The Value of Financial Blogs: Answering David Merkel’s Good Question

Regular readers of "A Dash" know that I am a charter member of the David Merkel fan club.  It was clear from his first post that he had an important message that you would not see anywhere else.  While other and more powerful voices may have helped more than I in highlighting The Aleph Blog, in the end, none of us really mattered.

Excellent analysis will find an audience.

Full disclosure:  I do not know David personally, although I have spoken with him on the phone.  I expect and hope for an occasion to meet in person.  My assessment of what he contributes is strictly on the merits of his fine work.

David's Question

David has a way of posing a question in a way that stimulates thought.  It does so for me, and it should for you as well.  In a recent post he invited readers to suggest some of his "best articles."

As I thought about this invitation, I realized that it raised a broader question for financial bloggers:

What is your role, and how can you best contribute?

I offered a general answer to this question in my article about the Dumbing Down of Financial News.  People like David Merkel are the answer to this problem.  With that in mind, here is my answer to David's good question.  It is a mission that all financial bloggers should consider.

  1. Look for your unique contribution, the things you can do that no one else can.  I highlighted the Merkel Tour de Force in this post.  It was valuable work, that no one else would even think about doing, and could not execute if they did.
  2. You are in charge.  There are many blogs that provide predictable market commentary to an appreciative audience and generate high ratings.  That is not your mission.  When I taught a class, I did not ask the students what they wanted to study.  You are the professor.  You can think of interesting topics that your readers will never suggest, and you know what is important.
  3. Continue to help the little guys, the individual investors.  They need your special analysis of insurance, interest rates, and the discipline of rebalancing portfolios.
  4. Popular posts are interesting, but should not be defining.  If a blogger plays too much to the audience, it is like the umpires learning the strike zone from players and managers, as I noted here.  You expand your audience with innovative ideas.  If your reader reactions are like mine, you get a few emails each week from readers who have been quietly following your work for a long time.

These are guideposts for all of us in the financial blogging world.

A Final Thought

One of the strengths of David's approach is his confidence and willingness to engage.  Those who are defensive about their opinions and conclusions quickly take the low road when someone disagrees.  David is not like that.  When confronted with an alternative viewpoint, he engages constructively and with confidence.  This makes for a good exchange, with a payoff for all readers.

While I have sometimes found myself on the other side of a Merkel position, I have always found his efforts to be stimulating and constructive.

I understand and appreciate his desire for reader feedback, but I encourage him to continue to define his own agenda.  Whether it is a book review, a list of thoughts on the market, his series on bloggers meeting Treasury officials, or observations on government in action — it is always stimulating.  I read every word, and so should you.

What I am recommending is good advice for all financial bloggers, and I hope to follow it myself!

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