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Google Finance Sparks Portal Talk

Google launched Google Finance this week. Competitors yawned. Bloggers scratched their heads. And finally, Wall Street analysts grinned.

While Google Finance offers such features as stock charts tagged with news events, an Ajax interface, and, of course, impressive search capabilities, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and others have been producing financial-news-and-data services for nearly a decade.

"We've faced one competitor after another over the years," Peggy White, Yahoo Finance General Manager, told internetnews.com. "We've been doing this for 10 years. We do it very well."

White has reason to be confident; Nielsen//NetRatings lists Yahoo as the top online financial news and information destination for February 2006.

Besides, Yahoo is more than just a search engine and financial-news-and-data service. It's a portal, said White.

"We are really focused on creating an experience that keeps [users] not just engaged with Yahoo Finance, but other parts of Yahoo, too."

But after the launch of GoogleTalk, Gmail and, now, Google Finance, many Web watchers think Google is intent on both emulating Yahoo and cutting into its rival market share by becoming a portal itself.

"Finance areas are a staple of portals, one of the first features they all introduced to help attract and keep searchers," Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of "Search Engine Watch," wrote on his site.

"This move definitely gives Google another portal feature to notch on its belt buckle -- and a feature that may help keep searchers sticking with it."

But White isn't worried about a Google portal. She uses a metric called engagement to measure the amount of time users spend on what pages, and her numbers say Yahoo is way ahead of the competition.

"Our users spend more than double the time with us than any other financial space."

Numbers like that make it seem like Google isn't even in this portal competition. And according to Google, it's not.

"We actually don't track how long a user stays on our site," Katie Jacobs Stanton, Google Finance product manager, told internetnews.com. "We want to be a switchboard."

But John Battelle wrote on his Searchblog that Google is getting into publishing whether or not it wants to admit it.

"I love John Batelle. I think he's awesome," Stanton said, "but we don't create any of our content. What we've done is crawled and extracted data from the Web and then we link off to those sites to send users to a place that goes really deep."

So is Google trying to become or portal or not? With Gmail, users visit Google like a portal. With GoogleTalk, Google talks like a portal. And now, with Google Finance, Google users will use Google like a portal.

Analyst Bruce Temkin of Forrester Research doesn't care. He just thinks creating Google Finance makes good money sense for the company.

"I think it's a good first move for them," he told internetnews.com.

According to Temkin, Google users -- the kind who may or may not be using a portal when they use Google -- are what he would call "target investors, the group that investment firms would pay the most to advertise to."

Last Temkin checked, Google's main business was advertising.

"They have a rich core of target users," Temkin said. "It makes sense to take advantage of that."

If, that is, Google is in this whole thing for the money, portal or not.

"We don't build our products because we're like 'Oh we could make a lot of money doing that," Stanton said of her company.

And her company reported $6.5 billion in 2005 revenue, according to Google Finance, and $1.73 billion in gross profit, according to Yahoo Finance.