FiLife, a personal-finance site backed by IAC and the Wall Street Journal, is struggling, according to one ex-employee we eavesdropped on at the City Bakery, a coffeehouse in Manhattan's Flatiron neighborhood, as she interviewed for a new job. "The business model completely changed," she said. "It used to be personal finance for people in their 20s and 30s. Now it's just completely pointless." An embittered writer? Perhaps. FiLife hired a batch of journalists, only to switch gears shortly before launch and realize that the Web didn't need another content site. But their replacement — a set of automated tools to evaluate one's place in the financial pecking order — do seem pointless. The site only attracts 31,500 users a month. In this regard, FiLife is utterly typical — of both its backer and its genre.IAC CEO Barry Diller has a ghastly track record of launching projects in-house; almost every vaguely promising Internet property he owns, he bought from someone else: Ask.com, Match.com, CitySearch, and so on. And personal finance sites are deadly. In trying to break the mold, FiLife managed to be even more condescending than most. Its introduction:
Most personal-finance sites are snooze-filled, sometimes schoolmarmish affairs. Save more money! Don't you dare go out to dinner! Suffer, scrimp, suffer, scrimp. We're kind of tired of that approach, and we reckon you are, too.
Watching Wall Street's meltdown, would you be surprised if 20somethings were uninterested in qualifying for a mortgage and investing in mutual funds? Personal-finance sites are usually more motivated by luring advertisers than readers. The former are now in scarce supply, too.