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Morningstar Seeks Library Markets

Magazine article Information Today

Morningstar Seeks Library Markets

Article excerpt

Database Review

How do you sell something that's already free? This is the dilemma for anyone who wants to sell content on the Web when something comparable is available on free sites. Many (would-be) content vendors haven't solved this problem, but Morningstar, a leading investment advisory publisher, is not among them. Morningstar (http://www.morning operates one of the most popular free investment sites on the Web (1.2 million registered members) and one of the most successful fee sites (100,000 members). The company is now turning to yet another market with Morningstar Library Edition, a subscription-based institutional product for academic, public, and corporate libraries. It's a new test for Morningstar's product-building skills.

One of the Web's greatest accomplishments has been to democratize corporate financial and other investment information. Online searchers of a certain age will remember when company balance sheets, income statements, and the like were only available from expensive proprietary databases. Now, of course, it's easy to get corporate financials, stock prices, valuations, insider trading, market data, and more from any number of financial vortals, portals, and investment company sites.

What, then, is Morningstar's edge? Much of its content is generic. The site itself is attractive and intuitive, but so are many other financial sites. Instead, Morningstar has two advantages over its hundreds of rivals: branding and premium content. It publishes many popular investment guides and advisories, so its name has cachet and high-recognition value (attributes that it has in common with other successful fee-based sites, such as and the Wall Street Journal Online). Also, Morningstar's proprietary stock and fund ratings and analysis are popular among investors, who will pay for information that they perceive will enrich them.

Rich Investment Content

Morningstar's free service has rich sets of generic stock and fund information:

* Stocks: Current quotes, stock histories, 10-year financials, ownership, insider trading, earnings, news, and several interactive screening and selection tools

* Funds: Type, objective, expenses, holdings, performance, selection tools, and Morningstar rating. Fund ratings are the only proprietary Morningstar rating content that appears on the free site.

The free service has other kinds of investment guidance, most of it created by Morningstar:

* Investment Centers, with advice on high-interest topics like retirement

* Conversations, a bulletin board section that covers a wide range of investment topics

* e-Newsletters, a set of e-mail alerts on investing trends

* News and Commentary, including columns from Morningstar analysts and news from Dow Jones

* Investing courses, a set of Web-based classes for personal investors

The Morningstar Premium service contains all of the content from the free service and adds proprietary content from Morningstar analysts and more portfolio tools. Morningstar tracks and evaluates 1,000 top stocks and 2,000 top funds, with analysis, recommendations, and ratings. Premium service tools include more sophisticated stock and fund screeners and other portfolio-management instruments. Premium service subscriptions cost $11.95 monthly, $109 annually, or $189 biennially.

The Library Edition Difference

The Morningstar Library Edition has the dual challenge of differentiating itself from the free and Premium Morningstar sites and providing a content/pricing package that will appeal to libraries. …

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