Opinion

Felix Salmon

Maneker on Salmon

By Felix Salmon
September 17, 2009

I’m most flattered that The Big Money considered me interesting enough to warrant a 1,800-word profile by Marion Maneker. There’s a few bits of it which are interesting even to me:

Even with his Stein trophy, there’s good reason to take Salmon at his word and assume he has little clout. He doesn’t have the massive traffic of the biggest business bloggers. He estimates he gets a few hundred thousand page views a month, hardly what the big dogs in the space like zerohedge or Barry Ritholtz are pulling. What Salmon does seem to have is a knack for getting attention.

There’s an implicit distinction here between clout, traffic, and attention, although Maneker doesn’t really explore it. I think that clout, or influence, is vaguely related to traffic but not in very strong way: if the NYT didn’t listen to me on the subject of Ben Stein, it certainly wouldn’t listen to zerohedge. On the other hand, someone like Brad Setser, when he had a blog, was much more influential than his traffic figures might suggest. It’s not how many people that are reading you which matters in terms of influence — it’s who is reading you.

Maneker’s not clear on exactly whose attention I have the knack of getting; I’m not entirely clear on that myself. But I think I’m relatively weak on appealing to individual investors — I almost never blog investment ideas, and when I do, you’d generally be much better off doing the exact opposite. Saying things like “buying an Apple computer is a much better investment than buying Apple stock” is not the kind of thing which tends to endear me to CNBC-watchers.

Bloggers, on the other hand, seem to read me quite a lot: thanks to their linkjuice, I’m #2 in the Mediate rankings, compared to just #18 in the Seeking Alpha rankings. Neither means anything on its own, but the comparison is interesting. What bloggers and editors want is not usually what investors are looking for.

The most interesting part of the article for me is that Maneker seems to harbor a weird prejudice against blogs, despite being a first-rate blogger himself. He says that “no one” would cite Nouriel Roubini’s blog “as the source of his fame or influence”, which is simply false: many people, myself included, would do just that. As soon as he quotes me saying that the blogosphere is “the best graduate seminar ever invented”, Maneker pooh-poohs the notion. And then there’s this:

If you ask Felix, it’s not just coverage that blogs provide. Ironically, they give you depth.

Ironically? What’s ironic about getting depth from a medium which Maneker himself considers “wonkish journalism”? The irony here is surely that Maneker, a blogger who knows his way around the internet, would write an article which seems to work from the unexamined assumption that blogs are superficial, silly things. (And would also write an article which quotes me extensively but links to me only sparingly.) I’m a blogger who can happily write long and super-wonky blog entries on vulture funds or synthetic CDOs, and according to Marion, I’m “the blogosphere’s signal personality”. So there’s clearly nothing ironic about getting deep, wonky information from a blog.

That said, however, the profile is more than fair — it’s downright fulsome. And when no less an authority than Jack Shafer says it’s terrific, I can’t help but be very happy indeed with the way it turned out.

Comments
13 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I just read FS for the wine commentary. :)

I’m not looking for investment advice. The disaster of the last few years has convinced me that this stuff matters and I don’t understand how it works. It really shouldn’t be that complicated, but apparently it is.

That’s what FS and others like Calculated Risk and Baseline Scenario do for me. I don’t know if FS reads the comments, but if he does – keep up the good work!

Posted by Neil D | Report as abusive
 

Does Larry Summers post as PhysicsGurl over at the Baseline Scenario?

The think tank — IDEA — does it still exist? If not, do you remember who funded it?

 

I withdraw the second question.

http://www.ideaglobal.com/corporate/advi sory.html

Looks like most of the people who run and advise IDEA are very closely associated with LSE.

 

Perhaps “ironic” refers to the general characterization of blogs (across all topics) and even the internet as somehow shallow and of the moment, rather than deep and of the ages.

Posted by bdbd | Report as abusive
 

I just read him for the cycling tips

Posted by otto | Report as abusive
 

I read him because he writes well. Unlike other financial bloggers (who, perhaps unsurprisingly) clearly lean libertarian and Republican, Salmon doesn’t color his columns with too much of his ideology (or maybe I just agree with him more).

Most importantly, he clearly researches what he writes about, thus making him more reliable.

Posted by Brown Ram | Report as abusive
 

I read Felix b/c he’s got depth and a smattering of personal interests to accentuate (like Ritholtz w/ his supercar posts). But you still have to read DB and ZH for the sensationalism.

 

I read Felix because he’s got the best accent of ANY blogger EVER.

Posted by Grey Economics | Report as abusive
 

And (seriously now) Felix is a pleasure to read- he revels in the details (re: Gaussian copula function) but makes it understandable to morons like me. Cheers!

Posted by Grey Economics | Report as abusive
 

Grey Economics, do you read Felix in a cockney accent like I do, also?

 

Actually, when I read Felix, I try and switch between accents from all the characters on the Goon Show.

Posted by Grey Economics | Report as abusive
 

I liked Maneker’s article – it tried to tackle the reason why FS is so popular. My feeling was that he’s puzzled why someone without very strong academic credentials would be read on topics as important. And he’s definitely right – FS is no academic and doesn’t deal with financial issues with the same detail that Ben Bernanke would do if he were to publish articles on the last two years.

But Maneker has got the wrong reference point. He should compare FS with the other financial journalists – and here’s where he shines.

Posted by EastEuropeanWay | Report as abusive
 

In a very competitive market, he manages to be clear, well informed and very interesting. This is FS’s role – a well informed commentator helping the layman keep up with what’s new in his field. I guess this is why he’s so appreciated, not because people think he’s Bernanke or Mankiw.

Posted by EastEuropeanWay | Report as abusive
 

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