Technology

TheMoneyBlogs: Lacking the Goods


A new finance blog-aggregator lets you pick from many postings, but its search quirks and indirect links make original blogs more attractive

If you're one of the growing number of people who use blogs to stay on top of all things finance, you may want to run a slide rule over TheMoneyBlogs.com.

TheMoneyBlogs.com has gathered more than 130 financial blogs for investors to search easily by topic. The categories range from stock investing, trading, and personal finance to entrepreneurship, venture capital, and real estate. The popular bloggers featured on TheMoneyBlogs include venture capitalist Paul Allen, money managers Birinyi Associates (Ticker Sense), financial journalist Tom Foremski (Silicon Valley Watcher), investment manager and author Donald Luskin (The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid), and mutual fund expert Paul Merriman.

What I like about TheMoneyBlogs is that it serves up some blogs I might not see on other aggregated financial blog sites, particularly ones related to venture capital and real estate. However, some of the best personal-finance and investing blogs are not featured, mainly because those bloggers already have a wide following and feel they don't have enough to gain from being featured.

A Bit Too Discriminating

TheMoneyBlogs, which launched on Sept. 14 and is supported by advertising, is owned and operated by TradingMarkets.com, a subscription service geared for stock, option, and futures traders that offers analysis, lessons, and tools. Brice Wightman, associate editor of both sites, says he has agreements with each blog to post their content to TheMoneyBlogs. "We feature blogs that we feel are timely and have the best information," he says. The site's main page highlights six blog posts, refreshed several times a day. Below each is a list of related blogs.

Beyond that, the site serves as a portal to a host of other blogs, accessed by a fast and useful search tool—although I found the default "site" search more helpful than the "tag" choice, which brought back fewer results and in some cases yielded nothing. TheMoneyBlogs says it uses homegrown "tagging technology" to lessen the likelihood of getting unrelated articles when searching blogs on conventional search engines. It requires bloggers to "tag" blogs with keywords that accurately reflect the main topic. "Now you can more easily and quickly pinpoint blogs that contain the expert advice that matters most to you right now," Editor-in-Chief Ashton Dorkins writes on the site.

Maybe the site is still working on the tagging technology, but I found it was a little too discriminating. For example, when I searched by tag for "retirement," "energy," and "technology stocks," it came up empty each time. I tried "ETFs," for blogs on exchange traded funds and received only two results. A search by tag on "taxes" yielded a meager three stories. Hence my preference for the "site" method.

What Bugs Me

Other noteworthy features include efforts to build community, such as letting readers vote on blogs with thumbs-up and thumbs-down buttons at the top of each blog posting. Then the blogs are ranked and listed in a box on the right side. You'll also see a list of "most read money blogs."

I like that the site allows me find blogs that I might not come across in my daily reporting on investing and personal finance matters. For instance, venture capitalist Paul Allen wrote about a new entertaining video site for stocks called WallStrip.com. The video site is getting buzz on other money blogs as well.

But a few things bug me about TheMoneyBlogs. The design reminds me of many financial portals or sites that are supported by advertising. I prefer other financial blog aggregators, such as pfblogs.org, which simply list the latest postings with links directly back to the original personal-finance blog, without ads. And if you follow the stock market and specific industries, you won't find a better selection and analysis than the popular destination SeekingAlpha.

STAYING ON THE SIDELINES

What's more, TheMoneyBlogs lacks the free-flowing atmosphere and personality that sets one blog apart from the next. A couple of individual blogs that aren't cluttered with ads and other extras are The Big Picture and The Kirk Report.

Like many other aggregators, TheMoneyBlogs does not share ad revenue with bloggers —it just provides a link back to the blog. But I found the links back to the original blogs hard to find because they're tucked away on the author page, in a box on the right-hand side, rather than at the top of each blog post. And I have seen one personal-finance blogger complain that his blog has not seen much additional traffic from being a member of the site.

It's reasons like these that some top-notch investing and personal-finance bloggers have turned down Wightman's invitation to be a member of TheMoneyBlogs. "These aggregators are used by many to get the word out about their blog so they can generate an audience," says Charles Kirk of The Kirk Report in an e-mail response, who adds that attracting readers has not been a problem for him. "I also like the fact that most people find The Kirk Report through word of mouth and also can read my content there in an advertising-free format."

Don't Mind the Links

The author of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity also declined to be a part of TheMoneyBlogs when he reviewed the design and how it links to the original sites. "It's only a good deal for a blogger with close to no exposure," says the blogger, who gives his name only as Jim. "When I visited the site and saw some of the other blogs syndicating content on their site at the time, I saw that they didn't actually link back to the author's site, they linked to an author page, which in turn linked to the original site."

Other bloggers signed up simply to build a following and share ideas. "I don't blog to make money, but I blog to share information and get comments and feedback from others," says the venture capitalist Allen in an e-mail. "So I don't mind syndicating my content to aggregators. It just extends the reach of my blog."

Another member, Roger Nusbaum, portfolio manager with Your Source Financial who pens Random Rogers' Big Picture, mentions that TheMoneyBlogs is "kind of a hated site" among his peers because of its linking practices. "I have bigger fish to fry than worry about what feels like an unfair relationship," he says in an e-mail. "Truth be told, I go weeks at a time without even thinking about their site."

So there you go. TheMoneyBlogs is worth a whirl if it has something you can't find elsewhere or you want to check out new blogs. But otherwise I'd stick with the original blog sites, where you'll find a wealth of information—and a lot more flair.


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