Tag Archives: Barron’s
by Chris Roush
Aaron Levitt of InvestorPlace.com writes about how investors can now invest based on how financial publication Barron’s picks stocks.
Levitt writes, “Considered to be one of the pillars of financial journalism, media outlet Barron’s has partnered with the fund distributor to create a new ETF based on their popular Barron’s 400 index. The index, which offers ‘growth at a reasonable price’ (or GARP) investing, has an impressive history, and could be the right new infusion for investor portfolios.
“According to pundits, one of the problems with standard indexing is that along with all the ‘good’ companies, you get the ‘bad’ ones as well, which drags on potentially market-beating returns.
“That’s where fundamental indexing — and the new Barron’s 400 ETF — comes in.
“Appearing weekly/daily in Barron’s print and online publications, BFOR’s index was launched in 2007 and uses a unique process to select stocks that have growth characteristics and are trading at reasonable prices … similar to what many Barron’s writers do for their weekly and daily columns.
“The 400-stock index is built on the back of the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index, which itself contains about 6,000 stocks. Firms in this benchmark are then graded and ranked, based on 24 metrics of growth, value, profitability and cash flows. Companies that have a market cap below $3 billion, have a minimum three-month average dollar-trading volume of less than $2 million or are real estate investment trusts are kicked to the curb.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Barron’s veteran Tiernan Ray writes on its Tech Trader Daily blog about how he responds to allegations that his business journalism is influenced by outside forces.
Ray writes, “I adhere to the Dow Jones rule of conduct, which is that I do not write about anything in which I have a financial interest. I got rid of any stock holdings when I joined Dow Jones in 2005, and have never returned to investing in any securities in the time since.
“Moreover, I have latitude to write about anything in tech, given that my only holdings of any kind of securities are via a Dow Jones retirement fund managed by Fidelity Investments. A portion of that fund is invested in stocks, and a portion is invested in bonds. I have no knowledge of what the securities are that are held or traded in those portfolios.
“Often the question of whether I may have a conflict emerges when some readers don’t like what they read. Some go beyond dissatisfaction with the article to opine that I must have a conflict.
“For those readers, I provide the following Q&A.
Aren’t you a paid shill for hedge funds, because you didn’t write that XYZ Corp. is the greatest/worst company/stock ever?
“I receive a paycheck from Dow Jones & Co., and that is the only compensation I receive. No one tells me what to write, nor what approach to take. I have full latitude to write about what I think is important and interesting, and to take an approach to the subject that reflects conversations about that topic that may influence the shares.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Greg Bartalos is the editor in chief of Barrons.com, the online site for the weekly business newspaper.
He rejoined Barron’s as editor of Barrons.com in early 2009, following his most recent role as assistant managing editor of Yahoo! Finance, a position he held since 2006. He previously served as senior editor of Barrons.com. In his role, Bartalos oversees editorial content for the site, as well as online community-building initiatives and Barrons.com’s relationships with other sites.
He joined Yahoo! Finance in 2005 after serving as senior editor of Barrons.com for four years. Previously, Bartalos served as managing editor and an editorial consultant for Individual Investor Online from 1998-2001. He was also a reporter for Bloomberg News and Institutional Investor. Bartalos began his career at Competitive Media Reporting as an audio editor.
Bartalos graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Bartalos spoke earlier this week by email with Talking Biz News about the Barrons.com operation. What follows is an edited transcript.
What is the daily coverage philosophy of Barrons.com?
We try to report on and interpret key news events while emphasizing ways in which readers can profit or at least not lose money. While the daily news cycle drives our coverage, the past informs what we do and the future is our focus. In that context, analysis remains paramount. We regularly write about securities we deem undervalued regardless of whether they are making news. Ultimately, our readers are in search of value, and our job is to find it for them. Barrons.com, which is ramping up video efforts, also provides advice on how to navigate the world of wealth management via its Penta section, which caters to families with assets of $5 million or more.
We offer a wide array of stories, including in-depth interviews with money managers and longer more analytical pieces, complemented by shorter items, often found on our blogs. Including blog posts, Barrons.com publishes roughly 1,000 stories per month on weekdays.
Who do you see as your competitors for markets news?
Many sites cover markets news and provide timely analysis but I wouldn’t single out any. We think we have sufficiently differentiated ourselves with our high-quality editorial offerings that focus on providing actionable ideas to investors. As such, we are not a news site per se. And while most of our competitors are free, we fortunately have been successfully charging for many years.
How do you decide what content is for subscribers, and what content is free?
It’s pretty straightforward. Our daily analysis is generally behind a pay wall. However, our videos, which editor Jack Otter is very effectively building out, are free as are our blogs: Tech Trader Daily (Tiernan Ray), Focus on Funds (Brendan Conway), Emerging Markets (Ben Levisohn), Income Investing (Michael Aneiro), Penta (Richard Morais) and Stocks to Watch. Our magazine content, published every Saturday morning, is for the most part behind the pay wall. But we do experiment with selectively making content free.
The site recently added a portfolio tracker. What was the reasoning?
The new portfolio is a larger Dow Jones initiative designed to encourage frequent usage. The service, provided by LikeAssets, allows readers to automatically and securely sync all their portfolios from more than 40 brokerage firms. The portfolio, which integrates Barron’s analysis and news from The Wall Street Journal, also includes breakdowns of asset allocation and visually alluring performance graphs. Readers can also track investments based on institution, beneficiary or goals.
Tell me about the new feature that analyzes markets coverage from other media.
Helmed by executive editor John Kimelman, Read This, Spike That was created early this year to help investors navigate an ever more cluttered media landscape. It’s easy to see why many feel overwhelmed by the abundance of investing advice hitting them. That’s why in John’s column he discusses the relative merit of a few stories each day, rating them on a one- to five-star basis. Ultimately, in a media-drenched environment, any guidance that can help readers navigate a complex and fast-moving market serves a useful purpose.
Does any of Barron’s content come from your sisters at The Wall Street Journal or Marketwatch?
No. Our stories are created in-house but of course we link to them and vice versa.
Who is the typical Barrons.com reader?
We have a very sophisticated and high net worth readership, composed of individual and professional investors. Average household net worth is north of $2.5 million. And the average reader makes 60 securities transactions per year. Our readers are very loyal, spending over two hours each week reading Barrons.com, with more than half that time devoted to weekday content. Time after time, I have heard readers recount how they grew up watching their fathers read Barron’s on Saturday mornings. Then they fell into the habit and found it a hard one to shake!
When you rejoined Barron’s in 2009, the site had 150,000 subscribers. Where do you stand now?
We are at about 170,000 paid subscribers. Overall, though, from a business standpoint, our focus has been on increasing overall circulation revenue.
And monthly visitors were at 2 million in 2009. Where are you at now?
We are comfortably above that. However, as mentioned above, our focus has been on growing profits — not chasing traffic for traffic’s sake.
What do you attribute that growth to?
Hopefully, the quality of our work is resonating with readers. Efforts on Facebook and Twitter are helping too. We also have expanded into mobile with an iPad app that’s proven popular along with, more recently, an iPhone app that features daily content.
What do you see as the top features of the site that attract most readers?
Randall Forsyth’s Up and Down Wall Street Daily is a big draw as is Tiernan Ray’s tech coverage. Also, Steve Sears’s options column and Michael Kahn’s technical analysis enjoy loyal followings. Jack Hough draws many readers as does David Englander who specializes in “off the radar” stocks. Barron’s Take, which analyzes companies making news, is written by Teresa Rivas, Johanna Bennett and Dimitra DeFotis. They also write the longstanding Weekday Trader feature, which highlights attractive investments.
Wall Street’s Best Minds, which showcases commentary from leading thinkers, has done very well since its January launch. And Investors’ Soapbox, a perennial draw that highlights third-party big-picture analysis, is overseen by managing editor Ed Lin. Inside Scoop, by Grace Williams, has a dedicated following, too. Finally, Richard Morais, with his witty and insightful writing for Penta, covers wealth management, philanthropy, real estate, art, food, culture and more with aplomb.
When you came back from Yahoo! Finance, was there anything that you learned there that you applied at Barron’s?
Yahoo! Finance was different in some fundamental ways. Free versus paid. Massive audience versus a relatively smaller one, etc. But Yahoo reinforced in me the importance of being nimble and timely when programming online content. When I returned to Barrons.com, I wanted to keep the analytical component of the site front and center while giving much more prominence to the daily news cycle. Barron’s Take, which we launched in 2009, is the poster child for that synthesis.
What’s your favorite Alan Abelson story?
I would suggest looking at the stories shared by Alan’s colleagues in a series of recent remembrances that appeared on Barrons.com. Words can’t fully describe how eloquent, witty and fearless Alan was. His impact on colleagues, friends and readers has been staggering. A true giant, Alan is greatly missed.
by Chris Roush
Barron’s has collected a series of remembrances about Alan Abelson, its former editor and longtime columnist who died last week at the age of 87.
Here is one from Rhonda Brammer, a former Barron’s contributing editor:
The Barron’s magazine I joined in the early 1980s, back in the days of ticker tape and martini lunches, was an astonishing place—chockablock with talent: fast, graceful, savvy writers like Jim Grant, Peter Brimelow, and Kate Welling. And at the helm was the inimitable Alan Abelson, the man whose column, Up & Down Wall Street, had single-handedly transformed staid financial journalism into rare verbal art. Biting and brilliant, his columns mixed borscht-belt humor and Shakespearean allusions with zingers from Twain, Mencken, and Wilde—though Alan’s own one-liners often trumped them all.
Me? I was a kid from Idaho, then just a couple of years out of Columbia J-School. I wasn’t a very graceful writer, and I sure as heck wasn’t fast.
Still, I was summoned.
Alan had read a cover story I’d written for a small magazine called Financial World that questioned the accounting of a highflying outfit, Baldwin-United. He’d decided he wanted to hire me on the basis of that one story. When I appeared in his office for my interview, I tried to explain that he was likely making a mistake—that the story had taken me forever to write. He seemed perversely delighted, insisting that skeptical stories took time and that he’d give me time.
Which he did. Over the next 2½ decades, I was able to write about financial shenanigans of all stripes—everything from the “aggressive” accounting of a Big Board company (whose shares lost a third of their value on the first trading day after the story) to a network of stock manipulators (who drew the ire of regulators and closed up shop) to an unscrupulous health-care outfit whose fraudulent machinations imperiled the lives of its patients (and whose stock virtually disappeared).
Alan was fearless, emboldened by an astonishing intelligence, uncanny market savvy, and extraordinarily good judgment. Pure and simple, he was a genius at what he did. And when companies howled, he was there for his writers—a veritable pit bull.
Alan’s ingrained skepticism, of course, was only part of the story. He also had a great eye for undervalued companies, a keen interest in unearthing undiscovered gems for his loyal readers. He delighted in perusing the new Standard & Poor’s sheets before they were filed away in binders. He encouraged us to do our own research, to pick up the phone and talk with companies to find story ideas. His enthusiasm, I confess, was infectious—a big reason, no doubt, I later began a column called Sizing Up Small-Caps.
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Howard Gold writes for Marketwatch.com about why Barron’s columnist Alan Abelson, who died last week at the age of 87, was one of the greatest business journalists of all time.
Gold writes, “In a field not known for its humor (Allan Sloan being a notable exception), Abelson’s wit was dry and sly, and he had more varieties of sarcasm than Heinz had products. I suspect his was the best prose much of his Wall Street audience read all week, and many of them read him for pleasure as much as for work.
“But he also was a great editor who shaped business journalism during its Golden Age of the 1980s. That was the time of Michael Milken, leveraged buyouts, insider trading and the stock market crash of 1987.
“His edgy, analytical approach to business was similar to that of Jim Michaels, born four years earlier, who produced legendary journalism at Forbes and, like Abelson, trained what became the next generation of top business journalists.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
John Kostrzewa, the business editor of the Providence Journal, writes about the biggest legacy that Barron’s columnist Alan Abelson leaves the world of financial journalism.
Kostrzewa writes, “But in reading his obituary, here’s what caught my eye. He grew up in Queens and studied chemistry and English at City College of New York before earning a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa.
“He started as a copy boy at the New York Journal American in 1949 and became a reporter on the financial desk. He served as a stock market columnist before joining Barron’s in 1956 and was named managing editor in 1965. For years, he also wrote the influential Up & Down Wall Street column.
“The point is that Abelson had a well-rounded education and learned his beat and craft in slow, steady steps over decades. That’s in contrast to many of today’s financial bloggers who have a lot to say with little knowledge and experience to back it up. Abelson got it right, got it fast and got it all. That’s his legacy and all of us can learn from it.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Brooke Southall of RIABiz.com writes about why readers of Barron’s will really miss columnist Alan Abelson, who died earlier this week.
Southall writes, “Often things happen on Fridays and his columns that appeared Saturday mornings always seemed to assimilate late-breaking reality —without the sense of last-minute appending. I often coughed up the five bucks for Barron’s just to read his column, or detoured to the Mill Valley library where the keep them neatly stacked.
“They say all humor is based on the inside joke. It helps explain why we laugh so much with our best friends. But a sage like Abelson knows enough about what you think — things that even you didn’t know you were thinking — that he can play off of that.
“In other words, Abelson, from a writer’s perspective, knew people and how we all operate — with help from the insanity of the mass psychology of crowds — a theater of the absurd every day.
“That his writing oozed with plays on that absurdity did not make him frivolous. Quite the opposite. It connected the world of business, finance, investments and the people who are behind it all. If the finance world has a lack, it’s one of human connection.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
The writer who critiqued Wall Street and companies the most during the last 30 years of the 20th century was Alan Abelson of Barron’s, whose death at age 87 was announced on Thursday.
While the stock market rose to new heights for most of the 1990s, Abelson criticized the run-up on almost a weekly basis. Unfortunately, many investors ignored his rants.
For example, he wrote this about IBM investors in December 1992: “By our crude reckoning, these hapless souls have lost something over $28 billion this year, and of course, neither the year not possibly the damage is over. Contrast that to the $16 billion estimated cost of Hurricane Andrew, and the case for an official designation of IBM as a disaster area seems unanswerably compelling.”
A critical word from Abelson punctured more than one financial bubble, and cause stocks to rise with a kind word. His reputation of discovering scams and finding the truth on Wall Street is legendary. After his “Up and Down Wall Street” column lauded SEEC, which developed software to maintain computer systems, the stock rose 52 percent in one day in November 1998. And after he criticized PMT Services Inc., in consecutive issues of Barron’s in 1996, the company put out a press release to dispute his assertions in an attempt to keep the stock from falling.
It didn’t work.
Even as far back as the 1970s, Abelson drew the ire of hedge funds before their operations and tactics became commonly known on Wall Street and to the investing public. Many hedge funds short stocks, meaning they believe they will fall in price, not rise. A lawsuit brought by a Technicare Corp. shareholder accused Abelson of providing tips to these short sellers in advance of negative articles about companies.
Abelson denied the charges, which were never proven. “Back in the 1960s, people used to threaten to punch me in the nose when I said something negative about a company,” responded Abelson. “Now we live in different times. The suit is obviously an attempt to keep me quiet.”
Keeping Abelson – and other critical watchers of Wall Street – quiet has been hard for anybody to accomplish. Their reporting on the financial markets has brought to light illegal dealings, dozens of shady stock propositions and countless scam artists. Their work is respected by the scrupulous operators on Wall Street for acting as a semi-regulatory body.
With their writing, they sometimes alert federal regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission to potential transgressions. They sell newspapers and attract viewers to their media outlets. This reporting is what the quid pro quo should be for readers, viewers and listeners who often are investors.
I do not see anyone currently in business journalism who can skewer companies the way Abelson did. He will be missed.
by Chris Roush
Joshua Brown of The Reformed Broker writes Thursday about Barron’s columnist Alan Abelson, who has died at the age of 87.
Brown writes, “He was one of the greatest market commentators, financial writers and teachers in the history of Wall Street. There will be many eulogies for and remembrances of Alan this weekend, I am sure of it. So I’ll send you to his editor Ed Finn’s notice at Barron’s Online, but before that, below is one example (of thousands) of Mr. Abelson’s simultaneously biting and incandescent wit.
“This particular quote is from a January 2009 column of his, during the heat of the financial crisis and the socioeconomic and cultural upheaval that had brought the Democrats back to power. Here’s Abelson’s take on George W. Bush’s farewell address:
“His message was straightforward, consistent and clear: Thanks to his vigilance, this nation was spared a terrorist attack after 9/11. And so it was, for which we are all profoundly grateful. And only the most vehement Bush-basher would sniff that the real reason for the absence of an attack was that Mr. Bush did such a thorough number on the country all by himself that the terrorists figured, why bother?”
“There was more truth in Abelson’s curmudgeonly satire than you’ll find in all the research and rantings produced by the Wall Street machine that he covered so skeptically and humorously. He said what he thought and taught us all to think critically, especially when it counted – in times of wild-eyed, dangerous overconfidence.
“Rest in Peace, Alan, and thanks for being an early influence on a whippersnapper like me. You can’t imagine how much I’ve learned from your writing over the last fifteen years.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Business journalism legend Alan Abelson, who worked for Barron’s for the past 57 years, has died.
Barron’s editor Ed Finn writes, “For many readers, there can be no substitute for Alan’s witty, wise and wonderfully written comments each week in Up and Down Wall Street. But Alan’s contributions to Barron’s, and to financial journalism, go beyond his marvelous column. During his career, Alan trained dozens of journalists to be skeptical, to be exacting, to help average investors, and to be on the lookout for Wall Street’s crooks. About 10 of these fine journalists still work at Barron’s, I’m happy to say. Others have gone on to do groundbreaking work at The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and numerous financial newsletters.
“One of the unique things about Alan was that his keen knowledge of Wall Street was matched by his love of artful writing. Before Alan began his newspaper career in 1947, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Chemistry from The City College of New York and a master’s degree from the prestigious Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, which counts among its alumni Flannery O’Connor, Jane Smiley, and John Irving. In our view, Alan ranks among them.
“Alan arrived at Barron’s in 1956 and began writing his column in 1966.
“When Alan interviewed me for a job at Barron’s in 1993, he was 67. He had been Barron’s editor for a dozen years and its managing editor for 16 years before that. He told me he didn’t really want to manage people or edit stories anymore, but that he did enjoy writing his column. That’s when I came to Barron’s to manage and edit. Fortunately for me, for Barron’s and for our readers, Alan kept writing his column for the next 20 years, week in and week out, always with gracious prose, sharp insights and a hilarious sense of humor.”
Read more here.