Behind the BloggingStocks.com creation
Marty Moe is vice president and general manager of AOL Money & Finance, Small Business, and Education. As part of his job, he oversees a new Web site, BloggingStocks.com, that was launched earlier this year to provide information to investors.
BloggingStocks.com includes posts from financial journalists as well as investors and analysts. However, all of the posts are screened by editors.
Although the blogs currently focus on eight stocks widely held, Moe hopes to expand coverage to other stocks. But the site has been successful, with more than 1 million visits per month already.
In a Q&A interview done by e-mail this week, Moe talked about BloggingStocks.com. What follows is an edited transcript.
How did AOL get the idea for BloggingStocks.com?
We got the idea for BloggingStocks when we were brainstorming about new features that would get our users to interact more with AOL Money & Finance. We saw individual stock blogs as a way to bridge the gap between the unsupervised, unscripted world of stock message boards and the timely, accurate and carefully edited news and analysis provided by our content partners. We also realized that individual investors are most passionate about the specific stocks that they hold or follow â€“ and this insight drove our decision to make BloggingStocks a network of individual blogs that are dedicated to providing continuous — some might say obsessive — coverage of the individual stocks in our portfolio.
We immediately grasped the potential to integrate blog postings with the news and financials we deliver each time users check a stock quote or review their portfolio and generate a lot of traffic and attention right out of the gate. We also realized that creating stock-specific blogs would be a great fit with new features AOL Money & Finance has launched and will soon launch — such as expanded news coverage, a new Stock Screener, Top 5 features and more.
Plus, the addition and development of new blogging networks was one of the main goals when AOL acquired Weblogs last year.
How do you think it differs from more traditional media such as The Wall Street Journal in its coverage of the market?
There are some obvious ways BloggingStocks differs from traditional media. Posts are generally shorter, more opinionated and often quirkier and edgier in their analysis than traditional commentary. Bloggers typically use another news story as a starting point for their post. But we also encourage them to do original reporting.
There are also some less obvious ways BloggingStocks differs from traditional media. We can often be faster to report and post news and analysis than financial news services. Weâ€™ve hired bloggers dedicated to following these companies in real time â€“ especially around earnings season â€“ and they are able to post news practically instantaneously without navigating through an editorial process.
One of our franchises is â€œlive bloggingâ€? earnings calls and other live events. So when a blogger is present at a shareholderâ€™s meeting or an earnings conference call, he or she can cover the news in real time and just hit publish to disseminate the content over the Web.
Who is the target audience?
Our target audience is all investing enthusiasts, including existing users of AOL Money & Finance as well as new users who come to Bloggingstocks through search engines and other third party sites. We expect BloggingStocks to continue to attract a diverse audience of amateur as well as professional investors.
How did you pick the companies that are blogged about?
The first eight companies â€“ Apple, Yahoo, Google, Time Warner, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Microsoft, and eBay — were chosen because they are some of the most widely held and followed stocks by our users. They are also some of the most actively discussed on message boards and other blogs.
Do you hope to expand the coverage to stocks other than those eight?
We expect to launch blogs about Starbucks, Exxon Mobil and the satellite radio companies next. We plan to have 20 blogs up and running by next year and may ultimately expand beyond that. We are listening to feedback from our users to determine which industries and individual stocks that they would like to hear more about and are focusing our efforts on those areas.
In general, who are your writers, and whatâ€™s their journalism background?
Our bloggers are all passionate about investing and that is about the only thing they have in common. So far we have an interesting mix of financial professionals, analysts, individual investors and journalists. We thoroughly screen applicants and have a set of guidelines for our bloggers to follow. We also have a team of AOL editors who read posts, vet ideas, and work with the bloggers to make sure they meet our standards for objectivity and independence.
How does BloggingStocks fit into AOLâ€™s broader content strategy?
BloggingStocks fits in with several goals of AOL Money & Finance: to increase the amount of original analysis and commentary, to get users to interact more, to attract more users who are not AOL subscribers, to provide more content for our active investor audience and to generate more traffic off the quotes and portfolios pages that users check each day. This in turn reflects AOLâ€™s broader content strategy of growing its audience beyond the traditional AOL member base and engaging those users to the maximum extent possible with both professionally generated and user-generated content, and the communities that develop around those experiences. We are looking and exploring all the ways that video and other Web 2.0 capabilities and features can be integrated in each channel across the company.
Are the posts edited before they go live?
Our editorial team reviews all of the posts â€“ the great majority of them before they are published. Mostly they check for clarity, spelling and grammar. Sometimes they spot errors. They also suggest items for bloggers to cover.
How often are your writers posting?
Some bloggers post four or five times a day; others post just once or twice a week. The flexibility of the format is one thing that allows us to recruit a diverse group of bloggers.
Whatâ€™s traffic been like?
In each of our first three months, weâ€™ve averaged about a million page views and have had well over a million unique visitors since launch. We expect it to grow as we add new stocks to the network and attract a wider spectrum of readers.
Whatâ€™s been the biggest issue in getting the site off the ground?
Our biggest challenge is recruiting a large number of talented, knowledgeable bloggers. In fact, we are looking for additional bloggers. If any of your readers are interested, they can contact Amey Stone (AmeyStone05@aol.com), who is a senior editor at Money & Finance and one of our BloggingStocks editors.
Why a blog instead of another format?
The way we see it, AOL Money & Finance already has some of the best personal finance and investing content available, thanks to our relationships with key content partners and leading tools and resources. We also have a very active stock message board community. Blogs occupy a middle ground between the two and fit in with AOLâ€™s broader strategy of creating more opportunities for users to express their views and see the views of others.
Weâ€™ve found the personal, informal, and opinionated nature of blogs to be very popular with our users. We see BloggingStocks as a significant growth area for the site and feel weâ€™ve just begun to tap the full potential of the format.