My friends Josh Brown and Tadas are asking & answering a great question right now, “where have all the financial bloggers gone?” I guess that would include me, since I’ve kinda disappeared.
The truth is — I actually like writing and I love the idea that someone, somewhere almost anywhere in the world is seeing my words. So, by association, I must love blogging. But, truthfully, lately I’m also very self-conscious. Maybe I’m wasting my time and yours.
I’ve been blogging off and on since 2008. I’ve probably quit like 20 times. I seem to last about three months, maybe five, and then I quit for a month; burned out. My mission initially was to tell anyone who would listen my ideas about how Wall Street is broken and the truth about what I’ve seen happen in the retail world of investing. The whole premise was to show you a different way to do things, and use it as my creative outlet.
I crescendo-ed my story this February using the I heart Wall Street schtick to tell you about my latest investment service, which honestly is still frustratingly in beta.
After that, I felt maybe embarrassed, but mostly just spent. I also realized that while I was busy trying to build up myself as a blogger I should have focused more on growing my business & finishing our product. I used the whole blogging thing sometimes as a diary, sometimes as a microphone. Often with mixed results. I’ve made a lot of friends, and probably some enemies as a result of the pixels I’ve moved.
Meb wrote a brilliant investment white paper and used social media & blogging to share his new quantitative findings & insights. His paper made him an instant celebrity, rightfully so — the elegant simplicity of his approach toward using ETFs was nothing less than revolutionary.
In Meb’s method of blogging he does short, very to the point posts usually with data or a graph. 100 words or less often. That’s his staple.
And he’s very good at it.
What you, the reader, get is a boiled down version of things he spends tireless hours researching.
And, if you really think about it, in his model of blogging it’s a beautiful marriage of self-serving and selflessness. He also has a loyal following as a result. He’s sporadic in his posting, but for his audience and style he’s maintained a solid niche-following of market nerds like me.
What’s really interesting (at least to me) in the face of all of his knowledge is his lack of fear that someone would ‘steal’ his ideas. He’s honestly one of the most generous bloggers I know.
For me, I can’t seem to hit publish without 1000 words on the page and 15 links buried in the article. I viewed my posts as more of an experience which is probably totally myopic, especially in the face of the limited time people dedicate to reading blogs.
While Meb’s style is elemental to the viability of the blogging ecosystem — I get bored sharing stuff I find. Maybe that’s lame — I’m meditating on it, but in some ways It seems horribly monotonous after about a month. Maybe I’m too selfish, but I’d rather be doing other stuff or congealing bigger ideas into something more long-form.
Then there’s Josh.
I found Josh Brown probably googling something like ‘Wall Street Sucks’ or ‘dumpster Santa Claus‘ in 2008. Right away I liked him, and felt a brotherhood of knowing his pain being in the retail world of investing. Right away I knew he was going to be valedictorian of the crisis of 2008. We became blogger buddies right around the time I posted this stupid music video. I was hella famous with my almost 10,000 hits. My best month for the blog since then has been like 60,000 hits. Today Josh does a million hits a month. Josh’s mission, like mine, was to uncover the BS that is Wall Street, which he parlayed into a book, a WSJ gig, morning comments on NPR, and now being a totally awesome pundit on TV and public figure. He’ll tell you, aspects of his business and personal life have been sacrificed as a result, and now we know for the greater good — 4 years later. Not exactly immediate gratification.
I do love how a little positive feedback can change your whole day in an instant with a thoughtful comment or encouragement, and I love that aspect of blogging — but the reality is — you are not (and I am probably not) going to be some A-Number-1 financial blogger.
In my case, upon realizing this, I asked myself — why settle for mediocrity? And naturally as a follow-up question — if that’s the case, how much do I really love blogging? The simple truth is I don’t have the focus or talent Josh has when it comes to blogging. Period.
So, unless I change my attitude and expectations about blogging I realized maybe it’s time to hang up the gloves: Because the math is simple. Do at least three posts a day, otherwise readers get bored — at least if you’re looking for big traffic numbers — in which case — the only way to grow your readership is organically (lots and lots of posts) or through syndication. I’ve been lucky to have syndication, where a few people who are far more relevant than me actually like what I’m writing. Them linking to my post is such a huge validation for me. Them sending me traffic is doubly awesome. But unless you grow that network, you’ll kind of always be capped. That takes 100% dedication.
Blogging will scramble your brain (and ego)
Picture this: you spend hours — days — on a post, thinking you’ll be hailed as a genius, picturing the Wall Street Journal citing your sage-like wisdom — and almost inevitably the post flops with 15 views. Then you’ll see 12,000 comments about Lindsey Lohan’s dad’s dog eating a milkbone. And that’s how you start your week. Most people can’t handle the rejection for longer than about 20 posts. And ultimately I don’t want to write stuff like, “Is Now The Time To Sell Apple?” just to stay relevant.
I will say this though, when it clicks — when it does happen — the words are flowing, the timing is right, there’s almost nothing better. That connection to something bigger is just absolutely amazing. But before you do go down that road hunting for nirvana, remember this: Blogging will totally kill your sex life, because instead of humping all night, I’m typing all night. Blogging is like exercise, something everyday is advisable but it is a marathon. If you are posting once a week, it better look like it took you a week to write it. The marathon-thing is so cliche’ but I can’t stress that enough. There is no shortcut to blogging — at least, not if you’re doing something worthwhile.
The other thing to remember about your blogging is this: staying relevant via blogging is an incredibly restless and relentless experience, especially in the financial world. 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Money never sleeps. Ask Joe Weisenthal. And maybe worse, people who are reading your words — especially market-relevant words — are often looking for answers when they don’t even know the right questions to ask.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
I live in LA, so in order to not be lost in the news cycle and be noticed, my posts really need to be out by 6am. If I’m trying for something timely and international, 3am. And since my daddy and work duties end at 8pm, I have about 3 hours to crank out how many 1000 word posts? Not. Gonna. Happen. I’m up until 2am. Sometimes 3. The posts Tadas and Josh wrote yesterday — have already been discussed thoroughly. We’re already onto the next topic. This post is already irrelevant.
And because I’m usually up so late typing, trying to stay “fresh”, there are almost always sprinklings of typos and half-thoughts. Sometimes I’m truly embarrassed to read what I wrote the night before, waking up in the morning to check my traffic like some sort of blogging fiend. So, for me — I had to stop. Maybe I’ll come back, I do miss it. But before I do, I want to be clear, again, about why I’m doing it. I suggest you do the same.