I just got back from the Evidence Based Investing conference hosted by Ritholtz Wealth and IMN in beautiful Dana Point, California. One of the persistent themes at the event was the importance of social media and blogging. Basically, those of us who are being super transparent online are providing a totally different client facing experience than the old school brokers and advisors who mainly use their firm’s brand name to attract clients and prove their value. Blogging totally changed the game.
I remember 10 years ago around the time when I started Pragcap and there were only a handful of still existing financial blogs being run by identified financial professionals:
- Barry Ritholtz, the original financial blogfather
- Meb Faber at what I believe was then World Beta, now mebfaber.com
- Tobias Carlisle at Greenbackd
- Morgan Housel, then at Motley Fool, now at Collaborative Fund
- Josh Brown at Reformed Broker
- Paul Hickey at Bespoke Invest
- David Merkel at Aleph Blog
- Roger Nusbaum at Random Roger
- Eddy Elfenbein at Crossing Wall Street
- Howard Lindzon at StockTwits
- Bill McBride at Calculated Risk
I am missing lots of other names (sorry), but those are the ones that jump off the tip of my tongue. These sites were different from many of the other blog-like websites being run by journalists or more mainstream outlets – they weren’t being run for profit and they were real experts in the financial world. These sites were being run by people who believed they had something important to say and believed they could make a small difference by writing publicly and transparently.
The most influential names in finance have always been great writers – Buffett, Graham, Soros, Grantham, Dalio, etc. But 20 years ago their writings were few and far between so many of the most influential names in this business were old dead guys whose names were on the sides of buildings – you know, Merrill, Morgan, Lynch, Stanley, Dean, Witter, Goldman, Sachs, etc. Smart people did/do great work under those names, but it was still under those names. That hasn’t completely changed, but it’s certainly changing.
In the wake of the financial crisis we now know that the names of old dead guys don’t mean that much. And people are looking for more credible sources. They are searching and vetting individuals whose research they find online and using blogs and social media to identify the transparent and honest work of financial professionals who just put it all out there. It used to be that the most interesting research and analysis was being done at big banks or in finance journals. Today, if you’re not reading blogs or following the smartest people on Finance Twitter you are missing the most interesting discussions in finance.
It used to be that blogging and the use of social media was viewed as a waste of time or something that teenagers did in their underpants in their parents’ basement. Today, any financial professional who isn’t blogging or on social media is an outlier. Blogging and social media is how financial professionals now express their opinions, display their expertise and provide constant client and non-client facing communication.¹
At one point on Monday I was sitting next to Ben Carlson and I said:
“In 20 years we are all gonna look back at this and have a huge laugh at the fact that some of the most influential people in finance are great friends because they met on the blogosphere”
I pinch myself when I sit in a room with people like the ones listed above (and the hundreds of incredible thinkers who have started blogging since) and I think about how insane it is that some of the biggest movers and shakers in finance all connected and made a difference through blogs. These are people who now manage billions of dollars of assets and write some of the most important financial research in the world. They are literally changing how Wall Street works. And they’re doing it in a super transparent and client friendly manner. They are – bloggers.
¹ – It is also how I make tons of bad jokes, show off pictures of my dog and just generally embarrass myself.