The bubble in personal-finance websites

AOL has launched Walletpop, a personal-finance site; IAC and Dow Jones have FiLife; and TheStreet.com has MainStreet.com. All hope to attract a younger audience to personal-finance news than the conventional stock talk and online portfolios offered by the staid likes of Yahoo Finance and CNNMoney. The bets are wrong both in their timing and their premise. Stockbrokers and mortgage lenders, reliable advertisers during good times, are both ducking for cover and pulling back their budgets. Froth might have sustained these sites a couple of years ago, but not now. No matter when they launched, though, their proponents should have remembered this maxim: Financial advice, like youth itself, is wasted on the young.

Unsurprisingly, there's already signs of trouble. MainStreet has lost its launch editor, Caroline Waxler, amid a change of editorial direction. FiLife has ratcheted back its once-lofty ambitions. And WalletPop? One of a bevy of websites launched by AOL, which is desperate to find readers who are not turned off by that once-magical, now-deadly three-letter brand. With few prospects for attracting an audience or advertisers, will they not soon need financial advice of their own?