Happy 200th Anniversary!
No, it only seems like I’ve been writing this blog for 200 years. I’ve actually been writing it for 200 weeks. As the anniversary approached, I naturally gave some thought about how to celebrate it, and my first notion was to give myself the week off. But nobody gets time off work just because it’s their anniversary, so I had to nix that, dammit.
Instead, I decided to blog about blogging, giving my readers a glimpse behind the curtain, a taste for how the sausage is made, a backstage tour, a…, well, you get the point. In particular, I thought I would answer some of the more common questions readers have me asked about the blog over the years.
But, first, some not-very-vital statistics, especially for my newer readers. My blog is (supposedly) an investment blog. I write it, it gets reviewed by Greycourt’s Compliance Officer, I post it (usually) on Thursday, and it goes out via email on Friday morning. The blog is also available to readers of the award-winning magazine, Pittsburgh Quarterly. There is a disclaimer at the end of each post (see below) that reads, “All opinions expressed are those of Gregory Curtis and do not necessarily represent the views of Greycourt.” And that, folks, is putting it mildly.
The blog is written using Microsoft Word on a MacBook Air (an ancient model) and is published via WordPress, a software used by bloggers. WordPress has all sorts of features I don’t use: importing colorful photos, use of video (vlogs!), links to lots of cool stuff, etc. I’m not opposed to that but I simply don’t have the time to do it. As a result, my blog might be a contemporary electronic way to communicate, but really it’s just a bunch of words, not terribly different from what someone could have produced around the time of Johannes Gutenberg.
I want to be respectful of my readers’ time and patience, and so each post is designed to be easily readable in a single sitting, i.e., roughly 1,000 words. Some are a bit longer, some a bit shorter, but that’s my target. This post, for example, is exactly 1,000 words long. Over the course of the 200 posts, I’ve written a total of 202,668 words. The average American novel, by the way, clocks in at 60,000 words, suggesting either that modern readers have bizarrely short attention spans or that modern novelists are really short story writers in disguise.
More than 35,000 people get the posts every week, although how many of them actually read it is another matter. I could probably get at this issue, using services like Google Analytics, but there are, I’m convinced, some questions that shouldn’t be answered.
The fact that there are 200 posts suggests that the blog must be about four years old, but that’s misleading. If you went way back to the first post, titled “Tough Market, Tough Audience,” you would discover that it appeared on November 1, 2008 (a grim hour to be sure). That’s because the first several posts appeared on a site called Summitas.com. By August 1, 2012 the blog had migrated to TheAllianceReport.com and, as with Summitas, it was appearing irregularly. It wasn’t until January 4, 2013 that the blog began to appear on my own website, GregoryDCurtis.com, and it’s been there ever since, appearing weekly.
But to my readers’ questions:
You say you are writing an investment blog, but many of the posts seem to have little to do with investments. What gives?
I call it an investment blog because in my day job I’m an investment advisor and, therefore, people probably assume I know something about investing. If I called it a “global policy blog” people would laugh me off the stage.
Besides, you can’t successfully manage a large pool of capital, especially family capital, unless you understand a whole lot about what’s going on in the world. Think about the plight of so-called “bottoms-up” money managers. These are folks who care only about the value of a stock, perhaps absolutely or perhaps relative to other stocks. They include some of the best investors on the planet, including Warren Buffett, and their bibles are books like The Intelligent Investor and Financial Analysis.
I love bottoms-up stock pickers (and many hedge fund managers are just long/short versions of the species), but since the end of the Financial Crisis these guys have stunk the place up. As a group they’ve underperformed for eight consecutive years and their aggregate underperformance is so horrible that even some of the superstars have cut their fees to the bone (Brevan Howard, e.g.) while others have given up and gone out of business altogether (BlueCrest, Perry Capital). Just last week venerable Janus Capital gave up the ghost and sold itself to a UK fund group.
Stock pickers intentionally work with blinders on so they won‘t be distracted by the “background noise” of ordinary economic and political activity. They believe that if they buy a stock at the right price, other buyers will eventually pay more for it. Fair enough. But “eventually” we’re all dead.
What the stock pickers missed is how profoundly different the investment environment is today from what it was like pre-2008. Since that time, and still today, the market has been rigged by central bankers worshipping at the alter of the “wealth effect,” which means forcing stock prices up regardless of the quality of the companies. You can sweat blood over the relative merits of Stock A versus Stock B and accomplish nothing, or you can buy a bunch of random stocks (the S&P 500, for example) and knock the ball out of the park. Thanks, Ben and Janet.
Not that anybody is feeling sorry for preposterously wealthy stock pickers but, still, as Keynes should have said, “Markets can remain rigged longer than you can remain in business.” What’s happening in the broader world matters, which is why I write an investment blog that sometimes sounds like a global policy blog.
Next up: Happy 200th Anniversary! Part II