I am writing to alert you to a change in my publishing model that may have a slight impact on the way you consume content at “One-Twenty Two.” If you do not want to read my nostalgia and a brief history of this blog, you can skip down to the section at the bottom titled “Changes”.
OK, now for some background…
After the tech bubble popped, I started sending emails to close friends and family warning them about the financial markets. I was dismayed by the mainstream media which seemed stubbornly bullish and clueless about the sea-change that just occurred with the bursting of the bubble. For many months I used those emails as a way to vent and relieve my mind of all the ideas bursting in my head. After many months of this activity, I realized that most of those people did not pay much attention to the financial markets and could not care less about what was happening. I stopped pestering them and decided to post my thoughts on a blog which I called “One-Twenty,” a nearly random name I chose because I liked the sound of it and could graphically represent it with pictures of the one hundred dollar bill and the twenty dollar bill. I thought it looked “cool.” I told my circle of family and friends that those who cared about these topics could check the site to read my latest thoughts.
Almost three years later, I almost stopped writing. I had been correctly bearish until the bottom in March, 2003 (funny how important bottoms happen in March!). By September of that year, I finally recognized that my stubborn bearishness was misplaced and that I was not providing the service I thought I should to the few readers I had (no stats at the time, so I really had no idea whether I was just talking to myself). I wrote a missive titled “The perils of prognostication – a missive turning point” in which I thought out loud about the purpose of the blog. I had concluded that it was finally time to stop doing so much “alarm-ringing” and to focus more on opportunities to go long in the market. It was a tough transition because I found it easier to be skeptical than to buy into hype and cheery stories about future prospects. I also began noticing that more and more people were writing good material outside of the mainstream of financial media. That gave me some relief and comfort.
Over time, I got more comfortable with the nuances of writing in a bull market where risk seemed to lurk around so many corners. Anyway, I enjoyed writing, and the lure to put my thoughts to “paper” was simply too strong to resist.
From 2003-2009, I made several improvements and changes to the site. I implemented an RSS feed (manually!) and eventually learned how to use Feedburner to leverage that feed for readers. I rolled in sitemeter to get a better handle on just how many people were really reading the website. I decided to try monetizing the site with Google Adsense, and later Amazon Associates, Ino.com, and even recently the Google Affiliates Program. In 2005, I overhauled my entire drduru.com website with the help of my (then future) sister-in-law. However, with all this work, my audience grew in fits and starts, and I never surpassed 325 subscribers. My most popular article got a little over 1000 hits mainly because The Kirk Report was kind enough to publicize it. My biggest sources of hits were from that site and the old TraderMike.net site (formerly run by a good friend of mine who transformed my trading). If neither of them posted a link to an article, I simply could not generate many hits.
After so many years of writing, it seemed that I should be further along in my development and that I should have a more mature, more polished, and more well-read site. I scratched my head as to what to do differently and how to improve.
In June, 2008, Seeking Alpha was the first of several syndication sites that approached me for permission to republish content. (Once I started writing about solar companies, I also syndicated out to Solarfeeds.com). My thinking was that I had little to lose and a lot to gain from additional exposure and the possibility of readers clicking on links back to my site. Sometimes, this strategy would work, but my bounce rate remained high, I never gained many more subscribers, and my monetization rates improved only slightly.
So, I thought perhaps the problem was that I simply did not write enough. My typical production was about 5-6 articles a month. Sometimes less, sometimes more. In May, 2009, I finally got the opportunity to expand my writing. I was laid off, a casualty of the recession, and I immediately looked forward to the potential I now had to develop my site and to, perhaps, even make a living off the website in addition to some other ventures. It took me some time to get to it, but I completely overhauled my website by going to a blogging platform (WordPress), and I stopped producing my RSS feeds manually. I was impressed by the greater ease by which I could publish, and I soon cranked up the volume on my writing. I was now able to produce 4-5 or more articles in a week. I spent more time pouring over data and producing detailed analysis. I thought for certain, I was finally on my way.
However, I quickly realized something was wrong when a mere handful of people dropped their RSS subscriptions to the old site and resubscribed to the new site. It quickly became clear that my small audience was even smaller when it came to active readers. I started posting my articles to Yahoo!Finance and Google Finance message boards to get more attention, but that only earned me a temporary blacklist at Yahoo! and the occasional spike in traffic. I signed up for a twitter account and published links to my posts there. I also posted links to Stocktwits which allows anyone with a trading idea to chat. With only 400+ twitter followers and fewer followers on Stocktwits to-date, I only managed a few incremental hits from these posts. Still nothing was sticking.
While all this was going on, my readership at Seeking Alpha slowly and steadily grew larger. Some of my articles would generate a flurry of discussion whereas on my own site, I am ecstatic when I get one or two (non-spam) comments in a month. I was floored when I hit 1000 Seeking Alpha followers late in 2010 and cracked Seeking Alpha’s top 100 contributors (I am now at 1370 followers and growing). I was befuddled as to why so many would stick with me on Seeking Alpha but failed to find my original blog and subscribe to it. I was also disappointed that I could not convert more of the Seeking Alpha audience into monetized clicks to my website. I was at a complete loss…until in January of this year Seeking Alpha finally decided to share its revenue with its many contributors and to reveal detailed statistics on our articles, starting with pageviews.
I finally got around to looking at my statistics last month, and I was astounded to see that my articles garnered over 300,000 hits over the prior 12 months! For comparison, my current website has attracted a little over 46,000 hits in 18 months. At a rate of $10 per 1000 pageviews, I could have earned over $3000 on those articles whereas I am lucky to earn 10% of that in a year on my website through Google Adsense. The catch with Seeking Alpha’s new program is that content must be published exclusively on the Seeking Alpha site – called “premium articles.” Authors are allowed up to 250 words to write an excerpt that also refers to the Seeking Alpha publication.
Originally, I resisted because my website has been an on-going source of pride: my own creation under my control and sculpted on my own time and schedule. But the economics kept calling out to me. I started out writing a few premium articles on topics I thought were particularly hot. The results have been OK. However, my predictions about what should be hot and what will be at best lukewarm have been inaccurate – meaning that a targeted approach to premium publishing will likely lead to sub-par, and disappointing, results over time.
I talked about my dilemma with a friend today. His advice was so clear and direct that my choice seemed obvious: I need to focus on developing my writing where my audience is…and maybe, one day, I will be “big enough” to have my own well-read site. Seeking Alpha has a smart, broad distribution model and an effective business strategy for aggregating content and socializing financial news. At this point, I cannot on my own match Seeking Alpha’s powerful set of tools that have so far provided great benefits for me.
On the ride home, it also occurred to me that the more hefty pocket change I can earn with Seeking Alpha would allow me to buy those extra dinners for my wife that will help justify all the time and energy I spend on my writing (=smiles=)…not to mention the extra days at amusement parks and the like for the kids. The deal was sealed.
So what will change at One-Twenty Two?
- The majority of my articles will now be published at Seeking Alpha as premium articles. The articles on my One-Twenty Two site will include excerpts of the Seeking Alpha publications and will include a link to that article.
- You can also directly access my Seeking Alpha articles at my article page, subscribe to the RSS feed, and/or sign up as a Seeking Alpha user and choose to “follow me.”
- Time-sensitive articles will be published in their entirety on my website. This means there is still a reason for you to maintain your current feeds and/or subscription. Seeking Alpha takes 1 to 2 days to publish articles and sometimes does not publish at all over the weekend. These operational timeframes are not suitable for commentary that I feel needs to get out right away.
- Financial articles that do not have a specific investment theme or call to action, I will publish on One-Twenty Two. Seeking Alpha prefers articles that provide direct and clear investment or trading advice. While Seeking Alpha has to-date published 95% of anything I post, I would rather not risk the time-delay in getting articles rejected that do not meet these content requirements. An example of an article that did not get published for lack of specific advice was my recent parody of the the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group.
- Articles that are strictly technical in nature will likely not be published as Seeking Alpha premium articles. Seeking Alpha emphasizes more fundamental analysis.
- I will continue to publish updates to the T2108 technical indicator at the T2108 Resource Page. If this site gains more traction, I may consider merging it somehow with my One-Twenty Two site.
- I will continue publishing articles on inflation and prices in the economy at Inflation Watch. At some point in the near future, I will likely merge this content into my One-Twenty Two site.
- I will continue posting a few links that I think might be of particular interest and importance to readers.
- I will continue writing the occasional article for SFO Magazine (three so far in the past 18 months).
To all my existing readers, I strongly appreciate your support over these past months and years. I hear from a few of you, so I know I am making a difference somewhere, somehow, and even putting extra money in your pockets. Please understand that I am not abandoning you or shedding my original mission or purpose. Rather, I am making sure that I maintain the wherewithal to keep doing what I do and to reap a little more of the benefits from my work. I hope that you will stick with this site in this transition, and I look forward to hearing your feedback.
As always, be careful out there!
Full disclosure: no positions