MuniNet Guide has evolved into a first-line research source, capturing the essence of today’s top issues affecting state and local government, municipal bonds, and public finance – as well as demographic and economic trends.
Through original article content, interviews with industry professionals, and links to other online resources, MuniNet provides expert commentary on these issues, and directs visitors to the sites and resources that best fit their needs and interests.
Since its inception in 1996, MuniNet.com has continued to focus on its core audience – professionals with an interest in government administration, municipal investment, economic and demographic research, and urban affairs.
In recent years, MuniNet has gained a larger general audience as well, including individuals seeking local information regarding schools, demographics, and income statistics.
In its early days, the Internet was a vast, uncharted territory, much like the Wild West.
When the Internet began to emerge as a powerful and wide-reaching force in the mid 1990’s, the MuniNetGuide.com team recognized a need for a resource that could help make the “Information Superhighway” easier to navigate.
“The amount of information ‘out there’ was incredible,” recalls Mardee Alvaro, MuniNet’s founding editor, “but the key was in being able to find it – and to separate the useful content from the garbage.”
MuniNet Guide & Review, founded in March 1996, was designed to lead readers to the best online resources for professionals in state and local government, public finance and municipal bonds. Alvaro and publisher Richard Ciccarone – whose name is well known in the municipal bond research community – spent the first year in research mode, “where we learned a lot about the Internet and its applications for the municipal-minded.”
“We visited hundreds of web sites during that time,” Alvaro says, “from big cities to small towns, professional organizations to grass-roots local civic groups, looking for the best and the brightest.” In the course of their online journey, she and Ciccarone came across many excellent municipal web sites and tools. “Some web sites were notable because they offered some unique feature, like Addison, Illinois’ online town meetings; others, such as the Municipal Research Services Center of Washington web site, stood out as powerful research tools.”
The first issue of the MuniNet Guide & Review newsletter was published in March 1997. The debut issue highlighted the U.S. Census Bureau web site, discussed the value of online access to local newspapers around the country, and offered readers tips on how to follow links to related web sites. It also contained reviews of 18 web sites.
MuniNet Grows & Expands
The monthly newsletter was complemented by a semi-annual Site Directory, a spiral-bound resource guide containing hundreds, then thousands of links to municipal and related web sites. Subscribers to the newsletter received the Site Directory as a gift along with their paid subscription, though many subscribed just for the Directory alone.
MuniNet then jumped on the online bandwagon in the late 1990s, with the launch of the MuniNetGuide.com web site. Ciccarone explains that at the time, it was important to remain a hard-copy publication even through the introduction of the web site. “Even though people were becoming more confident users of the Internet, there were still plenty of professionals who wanted the comfort of a publication they could hold in their hands, read on the train, etc.”
In late 2002, MuniNet evolved into an exclusively online publication, and did away with its hard-copy newsletter and Site Directory.
Derek Taylor, of Taylor Web Design & Development, played a major role in the creative engineering of the site’s redesign in early 2005. “We continually aim to develop and expand MuniNet Guide’s content, data and deliver meaningful information for people who want to stay current with trends in urban management, research and planning,” he says.
“A secondary goal is to constantly improve and enhance the data we publish for each state, county and city in the United States.”
As part of an increased effort to serve the public finance community, MuniNet Guide launched its weekly Municipal Bond Calendar feature, containing links to issuers selling bonds on the upcoming competitive and negotiated calendars.
In 2007, the National Federation of Municipal Analysts (NFMA) and MuniNet together launched the NFMA Gateway web site. Intended to provide convenient access to municipal bond issuer web sites, the Gateway is searchable by issuer name or category. It also provides a comprehensive listing of disclosure resources – a “one-stop shop” for sites that carry official statements, regulatory materials, as well as trading, underwriting and financial news.
Still embracing the TV Guide concept, MuniNet Guide aims to point readers to the most helpful, notable and interesting web sites in state and local government, public finance, and municipal bonds.
“As part of our mission, we are constantly looking for innovative municipal programs and web site features, and when we find them, we are anxious to share them with our readers,” says Alvaro.
Ciccarone adds that MuniNet goes beyond reporting what’s out there. “We like to tell our readers why it’s worth their valuable time to visit a particular web site … what new angle a report might offer, for example, or how a particular news item relates to an overall trend in the municipal market.”
While MuniNet Guide has evolved and changed over the years, our tag line – Your Hub for Municipal-Related Research – still reflects our primary objective: to identify web sites and online content of value and innovation relating to state and local government, public finance, and municipal bonds, and to pass this information along to our readers.