One of my fellow bloggers I most admire is Barry Ritholtz. When I visited Barry at his New York office a few months ago, I was astonished to hear him say that he usually starts researching his posts at 4.30 am. He then goes on to do a full day’s work — not just on his blog, The Big Picture, but also on running his growing advisory firm.
It does, of course, raise the obvious question, Why does he do it? Why spend all that time and effort producing high-quality content and then publishing it for free?
Barry recently answered that very question in a post entitled Inverting Wall Street’s Research Business Model. In it he explains how he’s building his entire business on education, on explaining to people how the industry works, and how they can enjoy a successful investment experience despite the industry.
Barry is in fact one of several excellent bloggers now working at Ritholtz Wealth Management. What motivates Barry and his colleagues more than anything, he says, is the misinformation investors are bombarded with.
Here’s an extract:
“The nonsense and frustrations we all witness in this industry every day is a red hot ember that drives us, a prime motivator to push back against the endless firehose of bullshit that the Wall Street machinery manufactures. The single biggest and most profitable product that the Finance Factory cranks out every day is bullshit, and each version of it is slicker and better and more dangerous than whatever came before.
“Our research business model is to create a countervailing narrative to this endless flow of money-losing foolishness. We know that not everyone will be saved, but we can at least provide enough information, data and commentary that an intelligent web surfing investor can find ways to save themselves from the Finance Factory’s finest foolery.”
This really strikes a chord with me. It’s three years now since I left mainstream journalism to focus on the world of investing. Several times I’ve asked myself whether it really is all worth it.
Managing other people’s money is a vastly lucrative business. As a consequence, the fund industry has an almost bottomless budget to spend on advertising, marketing and public relations. It effectively has its own support industry, of which newspapers, magazines and entire television stations also form a part. Against this formidable arsenal, blogs like The Big Picture, Monevator and The Evidence-Based Investor might appear like pea-shooters. Except they aren’t.
Blogging, and content marketing generally, is hard work. It takes time to gather momentum. But if you stick at it, you can have a real impact. The Big Picture is now the most popular finance blog in the US; Monevator is top in the UK and one day TEBI will itself be there or thereabouts.
Anyone in any doubt that there is demand out there for this type of content should look no further than Sensible Investing TV. SITV was the brainchild of Richard Wood at Barnett Ravenscroft Wealth Management. Like Barry Ritholtz, Richard wanted to educate investors, to counter the usual marketing blah and the often misleading and conflicted “advice” in the weekend money sections, and my colleagues and I helped him do it.
I haven’t been involved in SITV for the past 12 months, but the videos we produced — particular the documentary How to Win the Loser’s Game — continue to attract a large audience.
Now SITV’s YouTube channel is about to reach an amazing landmark. Since its launch, five MILLION minutes of video have been watched. That’s the equivalent of nine and a half YEARS of viewing.
Doubtless some viewers will not have been persuaded by the evidence-based approach to investing. But many more, all over the world, will have benefited from the information provided. It gives me great pleasure when, as happens often, people contact me and tell me how helpful they’ve found it.
As Barry says, we won’t save everyone. But we are marking a difference. Slowly but surely, we’re helping to change investing for the better.
That, ultimately, is why we bother.
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