Why UK financial blogging lags behind the U.S.

May 13, 2010

Edward Croft is CEO of Stockopedia, a UK-based website which aggregates research, commentary and analysis for investors, and offers social networking opportunities. The opinions expressed are his own.

In the U.S., online financial information and investing media has exploded in recent years. Where once there were just online replicas of offline newspaper/TV commentary and anonymous spam-ridden bulletin boards, there is now a proliferation of stimulating and diverse financial content written by both professional and amateur investors.

These include professional blog sites (like Naked Capitalism, Credit Writedowns and The Kirk Report), aggregator sites like SeekingAlpha (who handpick articles from the world’s top market blogs and investment newsletters), expert investment communities like Covestor and Social Picks, crowd-sourcing sites like piqqem, to name just a few…

In sharp contrast, despite London’s status as a financial hub, the online financial information and commentary scene in the United Kingdom still seems like a barren wasteland.  To date, blogging has yet to become a big part of the UK investor scene.

Most private investor discussion seems to be taking place on bulletin boards which don’t appear to have progressed much in terms of functionality in at least the last five years.

Strangely, the web’s social networking phenomenon has barely touched the UK’s online financial sector.

This is surprising given the data which suggests that demand for alternative content in general is there – according to Hitwise, the market share of blogs is now greater in the UK than in the U.S.: 1.09 percent vs. 0.73 percent of all traffic respectively as of May 2008.

Over the last 3 years, UK Internet traffic to the blogs and personal websites category increased by 208 percent, compared to 70 percent for News and Media generally.

The main issue seems more to be around the supply of alternative finance content – there just do not seem to be many finance bloggers out there.  Despite market demand, the views of investors and analysts in the City remain directed through institutional channels (e.g. equity research) and their voices are apparently not being heard more broadly by the public on the Web.

This situation appears to have been created in large part by an apparent reluctance by the British to blog.

Possible reasons include an unwillingness on the part of the UK ad industry to work with other than established media brands or mega portals; a lack of UK media entrepreneurs; a lack of VC support (European VCs apparently don’t tend to be too interested in media unless it is supported by a technological innovation); and too much competition from established media.

In the UK financial information space, the most notable exception to this dearth of innovation has been the Financial Times’ Alphaville which launched as a live financial blog for market professionals in 2006. This has been a huge success but it is interesting that it took a traditional media outlet to really popularise blogging.

Other finance blogs with significant readership are typically all based around traditional media (The Economist’s blog, Interactive Investor’s blog, Robert Peston).

There are of course some exceptions to this – Tim Price’s excellent The Price of Everything blog, Niel Jensen’s Absolute Return Newsletter and Frisby’s Bulls and Bears podcast series all spring to mind, as does the Psy-fi Blog. Stockopedia is working closely with many of these bloggers to try to help them increase their visibility and reach on the Web.

Despite limited progress to date, we are hopefully still seeing only the tip of the iceberg for UK financial blogging.  We will watch with interest to see if the UK financial community can overcome its reticence and develop the kind of vibrant and innovative blogging community that reflects its status as a leading global financial centre.

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