If you tease out those numbers for a full year, and assume they rise along with ad sales toward the end of the year, that’s a very respectable business, considering that CNNMoney’s 19 million uniques would be considered good but not great in a BuzzFeed/Facebook world of super-charged audiences.

But that traffic — generated primarily from CNN’s main site — turns out to be plenty when you combine it with the high ad rates that a business site can charge.

Time Inc. will still have digital business properties of its own when it splits off, courtesy of Fortune magazine. Time Inc. has largely neglected, but is starting to bulk it up with staff and resources now.

Still, you can tell Time Inc.’s executives think they have a hole to fill, which is why they floated a $175 million offer for Forbes a few months ago.

Forbes’ owners batted that away because they thought they could get more from deep-pocketed foreign buyers, who have yet to materialize. Maybe that bid looks a lot better now.

UPDATE: Here’s a helpful chart from Comscore, which puts CNNMoney in context with the other top financial sites. Welcome, Henry Blodget and crew!

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