Tag Archives: Personal finance coverage
by Chris Roush
Todd Harrison, founder and CEO of Minyanville Media Inc., the business and financial news company that celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this week.
In addition to his presence in the media realm, Harrison has spent 22 years on Wall Street. He worked seven years on the worldwide equity derivative desk at Morgan Stanley as vice president, was managing director of derivatives at The Galleon Group, and was president of the $400 million hedge fund Cramer Berkowitz.
He has appeared on FOX, CNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg TV, and in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, Worth, Fortune, Barron’s, Dow Jones MarketWatch, New York Magazine, and Canada’s National Post.
Harrison has lectured at numerous academic institutions including Harvard University, Syracuse University, New York University, and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also been active in research of financial market learning tendencies among college students, and was a contributing author to “Threat, Intimidation, and Student Financial Market Knowledge: An Empirical Study,” published in the Journal of Education for Business.
Harrison was featured in the 20th anniversary documentary of Oliver Stone’s movie “Wall Street” and in 2008, he received an Emmy Award for his role as executive producer of Minyanville’s “World in Review,” the first and only animated business news show, which featured Huffy the Bull and Boo the Bear.
His first book, “The Other Side of Wall Street: In Business, It Pays to Be an Animal; In Life it Pays to Be Yourself,” was published by FT Press in 2011.
How did you get the idea for Minyanville?
It was a bit of serendipity and a sequence of events. I was running a hedge fund, and I was asked by Jim Cramer, who was my partner at the hedge fund, if I would fill in for him on TheStreet.com while he was on vacation in July 2000. I filled in one day, and then they asked me for the rest of the week. At the end of the week, they wanted me to stay on because my page views were off the chart.
I decided to do it because writing synthesized my thoughts. I started using Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear as metaphorical references for my thought processes, and I had fun with it.
About six months into it, toward the end of the year, my grandfather was very sick and I would go down every weekend to see him, so I wasn’t writing as much. My readers were getting on to me for slacking off. They had gotten used to me writing. So I wrote about my grandfather, and they liked it. I was creating this bond with people that I had never met. I decided that if these people were going to be so kind then I was going to reciprocate and give them my thoughts on the market.
On Sept. 11, 2001, it was a difficult day. After watching people hold hands and jump off the towers, I asked myself, “What’s it all about?” I decided to start a new venture that could effect positive change. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that was the genesis of Minyanville.
How was it funded?
Initially I put well into seven figures into the company. I was coming out the hedge fund world, so I spared no expense. At the time, there was no such things as blogs. I developed the characters, Hoofy and Boo, and spared no expense in building a community for them to live.
Unfortunately, it was akin to the Universal Studios tour. It looked good, but if you looked behind it, there was nothing holding it up. It was an expensive lesson into how the Internet works and monetization of content. In the next few years, I kept at it and eventually we raised some money, and that started the journey.
Did you see a void in financial news to fill?
Yes. The way financial media worked was to give someone a symbol and tell them when to buy and sell. People didn’t know a whole lot about the underlying companies. People wanted to take their fare share of the tech bubble but instead, many got caught in the bust.
We never subscribed to that. We were about teaching people how to fish instead of giving them the fish. We talked about what we did and how we did it, with the caveat that this is what we were doing and not necessarily what the reader you should do. They should make decisions appropriate for their own circumstances.
At the time, we were told to take the word education out of the name of our business plan because it was anathema to profitability. But now we’re being approached by Wall Street firms about how to provide brand-safe content.
How did you attract journalists to the startup?
From day one, our editorial mandate was truth and trust. AT the time, this was before blogs and Twitter. There was a bit of an oligopoly in the financial media space. We were committed to doing it the right way. Your name is your word. These are things that are pretty standard, you think, but they were not at the time.
There was no benefit at the time for us to highlight that the banks were technically insolvent in 2006 or 2007. Nobody wants to know that when the screen is green. But we were always honest. It wasn’t just pie in the sky opinion. We backed it up with analysis that was cogent. We tried to stay away from the name calling and the gutter balling that a lot of people fell into.
What was the big breakthrough for Minyanville?
Probably 2008. That was the year that a few things happened, aside from the crisis. You never want to profit from someone’s pain but we laid out the framework for what happened before it happened. It gave us street cred. We had advertisers pulling ads from us three months before because we were too bearish. But we got in front of the crisis and talked about things before they happened. And it was also the year that we won the Emmy Award for New Approaches to Business and Financial Reporting.
What is next for Hoofy and Boo?
That’s a good question. We have conversations a lot about it. The convergence of digital and television and Internet has opened up a lot of channels. We;re in continuous disdcuissions, and when the right situation presents itself, you will see them again. They’re resting now, and getting ready for their big day.
Who are Minyanville’s readers?
Right now it’s a 45-year-old male, college educated. That’s what our surveys tell us.
Our feeling is that financial empowerment is a need, not a want, at this point. And the tougher it gets, the more people are going to assume more responsibility and want to know how things work. We’re here to effect positive change and understanding. We think that is a viable strategy.
Who do you see as your competitors?
There are competitors in different elements of our business. For our financial commentary, you could argue that TheStreet.com is a competitor, although they are pretty linear. Most media properties cut a horizontal swath through the demographic. What we have tried to do is approach finance as a vertical and through literacy. Earnings, spending, investing and giving are the four constants across your life, and we have tried to build a theme brand across those. In terms of the full Monty of the brand, I don’t see anybody else trying to do that right now.
The tone of the site seems more educational than other business news sites. Is that intentional?
Yes. That’s always been our approach that we have strived to achieve. Finance is a very homogeneous and intimidating. There are a lot of people out there who like to talk and sound smart and tell you what to do. We don’t look at the financial landscape as preacher to congregation, or congregation to congregation. There needs to be managed community.
I use the analogy all of the time. There is basic cable, but there is always the desire for HBO or Showtime. Financial media has a competitive advantage over traditional media in that you can charge more for the timeliness of the content or the quality of the content.
We want people to learn and absorb something with a smile on their face. It’s hard out there these days. We have no problem talking about what we have done wrong and how we feel, not that it’s a tree-hugging environment of danishes and powdered sugar. Trust is an element and a dynamic that you build from telling the truth and sharing what you have done wrong as well as what you have done right.
What are your goals for the next 10 years?
We want to adapt, but not conform. We want to build out the brand in a manner that is in the best manner for our investors. We still think we’re in the early innings of penetrating the mainstream mindset. We need to connect the dots between our various efforts — smart market commentary, award winning animation, our gaming engine for kids, our premium services such as the Buzz & Banter — so that people can see the constellation of how it all fits together.
by Chris Roush
Consumer Reports is undergoing an editorial restructuring that has cost vice president and editorial director Kevin McKean his job, reports TJ Raphael of Folio.
Raphael writes, “‘It was a wonderful time at Consumer Reports,’ says McKean. ‘I think for their next chapter, so to speak, it’s actually better that I’m out of there and it’s a good thing for me and a good thing for them — it’s an amicable and mutual decision.’
“Between its print publications, newsletters and online properties, Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, has more than 8 million combined subscriptions.
“During McKean’s tenure, he says the brand went from publishing about 4,000 print pages a year across a variety of publications, and doing next to no original Web content, to publishing 5,000 print pages a year (after the addition of the woman’s publication Shop Smart), and the equivalent of over 7,000 print pages of original online editorial content.
“Under his watch, video content also increased, going from 200 videos a year produced mainly by freelancers to at least 500 a year in which all of the shooting, producing and editing was done in-house. Additionally, McKean’s team also helped begin Consumer Reports‘ social media strategy.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Radio personality Kojo Nnamdi talks to Knight Kiplinger of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance about the future of business media and personal finance in an age of economic uncertainty.
Listen to their conversation here.
by Chris Roush
Knight A. Kiplinger, editor in chief, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, wonders why some people who “gladly pay $4 for a latte at Starbucks — sometimes every day — balk at paying even $1 for an issue of a useful magazine.”
Hal Morris, writing on his Grumpy editor blog about Kiplinger’s note in the October issue, notes that Kiplinger’s comments evoke a mournful tone about the future of personal finance magazines given the closing of SmartMoney’s print publication.
Morris writes “In his message, Kiplinger mentions, ‘our readers are among the most highly educated and affluent of all magazine readers. They tell market researchers that they really trust this magazine, and they spend a lot of time with each issue.’
“He adds that advertisers ‘don’t seem to acknowledge the print audience’ and ‘they are abandoning magazines at a steady pace, apparently believing that they can reach you more effectively on Web sites, including ours.’
“Kiplinger observes that out of a half dozen personal finance publications competing in the 1990s, only Money and Kiplinger’s continue to roll off presses.
“‘We’re gratified that our Web audience continues to grow, but we love the business of print publishing, and we’re committed to it,’ he concludes.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Salmon won in the blogging category. Reuters also won in the news service category for “Shell Games” by Brian Grow, Kelly Carr, Laurence Fletcher, Nanette Byrnes, Matthew Bigg, Joshua Schneyer, Cynthia Johnston and Sara Ledwith.
Mark Maremont, Tom McGinty, Jon Keegan, Palani Kumanan, Sarah Slobin and Neil King Jr. were the team at the Journal who won for “Jet Tracker” in the online enterprise category.
Walter Isaacson won in the book category for his Steve Jobs biography. Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo received an honorable mention in the book category for “Poor Economics.”
Brent Snavely, Greg Gardner and Chrissie Thompson for “GM-UAW Contract Negotiations” in Detroit Free Press won in the breaking news category.
In medium and small newspapers, there were two winners: Raquel Rutledge, Rick Barrett, John Diedrich, Ben Poston and Mike de Sisti for “Shattered Trust” in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Spencer Soper and Scott Kraus for “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse” in The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.
The Journal Sentinel’s John Fauber won in the beat reporting category for “‘Side Effects’ Beat Reporting.“
Peter Elkind, Jennifer Reingold and Doris Burke won the Loeb in the magazine category for “Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup” in Fortune.
Penelope Wang, Kim Clark and Lisa Gibbs won the Loeb in the personal finance category for “‘Protecting Your Parents’ Series“ in Money.
Zanny Minton Beddoes, Edward Carr, John Peet, Patrick Foulis and John O’Sullivan won the Loeb in the commentary category for “Euro Zone” in The Economist.
In the broadcast enterprise category, the winner is Laura Sydell and Alex Blumberg for “When Patents Attack,” a collaboration between NPR and This American Life.
“60 Minutes” won in the explanatory category, while Ken Bensinger for “Wheels of Fortune” in the Los Angeles Times won in the large newspaper category.
The awards are being handed out at a dinner in New York, and this prestigious award program recognizes and honors journalists who have made significant contributions to the understanding of business, finance and the economy.
by Chris Roush
Teresa Novellino of the Upstart Business Journal writes about former CNBC anchor Nicole Lapin, who has started her own media company called Nothing But Gold providing personal finance content.
Novellino writes, “Her company added editorial and sales employees one by one and now has a team of 10 working remotely and attending meetings at her home office—a killer penthouse overlooking Union Square Park in Manhattan.
“This type of nimble media company is becoming an ally to old media, she says.
“‘What I’ve found since I jumped into this is that newsrooms are shrinking,’ Lapin says.
“‘A lot of big companies are outsourcing business sections, so we’re producing content for companies across the board, and I think that’s going to continue to grow, and that’s going to be a great opportunity for us to grow, especially the on-air component.’
“On each platform, Lapin tries to keep her message digestible but informative. She speaks to audiences who don’t necessarily grasp financial news. ‘I would go on Inside Edition to talk about the Facebook IPO, and they ask me, ‘What is an IPO?’’ she says.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
She had been with USA Today since December 1995. She is now a senior associate editor at Kiplinger’s.
“I’m going to be covering a range of personal finance topics at Kiplinger’s,” said Block in an e-mail to Talking Biz News. “Since I covered the taxes for more than 10 years at USA TODAY, I’ll probably contribute to their tax coverage.
“I left USA TODAY because I was interested in trying something new!” she added. “I’ve never worked for a magazine and am looking forward to stepping away from daily coverage.”
Before USA Today, Block worked at the Akron Beacon Journal as a business reporter for nearly three years. She also worked for the Dow Jones Newswires for four years.
Block is a graduate of Bethany College and the Knight-Bagehot program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
by Chris Roush
The International Center for Journalists will offer two online courses in English and Spanish on covering marketing concepts such as how to plan for retirement, understanding your 401k, stock and bond markets, mutual funds and private and public companies, among others.
These courses will be available to U.S. journalists who report in minority communities.
The online courses will take place from July 2, 2012 through Aug. 27, 2012. Participants selected will be asked to give a project proposal that they will work on developing through the length of the course. As well, a project mentoring period to help participants finalize their projects will take place from Aug. 27, 2012 until Oct. 8, 2012.
The courses will be open to Spanish-speaking and English-speaking journalists from ethnic media. Participants will be trained to effectively cover consumer and marketing finance issues including topics ranging from credit and lending, housing and mortgages to retirement planning and investing.
The Spanish course is led by Xavier Serbia, the editor-in-chief and founder of Xavierserbia.com. Serbia is a personal finance syndicated columnist and has written for various Hispanic media outlets.
The English course is led by Chris Roush, who teaches business and economics reporting at the University of North Carolina and has written six books, including two about business journalism.
The courses will be divided into three parts:
- an eight-week online training on financial markets and consumer business
- a six-week online mentoring period, during which participants produced stories to publish them in the media
- a three-day field trip to New York City, where three selected participants will have the opportunity to interview with notable financial experts.
At the end of the online courses, three participants will receive a McGraw-Hill Personal Finance Award and cash prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500.
For more information, please contact Pablo Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Chris Roush
Friedman writes, “For instance, personal-finance writer Kathy Kristof wrote on CBS MoneyWatch: ‘The only reason the card is worth talking about is because Suze is the queen of hype, so high-profile and vehement about her financial advice that she’s inspired a series of ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoofs.’
“Orman was blasted in blogs, tweets and columns throughout the media landscape. But she didn’t let the critics crush her spirit.
“‘This is their 15 minutes of fame,’ Orman shrugged when we spoke last week. ‘It doesn’t matter what they say.’
“‘I can look in the mirror and know I have done nothing but help people. They can criticize me all they want.’”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Steve Rhode is using his personal finance experiences to cover the debt industry like no one else.
Rhode, 52, started GetoutofDebt.org in 2009, a blog that aggressively reports and investigates debt consolidation and debt advice businesses. From his home in the Raleigh area, he posts about five stories a day as well as answers questions from readers.
His site, which averages about 160,000 visitors and 320,000 page views per month, relies heavily on his experience from a personal bankruptcy more than 20 years ago and from running a non-profit organization called Myvesta that helped people with financial problems.
Rhode, who once wrote a personal finance column that was syndicated in more than 50 papers, says his site has no agenda or vendetta against the debt industry. He just wants consumers to have fair and balanced information.
“I write about something that I care deeply about and know well,” said Rhode in an interview Thursday. “It has to be something that you enjoy doing.”
Rhode sifts through dozens of tips each day to determine what he wants to cover. He collects legal documents from attorneys and through PACER, the online federal court system, and develops sources within companies. He also talks frequently to regulators across the country, primarily those in state attorney general offices.
At first, Rhode also sold advertising for his site, but he handed over that responsibility to Google Ads. While some readers complain that the companies advertising on his site are from the industry that he covers, Rhode says he now uses the ads as story ideas.
“The toughest thing is trying to find that balance,” said Rhode. “You’re serving the public and protecting consumers, but you also have to make an existence.”
His biggest current issue is litigation. A Texas attorney that was the subject of a story has sued him for $2.1 million in damages, claiming that Rhode has hurt his business. Rhode is defending himself aggressively.
“I developed a thick skin a long time ago,” said Rhode. “When you write about bad things, you have to know you can be the subject of an attack.”
Rhode appears frequently in other media — he has done Skype interviews this week with the Fox station in Tampa and a station in St. Louis — to discuss debt scams and issues. And unlike traditional journalists, he’s not afraid of alerting regulators to potential scams that he has uncovered.
Rhode declined to discuss his site’s finances, but he did say that he is making a living off the site, and he has one employee who helps him sift through tips and documents. But his site primarily focuses on the problems in personal finance, not balancing a checkbook and other softer personal finance topics.
For example, a recent story on the site uncovered a mortgage modifier company that was claiming in its solicitations to be from a local teachers union. Rhode also recently reported about a debt reduction program that claimed it was from Houston, but was actually located in Fiji with its owner in Thailand and had not registered to do business.
“My entire business philosophy,” says Rhode, “is that if you do a good job, then good things will happen to you.”