Tuesday, June 24, 2008

NYSE Goes "Real-Time" to the Web: Accepting the New Buy-Side Reality

The New York Stock Exchange has been careful through the years to keep feeds of trading data released to public media outlets hobbled with a fifteen-minute delay - in part to protect its revenues from financial institutions being charged for real-time data and in part to offer their member firms an information advantage that would help them have an upper hand with retail investors. But with most of NYSE's competitors being far more lax about releasing real-time trade reports and the definition of "real-time" having changed with powerful new low-latency trading systems for professional traders NYSE has re-evaluated its position on real-time trade reports for the public. Today NYSE Euronext launched its "Realtime Stock Prices" product for media, allowing unlimited distribution of real-time quotes to the public without tracking individual use. The product requires a distributor to pay an undisclosed bulk fee for the rights to public data distribution.

With NYSE's share of securities trading slipping and it's reputation as a market friendly to small investors slipping along with it real-time quotes from the public should have been a default position years ago, as we've argued oftentimes in ContentBlogger. Today's retail investors have more options than ever for making money in the markets, with NYSE's stumbling "blue chip" stocks being far from the most attractive alternatives for many. Forcing people to pay for real-time trade reports was only discouraging further participation in NYSE equities markets by retail investors - especially when other exchanges seeking market share were more than glad to use market data as a lure to new traders.

CNBC has long been a leader in public market data - I led the development and installation of their first delayed data system years ago for Quotron - so it's expected that they've opted to be on the edge of NYSE's release of this product. But the other announced client - Google - is one that was expected also but one that couldn't have come at a worse time for Yahoo. Real-time quotes from NYSE have been available from Yahoo at a premium for many years, so in a time when they have been trying to look plump to acquirers it's not surprising that they didn't opt to give up their NYSE quote revenues ("back door" real-time quotes from private electronic markets on Yahoo aren't strongly representative of the full market). So by default the go-ahead went to Google, whose Google Finance portal has become a very strong content offering. If nothing else the public knowledge that full NYSE real-time quotes are available at Google will provide some needed publicity for Google Finance at a time when Yahoo is slow to give up existing revenues.

I would hardly be alone in chastising NYSE for dragging their heels on releasing real-time quotes to the public, but it's sad that it has taken this long to get NYSE to make this move. It is, unfortunately, a familiar refrain in the content industry: major institution covets proprietary content revenues, squeezes them out for as long as possible while the markets move to find both acceptable substitutes and better ways of doing business. Publishing is in essence a very conservative business, so it's not surprising that NYSE would try to keep this formula going for so long. But in an era when the buyers of securities have and demand information at least as good as most selling institutions failing to serve the buy side in financial markets effectively is to ignore the fundamental shift in the content industry that empowers people with independent access to content from around the world. Your content may seem safe as a proprietary asset, but if it's not driving your clients' profits in its most valuable user-defined contexts it is far from a safe bet in today's content markets.
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