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Web 3.0 and AOL Money & Finance

Posted on Thursday, Mar 22nd 2007

We have reviewed Yahoo, MSN and Marketwatch’s Personal Finance offerings in the earlier posts and today we are going to take a look at AOL Personal Finance from the Web 3.0 perspective.

AOL Money & Finance covers the universe of financial news and information, investing, financial planning, financial management and advice. The site has seven broad categories – News, Investing, Personal Finance, Specials, Bill Manager Plus, Small Business and Taxes. The Personal Finance section of the site has 16 sub-categories – Banking, Loans, Basics, Personal Finance Tools, Bill Manager Plus, Credit Cards, Credit Reports, ID Theft, Debt Management, Insurance, Mortgage, Retirement, Savings, Saving for College , Money Coaches, and Taxes.

There is nothing much to differentiate between Yahoo, MSN or AOL except the fact that AOL offers the Bill Manager Plus for free. In short the AOL site is simple but well organized, has good quality information, nicely presented, easy to operate, useful tools and simple navigation.

Each section provides financial information, tools, financial management and advice relevant to the context. All the sections have good contextual information, which enables a user to take the right financial decision. I liked the Saving for College section as it is full of useful information and cool tools to help parents (and students) plan better. The Compare Student Loan tool is remarkable as it helps in comparing student loans from various sources. I also liked the “What will it take to save for a college education?” tool. I will rate this site at par with Yahoo and MSN on Context.

The site provides a wide array of information on diverse Personal Finance issues. The site hosts a panel of experts in the AOL Money Coach section who answer the queries related to various aspects of Personal Finance and provide financial tips. The site offers an expert advice directory that enables its users to get ready answers on a plethora of topics. It offers 140 financial calculators, generates Credit Reports and Debt Management tools. The Bill Manager Plus is a free bill payment and management tool. The site has tie-ups with CNNMoney, SmartMoney, The Motley Fool, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and Kiplinger for news and content. The site has also tied-up with SimpleTuition, LendingTree, BankRate and Insurance.

The site does not offer any premium paid services to the users of the Personal Finance section. However, it offers business hosting plans for Small Businesses. The suite of premium products offered by AOL Money & Finance include Business Grade Hosting Plans; ValueWeb Express ($14.95/month), ValueWeb Advanced ($39.95/month) and ValueWeb Pro ($79.95/ mo). Ofcourse, AOL’s DNA of being an ISP kicks in gear here, and Context suddenly goes out of the window!

AOL Money & Finance entered the financial blogging community in a big way with BloggingStocks, a blog focused on covering some of America’s most widely-held stocks. The AOL Money & Finance site has a separate section dedicated to blogs. The Editor’s Blogs of AOL Money & Finance has its Senior Editors answering queries and providing financial advice. The site also provides links to popular Personal Finance Blogs. BloggingBuyOuts is a blog dedicated to Private Equity Investing. Hillary on Stocks is another popular blog at the site. Expert and Advice Directory and Money Coach are good and can be extended further into a much bigger community.

The site lacks a proper Personal Finance Blog with message board, discussion and forum. Yes BloggingStocks is a large community but it is only stocks and not Personal Finance.

My Portfolio allows AOL Money & Finance users to customize the site and track their investments. The site can be personalized to display six parameters at a time from the various display options available. The input criteria includes Purchase Price, Earnings Per Share, 52-Week High, 52-Week Low, etc. The basic view displays the ticker symbol, Number of Shares, Last Trading Price, Net Change, Purchase Price, Gain/Loss and Value of Gain/Loss. The portfolio gets updated real time if the user opts for Refresh Automatically option. However, nothing earth-shattering, nor different from Yahoo! Finance.

Vertical Search
The site has a decent Stock Screener, which is simple to use and allows stocks to be screened on the basis of a number of parameters (Industry, Market Capitalization, Price, Volume, etc). The good thing about the site’s Stock Screener is that a user doesn’t need to log in to use the service. Compare Student Loan is also a good vertical search tool that allows students to decide on education loan on various parameters like total cost of loan, APR, monthly payment, etc. The vertical search tools are comparable to those of its peers, even slightly better in the College Financing category.

Business Model
Advertising is the main source of revenue for the site. The site has advertising partnerships with leading brokerage firms like ShareBuilder, Schwab, Fidelity, E*Trade and Scottrade. The site has Sponsored Links (pay-per-click and pay-per-call ads) on almost all its pages. Google, AOL’s search partner administers, sorts and maintains the pay-per-click ads. Ingenio Inc. administers, sorts and maintains the pay-per-call ads.

Overall, our Web 3.0 rating is as follows: Context : A+, Content : A+, Commerce : B-, Community : B, Personalization : B+, Vertical Search : B+. That bring it to an overall rating of, I would say, A-.

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Expecting some other domains like Web 3.0 and MySpace [ which has everything ], Web 3.0 and Swicki+CLusty, etc…

Impressive Article.

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