Starting a blog is deceptively easy. Any one can log onto one of the large blogging platforms and be up and running in minutes. However developing a blog with a unique voice and staying power is a long-term proposition. I have seen many blogs come out of the gate strong and falter quickly once it becomes clear what is required in maintaining an A-list blog.
If that is the case why start a finance-related blog at all? In my experience bloggers are unrealistic about the profit-making potential of a blog these days. Except for the lucky few, is a profitable stand alone business. In the end a blog is a means of expression, a digital calling card and most importantly serves as an educational tool for the blogger. A blog is a means for exploring (hopefully) interesting topics, albeit in the public light. Today those questions seem to be taken up ever more frequently by professional bloggers.
Last year in a post I asked: where did all the finance bloggers go? It certainly got people talking. The financial blogosphere never really stands still. New bloggers enter, others leave. What has changed in the past few years is that short-form communication on forums like Twitter and StockTwits have become much more vital. In short, if your views can be expressed in 140 characters of less than a blog may be superfluous. This has diverted potential bloggers from starting their own sites.
The other big thing has happened since I began blogging is the professionalization of the blogosophere. Blogging has largely become a mainstream format. All of the major financial news operations now operate a portfolio of blogs. Cardiff Garcia at FT Alphaville has a great post up that breaks down the finance blogosphere and notes the key differences between the professional and amateur blogospheres. Garcia notes how the newsroom has become “bloggified” over time. Garcia believes that the professionalization of finance blogging has probably reached its limits. He writes:
I don’t think that professional finance blogging will disappear, only that its population will remain static. Further expansion and dynamism in the finance blogosphere is more likely to be found in its non-professional domain.
Marc Tracy at the New Republic is not so sanguine about the blog as a form. In a recent post he provides a ‘eulogy for the blog’ and notes the increasing institutionalization of blogs in general. In some doing blogs have changed and not necessarily for the better. In this world more content equals more page views which equals more potential revenue. However that is not necessarily the best trade-off for bloggers and readers alike. Tracy writes:
The blog was the right form for the right time, but it was also just plain right, and remains so. Sometimes the pace of technology leads us to do something that is substantially superior, and sometimes the pace of technology leads us to do something that is substantially inferior. It would be nice if we could step in when the mutation selected is a good one, and identify it as something worth saving. But I’m guessing there isn’t as much money in that.
Every blog starts off with an “audience of one” as Maria Popova of Brain Pickings says. Whether it grows beyond that is up to the blogger, his or her audience and luck. Luck plays a big role in investing as well. There is no getting around the parallels between the two.
Investing is hard, even for the most experienced investors.* So it shouldn’t be surprising that investment blogging is hard as well. Both require a passion for the subject and an ongoing commitment to learning. You can certainly do these things without a blog. However for the select few the process of blogging clarifies pressing issues and over time opens up new avenues for research and potential investment returns.
Items mentioned above:
Staying in the game, redux. (Abnormal Returns)
Blogging is a long-term proposition. (Abnormal Returns)
Where did all the finance bloggers go? (Abnormal Returns)
Confusing death and maturation of the finance blogosphere. (Abnormal Returns)
Thoughts on the future of blogging. (FT Alphaville)
Eulogy for the blog. (New Republic)
A lesson from the blogging elite: there are many ways to the top. (paidContent)
Five questions: Mauboussin explores why luck matters to investors. (Institutional Investor)