Secrets to a Successful Blog: Content
This is the second in a five part series in which I'm laying out the secrets to successful financial blogging. There are always exceptions to any rule, but if you follow this stuff you will see that I'm right. This is a long post, but every word counts.
Viewpoint: Let's start very simply by saying that the world doesn't need another content farm, especially in the finance vertical. If you're going to cover markets, companies, stocks, Wall Street and the economy then please make sure you have a point of view. We all get our news from Twitter and TV and you will never compete with The Business Insider or DealBook on straight up news coverage - they don't have day jobs - this is what they do and they do it well. They will always win on breadth and speed. What they don't always do well is news analysis and opinion. Journalists and full-time bloggers are sometimes outmatched in formulating the "why this matters" or in noticing connections beneath the surface. That's where we come in as industry practitioners on trading desks, at banks or in client-facing jobs.
Spouting Off: Do us all a favor and talk about stuff you know. If you don't understand the finer points of monetary policy or Federal Reserve history or securities analysis or bond trading or emerging markets, just STFU. You can cover topics that you aren't strong on the way I do - linking out to more knowledgeable sources and culling together a point of view based on the opinions of those you respect and trust. Like many of the great market commentators, I've chosen to make myself a generalist in the hopes that I might become one of the greats one day (you cannot possibly imagine the depth and scope of my ambition in this regard). If you choose to be a specialist in one area, you can probably build a really loyal following even faster than a generalist - but don't veer away from your raison d'etre too much once you've got that following - keep it real.
Piling On: There are certain subjects where to write a post would just be overkill. If Eddy does it and Barry does it and then Zero Hedge does it and 24/7 Wall Street does it...what are you really adding to the equation, know what I mean? Sometimes a topic is so big that it doesn't matter - have at it. Sometimes you're just beating a dead horse back to life and then to death again. Find the balance and know when to talk about something different.
Timing: I'm going to let you guys in on one of my timing secrets. It took me 18 months to learn this. Don't be first, be last (and best). Let's say Bloomberg puts out a headline that Goldman Sachs has been caught financing a syndicate of Gypsy pickpockets in southern Romania because they don't yet have every single penny of the world's wealth under their control yet, or whatever, something like that. You already know that there will be 100+ mainstream media articles about it, a few thousand tweets and then a few hundred blog posts throughout the day. The 50 Cent stock pump is a great example - everyone had something to say, none of it very interesting. And then TRB publishes 50 Cent's Investment Library and absolutely crushes it - I own that story now because I let everyone else exhaust and repeat themselves, digested it all, and then came out at 9 o'clock at night with a sledgehammer of a post. Booyah, Jim.
Respect: As in the Hip Hop world, you do not come out of the gates and take shots at a legend to try to make a name for yourself. Canabis tried it and LL Cool J put his career in a pine box. Pay your dues, play your position and respect the bigger dogs in the blogosphere and financial media. Don't rip journalists to shreds just because your mic is on. You will look like a petulant child or one of those cranks who write letters to their congressman that no one reads. Remember what Brand Nubian said, punks jump up to get beat down.
Eclecticism: Whether generalist or specialist, don't be afraid to incorporate your other interests into your work. Grab interesting stories from science, history, literature, art, technology, sports, pop culture...whatever. Just don't dilute your content too much; reviews of each week's episode of Jersey Shore would probably not make much sense on a blog about value stock picking. Your audience will connect with you more when you become a human being with interests outside financial matters. My blog, for example, has a nice following amongst hip hop fans, people with good senses of humor and pop culture junkies. Ritholtz gets a lot of engineering/science/technology/auto enthusiasts on The Big Picture. Paul Kedrosky's readers are weather man groupies and amateur cartographers at Infectious Greed. Felix Salmon probably has an audience that skews toward those who are interested in finance and also the way the press covers finance. And also etiquette. Tyler Durden's readership is made up of highly inquisitive and intelligent market participants, and a little overlap with the anarchy hobbyist demo. You get the idea.
Controversy: There is a shortcut in terms of the type of content that will drive traffic. Make really big, bold, controversial statements. Someone will pick up on you fast and if your stuff is wild enough, it'll circulate. Then what? That becomes what you're known for and once the traffic dies down, your credibility will have been spent in vain. Look at this guy GoldmanSachs666. I'm sure he's a nice guy with interesting things to say, but come on, is anyone going to be a loyal reader of that site or turn to him for opinion? If you roll around in mud, you will be covered in it yourself.
Predictions/Performance: Don't be that guy that tosses out price targets and predictions all day. You will be wrong often no matter how good you are. You will alienate and piss off your readers. And posting performance numbers? Never, unless you can back them up with some kind of verification. Don't be a putz and make things up about how great you are - no one will believe you or like you.
That's it, I'm out. Be thoughtful about the content you put out into the world.
Tune in next Friday for Part III
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