BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The recession and ongoing market turbulence has led to a growing demand for guidance, analysis and data. In response, brokers, banks and online trading sites have been diligently building their online presence to include new information and resources designed to help self-directed investors make sense of it all.
The online trading site
today released two new software products that foreshadow how online content and social media will increasingly converge in the age of
. The next time you read a business article on a major news Web site, look for a small, purple "Z" next to the tickers for companies mentioned. If you click on it, you'll find pricing information and a form that allows you to trade or set price targets.
The browser-based tool will work with an initial list of the top financial news sites. It also works on the tickers of some of its competitors, allowing users to read
commentary, but execute the transaction via Zecco.
Zecco also announced a partnership with the real-time stock tip forum
that will allow users to quickly access investment ideas from news stories. Zecco plans to court additional finance and news sites, says Chief Executive Michael Raneri.
Raneri's goal is for Zecco to differentiate itself in a space where its competitors have focused more on online content, pairing those resources with a price war. He says Zecco's new tools may be more effective attracting new customers than stealing those currently served by the competition as research shows that "people don't leave their brokerage firm for price." Swaying customer loyalty requires more than just lower balance requirements and transaction fees, he says.
The online tools, branded as Zap Trade, have been in development for nearly two years. They evolved from research focused on "understanding how our customers are getting their ideas and research," Raneri says.
"Rather than pour everything into becoming a destination portal, the browser becomes the user experience," he adds. "An article can drive a reader to take an action that they have already been contemplating."
The Zecco launch illustrates how businesses are looking to leverage online habits and social media trends.
boasts roughly 400 million users and, with half of them logging in daily, it recently bested
longtime status as the Web's most visited site. Recent efforts seek to make itself even more ubiquitous by "personalizing" the Web with plug-ins available for an estimated 250,000 sites.
New York Times
and you will be guided to articles "liked" by your online friends. Your viewing habits, and those of your circle, converge with the personal data Facebook has collected to steer your viewing habits and prompt your mouse clicks. Setting aside, for the moment, privacy concerns and the possibility that you may not really care what your Mafia Wars-obsessed second cousin thinks about the
finale, the site's new portability is as much about user experience as an immediately measurable metric of marketing efforts and advertising campaigns are.
The Web 3.0 approach also offers a new distribution channel that builds upon the desire for instant gratification expertly cultivated by
, which bills itself as a "browser-based gaming innovator," announced the availability of a direct-to-consumer online distribution service that enables game publishers to embed premium video games anywhere on the Web, including blogs, and social media sites. The service debuted with LucasArts'
, a choice that showed the public that these will not merely be variations on Farmville or ports of Flash-based arcade classics.
InstantAction gives customers an easy, fast way to get games, and publishers can expand distribution by embedding games online, where gamers' recommendations and invitations serve as an effective promotional tool.
"It was only a matter of time before the Internet disrupted the extremely limited distribution channels available to game creators, enabling direct-to-consumer access and more control over sales performance and profits," says Evan Wilson, a senior research analyst for Oregon-based
Pacific Crest Securities
. "For game creators, this opens up distribution channels that haven't previously been an option, especially for console-quality games."
-- Reported by Joe Mont in Boston.