Business Perspectives

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Published: March 6,2000

Spiders are amazing creatures. They jump into the void with nothing to tether them to safety but a tiny silken thread produced by their own bodies. Meticulously, they weave these threads into beautiful patterns that belie their deadly nature.

While tramping through the woods, I have often walked headlong into one of these webs. I never saw it. I only realized its presence when I felt the sticky strands cover my face. Occasionally, I’ve been lucky enough to spot one of the spectacular designs of nature by standing in the perfect spot as the sunlight glistened off the strands. I marvel at the delicate, yet strong, structure.

Technology has created a man-made web that rivals that of the spider. This “web” is the Internet and all its local connections. It is something we cannot see, but we trust it to be there when we turn on our computers. In fact, we have become dependent on this structure. We are only aware of its presence when we are connected, transmitting and receiving information across the delicate lines.

The Internet is an amazing creature. It has transformed how we conduct business, do research, buy products and, even, communicate. If you do not have an e-mail address, you are out of the loop. If your business doesn’t have a Web site, you are behind the times. And yet, I am amazed at the businesses who have sites. Every time I see a commercial, there will be a line at the end with www.something.com. And I ask myself, “Why does Coca-Cola need a Web site?” Do we need to go to this site to find out the ingredients or the calories or where we can buy the product? Give me a break! Coca-Cola has a Web site because they can, not because it is necessary to its business. Of course, this may just be its way of selling stock in the company.

A worthwhile site must give its user a reason to hit on it. If you’re a company that sells a product, use your Web site as a distribution channel. Make it easy for people to find what they want and order it. If you are using your Web site to offer your existing clients more value, give them something to sink their teeth into. Make sure there is good information on the site and that you change that information often. Give them a reason to come back.

Get professional help when you design the site. This is not your ordinary marketing brochure. When someone clicks on your site, you have, on average, eight seconds to capture their attention. After that, it’s “click” and they’re gone.

And speaking of Coca-Cola stock…the Internet has opened investing to more people and has changed how I do business. I trade online. I communicate with my clients online. I use this intricate web to research investments. For me, the Internet has given me greater access to markets and information.

Individual investors have gained this same access. Online trading has become ordinary among this group. Access to information is crucial in making sound investment decisions…, or it should be. If you’re looking for information on mutual funds, try www.morningstar.com or www. money.com. Simply plug in the name of your fund to get all the latest stats and ratings. Money also publishes a list of its 100 best mutual funds, and, of course, this will be on their Web site.

If you’re looking for information on individual stocks, one of the best sites is www.stockmaster.com. Here, you can get all kinds of reports on a company without hopping from one site to the next. Don’t forget that The Wall Street Journal also has a site, www.wsj.com.

And if you’re really into the financial minutia, try www.sec.gov. This is the official site of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Use their EDGAR database to find company filings.

With the Internet, finding the information is the easy part. Interpreting it is something else.

Spend some time educating yourself about financial reporting and investment lingo. Don’t depend on LK227 in the chatroom to do your work for you.

Meanwhile, yours truly is working on a Web site. Check me out at www.newper.com, and you’ll find more of my favorite sites along with other useful information.

The intricate weavings of the Internet have opened new worlds for us. When it comes to using it for investing, don’t let yourself become the unsuspecting fly.

Nancy Lottridge Anderson, CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Clinton, (601) 924-9828. Her e-mail address is nl2invest@aol.com, and her Web site is online at www.newper.com.

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