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Exploring the Web as a New Medium of Communication
Financial News on the Web
By Debbie Weil
Sept 96, No. 2
ONLINE BUSINESS SECTIONS
If you ask
David Ignatius, The Washington Posts business
editor, whats special about WashingtonPost.coms
business section, hes got a ready answer: "We
think weve created an electronic product that
gives business readers an extra dimension, an element
of interactivity." He points in particular to Jim
Glassman, whom he dubs the sites "anchor
"An anchor personality is part of what will make online
journalism go," Ignatius said in a recent interview,
comparing online journalism to the broadcast medium.
"We think Jim Glassman is the best investment columnist
in the country." Glassman, the former editor of Roll
Call, is a respected Washington journalist who
writes about complex issues with a distinctive, clear
voice. Hes generally regarded as a very smart
guy. "Weve created a special site for him,"
said Ignatius, where readers can ask questions and
engage in ongoing dialogue.
Another popular feature of the Posts online
Business section is The
Post 200, a searchable database of facts and figures
covering metropolitan Washingtons top 200 companies.
There is also a Business
Glossary ("New and Improved," according to the
site) which Ignatius calls "a marvelous thing... The
vertical dimension of the online medium enables us
to define complicated financial terms for our readers
with the click of a mouse."
Lawrence Roberts, content developer for WashingtonPost.coms
pages, says he gave much thought to "what the basic
things an investor would look for in an online newspaper
site." His goal was twofold, he said in an interview.
He wanted to make the Posts online Business
section "a one-stop shopping place." Secondly, he
wanted the online section to be a serious competitor
with the other three national sources of online financial
news: CNNfn, The
New York Times, and The
Wall Street Journal.
To that end, Roberts identified four major areas of
interest to online investors:
* current quotes on stocks & mutual funds
* access to basic information on any company thats
the news or that an investor might be considering
* personal finance & investing advice
* tips on how to manage money (saving for college,
The actual sub-sections of the Online Post Business
section cover these four areas, but with different
names. For example, information on companies includes
both the Posts Top 200 as well as the database
from Hoovers Online, with which the Post has
partnered. Jim Glassmans columns from the print
Post are incuded in the personal finance section,
along with the interactive message board that Glassman
The result, asserts Roberts, is "a site with value
and wisdom. I think weve got the most complete
online business section that you dont have to
FINANCIAL WEB SITES?
are, in fact, dozens of sites on the Web that dispense
free financial information. Whether or not they have
the "value-added" component of an online newspapers
business section is a question that webheads can debate.
Personally, Ill cast my vote for the judgment
and editing imposed on online newspaper sites by old-fashioned
Jayne Lytel, former editor of The Internet Letter
(sold to Phillips Publishing), and currently new media
editor of Institutional Investor, the financial publishing
company with the eponymous flagship magazine, agrees
that there is "a growing amount of financial information
on the Web." But, she points out, it is generally
targeted at "individual customers."
"For corporate news about mergers and acquisitions,
etc., paper newspapers are still the place to go,"
Lytel said in an interview.
In addition, there are the specialized forums on America
Online and CompuServe,
as well as the newsgroups where much chatting goes
on about stock prices, brokerage fees and the like.
These tend to be moderated by non-experts, however,
and depending on your comfort level with the credibility
of your sources, they may be of questionable value
to investors with little time to spend online.
(The playing out of the Iomega stock saga on AOLs
Motley Fool forum is the subject of a column unto
Institutional Investor does not yet have a Web site.
(Lytel sighs.) But as product development editor,
she has just launched the companys first "wired"
publication - an email-based, subscription-only newsletter
called Financial Net News. The weekly update is available
as a two-fer: its delivered both in print and
by email, for an annual cost of $1,395. (For more
Lytel offers up four financial Web sites she consults
frequently: Web Finance, Corporate
Finance Network, StreetEYE
Index and the Electronic Banking Resource Center.
ON _WIRED WOMEN_
I did, in
fact, get some feedback to my last column on the subject
of "Wired Women." One response was a vitriolic attack
on my lackluster promotion of the "feminist" cause.
I.e. the writer inferred from my column that Im
not really a "feminist." Since that was not the subject
of the column (nor did I discuss my personal "self-identity"),
Ill move on to several other interesting replies.
Writes Wendy McLelland, "Women are getting onto the
net in droves, but IMHO (they) feel intimidated
by what seems to be a male-dominated industry. I try
to encourage my clients - small business owners (male
& female) - that this brave new world
is full of potential for all, including women." McLelland
operates the Biz
Another reply came from Jessica LeBeau, advertising
director at a corporate headquarters in Dallas, Tx.
She reacted to Rosalind Resnicks comment that
in an ideal world we wouldnt need "womens
groups to compensate for womens lack of self-confidence."
"Though I have never joined (a womens group),"
writes LeBeau, "I feel that perhaps they were organized
so that women could vent their frustrations regarding
a male-dominated society..." She goes on to give a
specific example of unfair and demeaning treatment
in a professional situation (not her current position,
Hmm, are all you editors & publishers out there listening?
Yes, I know its 1996, but things really havent
changed all that much. Ill never forget what
an editor said to me almost 20 years ago when I was
interviewing for a staff position on The Atlanta Constitution.
I had just gotten my masters degree in journalism
and was passionate to get a job as a real reporter.
"But youre married and your husband is a doctor
(he was in medical training at the time)," said the
editor in question. Pause... "Why would you want to
OK, enough Oprah for this column.
Do you have
specific ideas on how and why the Web is developing
as a new medium of mass communication - a Fifth Estate,
if you will? A fundamental question to ponder: Do
you see the Web as an adjunct or ultimately as a replacement
for traditional print media? Let me know what you
Debbie Weil is president of Wordbiz.Net, a Web site consulting
firm specializing in the design and organization of content.