March 12, 1997 11:00 AM ET

Market for online stock quotes heats up
By Renee Deger

  PC Quote Inc. has upped the ante in the bid for drawing Web surfers -- usually highly educated and well paid -- into online financial services by dropping the subscription fees for its real-time stock quotes effective April 1.

PC Quote, which is generating 4 million impressions per month, intends to replace the lost revenue with advertising. It is an unusual move, given that PC Quote was earning money but decided it could make more by giving the service away.

"It's become a commodity," said Howard Meltzer, president of the Chicago-based company.

PC Quote is increasing ad rates with the expectation of boosting total revenues for the stock quote product, MarketSmart Real-Time, by four to five times, said Meltzer.

Competing stock quote services still charge a monthly fee for real-time quotes.

Just under 1,000 people paid the monthly $27.95 fee for the real-time stock quotes (or $23 per month if they paid for a year up front). About $15 of that was a subscription fee, and the remaining amount was for fees the securities exchanges charge for access. Even after PC Quote stops charging a subscription fee in April, users still will have to pay the exchange fees, which range $2 to $4.25 each.

"We were expecting thousands of clients to take advantage of the service," said Meltzer. But the real-time stock quotes for a fee never took off, although its free counterpart, with quotes 15 minutes old, has 26,000 registered users.

It was from those registrations that PC Quote generated the demographic data that sold advertisers on the service, according to Meltzer.

The move follows an announcement that PC Quote will team with IBM's Lotus SmartSuite 97.

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