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Weekend reading: Good and bad news travels fast online

Some good reads from around the Web.

I have to use this week’s Saturday morning piece to point readers to an update to our post [1] about Vanguard funds and Interactive Investor.

The plot thickened almost as soon as we posted that article. Initially prompted by Monevator readers’ comments, it was soon fueling even more confusion among others.

Vanguard funds that were seemingly available on Interactive Investor’s systems – and confirmed as such by staff – turned out to be part of a limited test program, not yet permanent additions to the iii stable. Please read the updated intro to the article for more [1] on what this means.

It’s a pretty frustrating state of affairs.

I won’t go into the specifics of this SNAFU much further, since we’ve subsequently been in discussion with iii staff, who I’m pleased to say have responded with some clarity on becoming aware of the befuddlement their pilot program seems to have caused at least some customers.

But I would like to point out that it’s 2012, and no service provider can rest on its laurels.

The time is long gone when the typical investor checked his share prices in the FT on the train back to Basingstoke before joining his broker or financial adviser for a few G&Ts at the golf club.

Active investors are online, they are communicating with each other, and word gets around fast.

Yesterday we saw the IPO of Facebook, just one company revolutionising the world by capitalising on the power and appeal of community.

Blogs like Monevator have sizable communities, too – we’ve welcomed over one million unique visitors to this site since 2009. They have left thousands of comments, but more importantly they have spread links to our content across even larger discussion forums, such as The Motley Fool [2], Stockopedia [3] and ADVFN [4]. We, in turn, have spread links posted to discussions elsewhere.

This is the modern landscape that financial service providers will thrive or die in, and it’s best for everyone if the information that spreads is clear and accurate.

Consumers are wising up, sharing knowledge, and growing smarter. Tracker funds are now outselling actively managed ones. Banks are on the hook for billions in compensation partly as a result of grassroots campaigns that began on the Internet. It’s truly a hive of investment activity, as alluded to by the name of one new Web-based service, Investor Bee [5].

The direction of travel is clear. In my opinion, the future of financial advice and services is clearly online [6]. Online is no longer a place for afterthoughts – it’s at the heart of how we’ll save, invest, and plan for our retirement.

I can only apologise to any readers who were excited by our post on Thursday and who are now disappointed, although I’m not sure what else we could have done, given we’d had confirmation from telephone staff that the funds were available to trade.

Still, we’d rather be contributing to the signal, not the noise.

From the money blogs

Book of the week: Still befuddled by the potential of Facebook? Check out The Facebook Effect [16], the definitive book on the company’s first eight years.

Mainstream media money

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