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Google's vertical move

Thumbs down for Google Finance? That's what some hedge fund managers (who are likely short Google, or likely still upset about missing the boat) said to me after they reviewed the new service this morning. That said, I have to agree to some extent. Why? Just because it's a service from Google, and I expect a lot more. Google's Finance site - which just launched Tuesday -- is not that impressive, partly because it looks so much like other finance sites, like Yahoo Finance, which launched years ago. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, actually, given that Katie Stanton, a former Yahoo Finance employee, is running Google's new vertical.

Besides an interactive chart that shows when stories published (to give investors a sense of what moved the stock), there is nothing innovative or spectacular about the service. OK. I really do like the interactive charts - those are very useful! - and, I like the pop-up window with information about the executive team.  I also like the prominent placement of the blogs. But where's the related video? Where are the open APIs, so smart geeks can mash-up stuff Google hasn't thought of?  I thought Google believes in "The Wisdom of Crowds."

To be sure, Google doesn't need  bells and whistles to be good. It just needs to be relevant.  And, these days, blogs are relevant.

Type in "Google" on Google News, and you get 37,000 results. Type in "Google" on Google Finance, and go to the blog posts section, and you'll see that there are 5.9 million results.  Want to know who's blogging about Google Finance? Besides yours truly, there's Bill Bishop -- a dear friend and former colleague at MarketWatch, and Henry Blodget, former Internet analyst.

Why is Google doing such a move? For starters, it's likely a number of people went to Google News and typed in "goog" or "aapl" - or other stock quotes, or names of publicly-held companies to get the latest news from 4,500 sources.  I know I did. Moreover, traffic to finance sites has grown faster than traffic to Internet sites overa. Traffic to financial news and information sites grew 10% in February, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. That compares to 3% traffic growth to overall Internet sites. Advertisers also love finance sites. In 2005, 35% of the $418 million in ad dollars managed by Aquantive's Avenue A/Razorfish went into verticals vs. 31% that went into search. Advertisers also more than doubled their ad dollars going into finance verticals, despite the 20% increase in ad prices, according to the Internet advertising company.

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