Alittle-noticed boom has accompanied the rise of exchange-traded funds - a surge in indexes those ETFs track. There are now more than 1,000 ETFs in the U.S., with more created every month. But in the ETF market, new is what creates the buzz - there's not much demand for yet another ETF that tracks investing mainstays.

To create an index that can power a successful ETF, it seems the key is to identify a narrow area of the market that's not already covered. Big index companies like Dow Jones and S&P are always developing new benchmarks, but they also face competition from smaller operations, including S-Network Global Indexes, Accretive Asset Management, IndexIQ and 4asset-management. Sometimes the competition is a lone investor with an idea.

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