An electronic magazine may even be free. Instead of paying a few pounds for a printed title, accessing a web version of the same magazine can cost less than one pence per minute at the weekend. And an on-line magazine usually has its back issues on the net. The internet is the best place to research the cheapest mortgage or the best-performing PEP.
So far, the larger personal finance titles dominate the on-line world. Moneywise divides its on-line edition into news articles and those offering more detailed advice or covering areas such as saving. This is backed by a good search facility that brings up material going back several months. For readers who still prefer paper, there is an on-line form for ordering a free copy of the magazine, and subscription details.
Currently the Moneywise site is free and open to any internet user. This is not always the case. The Economist restricts much of its web site to subscribers, while the Financial Times requires internet visitors to fill in a detailed registration form and use a password to access the site.
The FT's sister title, Investors Chronicle, follows a similar registration- based approach. The site provides articles from the weekly magazine, guidance for novice investors in the Absolute Beginners section, and a library of (abridged) past articles. Again, this is restricted to readers who register on-line, and are willing to give the magazine details about themselves. For unregistered visitors, Investors Chronicle offers news stories from the current issue of the journal. Bloomberg also restricts full access to its web site to registered users. The company launched Bloomberg Money, its own personal finance magazine, in the United Kingdom this year. Parts of Bloomberg Money are available freely on the internet, including a selection of editorial content. Confusingly, access to the articles is by clicking on the magazine subscription button, even though there is no need to subscribe to read the stories.
Bloomberg magazine subscribers do have access to additional features. This includes the option to set up a portfolio of investments on-line, and use the internet site, which carries feeds from Bloomberg's market prices service, to update the holdings. The public part of the Bloomberg site includes stock market prices with a 15-minute delay, financial news and a mortgage calculator.
Experienced investors will find a wealth of information beyond the news- stand titles. A number of specialist web sites cover personal finance. They carry features and are a good source of technical information, and links to other web pages. Sites such as MoneyWorld, Interactive Investor and the quirky MoneyWeb are all good.
The trade press is also embracing the internet. Titles aimed at financial advisers and other professionals within the industry are a rich mine of information for the private investor.
One trade title with a good web site - and accessible writing - is Investment Week. The magazine, aimed mainly at independent financial advisers, has a good search engine and a detailed selection of news and features as well as market information. Some of the stories on the web site appear slightly dated, but there is no charge for using the pages, and no registration form.
As yet, some of the smaller, more specialist finance titles, for example in the mortgage sector, have not converted their magazines to operate on the internet, so the local newsagent is safe for now. But publishers who do not go on-line soon risk losing out to the titles that are already on-line and to the internet specialists who see a gap in the market for financial information.
q Links: Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/uk; Interactive Investor: http://www.iii.co.uk; Investors Chronicle: http://investorschronicle.co.uk; Investment Week: http://www.invweek.co.uk; MoneyWeb: http://www.moneyweb.co.uk; Moneywise: http://www.money wise.co.uk; Moneyworld: http://www.moneyworld.co.uk