Maneker on Salmon

By Felix Salmon
September 17, 2009
Marion Maneker. There's a few bits of it which are interesting even to me:

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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.


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