Few thought a Los Angeles-based financial newspaper could make it in a market virtually owned by The Wall Street Journal, especially given Mr. O'Neil's lack of publishing experience.
The Wall Street Journal still dominates with a 1.8 million circulation; however, Investor's Business Daily has carved out a small but growing following with serious investors and on Wall Street.
Paid circulation rose 26% to 149,557 for the year ended March 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Ad pages increased in the past year by 19% to 2,551, the newspaper said. Ad pages have grown 71% since 1989. The paper handles radio, TV and direct mail in-house.
Investor's Business Daily still isn't profitable and isn't expected to be until 1995 or 1996, said Mr. O'Neil, who is chairman. But he isn't concerned. His flagship company, William O'Neil & Co., provides the profits. It's a 30-year-old institutional research company that also operates a discount brokerage, mutual fund and printing company.
"It's a great paper ... ," said Peter Appert, media analyst with Alex. Brown & Sons, New York. "It has an incredible amount of data in compact form."
"It's certainly had an impact on Wall Street," said Ken Berents, managing director and research director at Wheat First Butcher & Singer, Richmond, Va. "When it first came out, I did not think it would last."
Advertisers are primarily mutual fund, brokerage and investment research companies, and financial software marketers. But there's also auto, computer and telecommunications advertising. A b&w page costs $10,035; a subscription is $169 a year.
"We would not consider not using it [for advertising] ... ," said Jim Losi, senior VP at Charles Schwab & Co., San Francisco. "For the serious investor, it is like the Bible-so we can reach many of our customers and prospects. We do not feel we get the necessary coverage with The Wall Street Journal or Investor's Business Daily by themselves."
Investor's Business Daily has the ambitious goal of eventually reaching 700,000 to 1 million subscribers. But analysts are skeptical.
To reach that circulation goal, Investor's "would require a fairly substantial broadening of editorial," said analyst Mr. Appert.
"I do not read it for breaking news or to provide scoops and in-depth reporting. I find that in the Journal and The New York Times. I look to it for extra comprehensive statistics and graphs," he said.
The recent downturn in the stock market could also affect Investor's Business Daily's fortunes.
"Up until [April 4], we've had the best bull market since creation," said Mr. Appert. "A bear market could impact circulation and advertising."
But more investors might also seek help.
"With a bear market, people might be looking for a little bit more information," said Doremus & Co. Media Director Robert Docherty.