Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Introspection Day

Today the financial blogosphere has lit itself up with some introspective self-illumination as to what is happening within the structure of the financial blogging space.

Abnormal Return's Tadas Viskanta  kicked it all off and has obviously twanged a nerve throughout the community as the marvellous Josh Brown picked up on the theme , Felix Salmon then wrapped up those 2 posts and others are joining in.

Team Macro Man, for their pennyworth, cast their vote behind Josh's Third theorem of Financial Blogging evolution.

"My third theory is probably closest to reality, though:

3. Many bloggers have simply been so completely dead wrong about the post-crisis period we've been in (Hyperinflation! Depression! Social Unrest! Hoard Water and Dry Goods!) that they simply have no audience left. Keep in mind that many of the 2008-2010 generation of bloggers were misanthropes who had been rooting for a collapse all along. They came out of the woodwork and began blogging motivated by a mixture of I-Told-You-So schadenfreude and the desire to predict the next crisis, which was obviously an imminent thing. Only it didn't happen (I know, I know, any day now). And having blown all of their personal credibility on failed Cassandra-ism, having recognized what a horrendous disservice they've done to those who've heeded them, they've simply moved on. Many went to Twitter instead where there is a less permanent record of their bullshit.

It should be noted that we witnessed this exact same exodus in 2007 and 2008, but during that period it was the more bullish bloggers and stock pickers that disappeared. They too experienced this sense of guilt and purposelessness when the wheels fell off and all of their investment ideas became humiliating at best and dangerous at worst. Inevitably, the wheel will turn again and the doomers (along with their blogs) will make a comeback. I look forward to it - those bloggers are far more fun to read than today's Apple-worship crowd."

Bravo.

But TMM would like to add their own metric to the calculation. The actual interest out there in all things financial to the non-financial folks who only become marginal financial folks when there is a buck to be made, a trend to be followed or a disaster or boom to be called. When things flat-line they swiftly retreat back to the real world. We have long held that our readership figures and indeed comment count, are highly correlated to bearish disaster markets. This accounts for the disasternista blogs and followers that Josh alludes to and certainly our trend towards bullish views over the past year seeing a fall in readership. We have long felt that the blogosphere is an environment where readers go for substantiation of their own prejudices, "free money" ideas, self-promotion through comments, humour and finally for intellectual self-improvement.

So what has 2012 given the reader? A year of stalemate between bull and bear, a year of no bust and no boom and a year of flat returns (yeah, yeah OK apart from you dear reader, we know you've done really really well through genius etc etc). But really, if you are a disasternista you have retreated to Zero Hedge's citadel, the bulls have retreated to regular bank research where, excepting the showmen "Albert Edwards" of this world, there is a tendency towards positives and everyone else who was being kept interested by the high octane of the past has basically wandered off to pursue their proper jobs. Lucky buggers, as some of us are left HAVING to scratch a living in the drying pond of finance.

And have the markets been tough? Yes. And are the men in the middle feeling the pinch? Yes. And is it just coincidental that the outbreak of introspection is not confined to the financial blogger but is being expressed right across the field of finance? Here is a very interesting take from the inside on FX.

So if the markets are rubbish and the readership is losing interest then why carry on? Everyone has their own reason but as far as Team Macro Man go we have had our doubts as to the worth of why we are doing it and have been through our own period of introspection.

We took on the role after being asked to keep the flame of Macro Man alight as the original had to depart the blogosphere due to a reason not quoted elsewhere - Employer restriction (it is worth considering this function as a filter bias towards the type of folks that do actually blog). We were hugely flattered to be considered for the role as none of us had any experience in public writing and it was a huge challenge, but the ethos of writing to test one's own ideas in a forum has always been key and has indeed been very useful. As long as you have some. When we started, ideas were coming as thick and fast but this year has seen long periods of us just riding old themes and yes, post frequency does suffer. Unlike a newspaper that always have to have something on the front page no matter how trite, we can just not publish.

However it has been tough and we have been pretty close to calling it a day this year as the other great pressures we have in our day jobs dominate. When times are hard work has to take preference over the hobbies. And as a non-profit non-advertising blog, this really is a hobby.

In summary, we don't think the introspection of the evolution of the financial blogger is a one off. It is more a symptom of a general introspection the whole financial world is feeling in the face of a rapidly changing environment.

However, Team Macro Man will keep plugging on.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo gents. I have been lurking here for some time. Your world is not mine, well, maybe only tangentially. But I do find your views and discussions worthwhile in terms of understanding how someone possibly opposite me on the table may be thinking. Keep plugging.

The Angry Russian said...

Interestingly enough, I fit into all or most of the categories of blogger you have highlighted, be it in the past or presently. Now managing real money once again and blogging simultaneously (daily as per contractual obligations) the current market conditions and general apathy have tempted me into introspection on more than one occasion this year, but I have done my best to steer away from it.

Having said that, there is only so many times you can repeat that the market mechanism is broken etc. The world is not all doom and gloom but for the blogger who sits in my shoes (and I dare say yours too) it aint always that rosy either.

Best news of the day however, is that you're (collectively) not throwing the towel in just yet.

Dee Dee Humberside said...

Judging from the exponentially increasing number of people taking pictures in restaurants and bar, perhaps they've moved on to food blogging.

Anonymous said...

"Huzzah!", TMM.


(I'd post more but it takes me 10-20 attempts on average to get past the bot-checker)

polemic said...

Thanks folks

Deedee.. you might be on to something. And judging by tv sceduling food does seem to have taken over from finance and then property as the vogue of pretention.

As for that nightmare bot checker.. if the bots are all so bloody clever why don't they introduce a stupidity test instead to prove we are human?

ntwsc said...

Grief, did I pick the day to pop in on you hobbyists!

Don't you dare give up on what is after all a fantastic diary.

Been a wee while but always here for the chuckle even if it hurts a bit right now ;)

Polemic said...

Don t worry we are still here thanks..just commenting on malaise in general.

Oh as for my twin mr paine at houseprice etc..we havent banned anyone from comments but do know that blogger is becoming less user friendly as "improvements" make things worse
Keep trying or mail it to me and i ll post on your behalf

Oh and that maybe another reason that blogs are drying up..blogger is SUCH A PAIN. We d migrate to something else if we knew how to forward everyones links to this site. But it would be a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing folks always some food for thought when I land there ... often fresher than most of the IB stuffs coming in my box...

Skippy said...

Really appreciate the effort gents.

Always insightful and counter consensus to the dark-side drivel.

Sorry for the lack of comment lately. Been lost in the outback ;)

Fair bit of positive drum beating on China over the past week from the usual cheerleaders but also some of the bears.

I have liked mniners for a little while following the episode in iron ore over the summer.

Feel the pain trade on cyclicals is higher.

Perhaps a post on the scramble for yield would be of interest? In spite of my bullish comments above, some of the behaviour reminds me distinctly of 2004-06. Not sure the private banks ought to be pushing clients Chinese corporate bonds levered 5x?

Dee Dee Humberside said...

Pol, joke aside, and somewhat related to TMM's earlier post on luxury goods, I'd bet a couple of nickels that page clicks growth sits in "earthly pleasures" and craft businesses.

Fancy a pottery and woodwork blog?

Marshall Jung said...

Great post. It's why I check this blog every day.

Keep up the great work.

Leftback said...

Any success any of us has had this year is due, in no small part, to the continuing education program provided herein, thanks, chaps and keep on plugging.

Anonymous said...

Keep it up the silent majority loves your stuff. One of the rare to post balanced well-thought analysis. We're all right and wrong at times; what counts is the thought-process and that doesnt show in the P&L. Maybe why you like posting...

Anonymous said...

I have been a regular follower since the time of the original Macro Man. You guys are doing a great job, thank you for that! Only recently have I started to post comments, thinking about my own blog but not ready yet. There are academics, there are practitioners, there are people of single idea and determination and there are traders. Everybody have a minute or two of fame but real traders just don't like / need that much of a spotlight. And they tend to stick around if the enterprise is worthwhile. I hope all the work that you put in producing your posts pays back and is worthwhile to continue for you. As for the rest of the environment it just reflects structural change in finance: sell side does not have much to say; buy side in large part is just collecting the management fee; investors seem to be happy with the arrangement. It might be the case that Soros, Tudor, Moore etc. were riding the wave of inflation or of regulatory information loopholes but it seems to me that there is always a benefit of keeping ones mind open and being flexible enough to change ones views once circumstances change. Keep it going, aim as high as you can dream of. Nick

Anonymous said...

You guys have been doing great and I look forward to your blog everyday. We even unblocked our corporate firewall banning blogs specifically for this site. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm young, sorta. Not as experienced or well versed as all my aged 30 senior/lead/Director/VP manager friends, who know everything I suppose (Everyone my age on Linkedin has these titles and I am being a hater, because I think its ridiculous). I don't understand everything you guys are saying, I usually have to research it, BUT I learned what being actionable is. You guys have a plan for every scenario, and rational thought behind the cause and effect of each. Plus you don't think linearly. The world and thoughts about it, my perception and the way I approach it are different now. Its more like casting a net into a river and seeing what fish you come back with, rather than threading a hook, only looking for trout. There might not be any trout in the bloody river. KEEP IT UP GUYS!

Anonymous said...

This is my first post,though i have read your blog every day for some time and macroman is usually one of the first things i check. Please keep it going!

Leftback said...

OK, enough Introspection. You're not going to give up blogging, TMM, because We Know You Luv It.

Back to business... :-)

Let's begin by talking about some of the drivel the media are spewing about the Fed on this latest Wizard Day.

The media are full of tripe from the usual suspects (mostly the Austerians and assorted right-wing demagogues) about how QE3 "hasn't worked"... The same group of people also like to point out that Draghi's verbal interventions and bazooka comments "haven't worked"...

LB finds the latest Fed criticism to be quite interesting considering that QE3 is scheduled to last for "eternity", and the last time we checked "eternity" wasn't over. In fact, last time we checked the Fed was still in Operation Twist 2. So not only is QE3 not over, but technically QE3 hasn't actually started.

So bulls can afford to be patient, it seems. From Here To Eternity....

Charles Butler said...

In the following analogy, published yesterday by the person that is considered the reference commentator for my corner of the world, the narrator represents the Spanish government and air ESM programs and such:

'Let's give an example. If I want to suffocate myself I need to deprive myself of air. If I don't deprive myself of air I won't suffocate. Fine. And if I deprive myself of air, does that mean I will suffocate? The answer is it depends, the absence of air is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. I need more conditions to be able answer adequately, even though I find it impossible to imagine myself suffocating without a lack of air.'

The only question concerns how the noise-o-sphere managed to live so long.

Ditto all the nice things everyone else said about TMM.

k1 said...

Ah TMM, you are not my first finance blog, nor my only, but I still love you the best.

Perhaps it is my fault, being so distant lately? Trusting in LB and 'C to keep your hearts warm?

I promise to visit more often, to say more nice things, and to attempt to find something that will trick Leftback into donning the kevlar gloves at the wrong time...

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Reformed Broker? He should do the introspection, worst blogger out there. Best PR agent, apparently.

WellRed said...

I would have to echo Anon @ 8:09. Apart from the occasional real gem, The Reformed Broker really does not add any original content.

Polemic said...

It's all gone Pete Tong, or its all gone David Guetta, or its all gone Swedish House Mafia.

Having just this evening taken delivery of Swedish House Mafia's "Until Now" CD (Yes TMM are a a bit old fashioned and like a hard copy to go back to once all the electrons in their multiple media devices get lost, stolen or deleted in error) TMM see that just as the most successful financial blogs have effectively become aggregators and newspapers of other people's works, so it is with the SHM's last offering before they disperse - a collection of collaborations with other artists. David Guetta has already gone the same way.

As Steve Angelo explained, the reason for the SHM break up was -

"We just decided that we reached a point where we don't know what the next move would be. We always like the challenge. And we don't like to repeat ourselves. We just felt like it was time"

Could have been written as a farewell by any financial blog.

Polemic said...

And folks thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. It wasn't meant as a wind down post but was really a reflection on another side of the general malaise. The Great Malaise..

I think we need a all need a bit more fun.

Hotairmail said...

There will be no more fun in our lives if we keep thinking about it.

From my nexus.

Anonymous said...

TMM,

Just want to say that you guys are legends. I started reading MM back in 2008 while I was still at uni. I'm now working on bank trading desk an still check in with TMM whenever you have a new post.

Even though I haven't been around long, your insight and humor has often brightened up some dark days.

Keep on keeping on. Cheers

Hotairmail said...

I think after all these valedictories it is incumbent upon you to stop posting now. ;=)

(forgot I had to type the numbers too - I'm too old for this lol)

willem said...

Thought compelled to add to the chorus of accolades and encouragement, for TMM have definitely and consistently provided a source of "free money" ideas, humour, and intellectual self-improvement. For this participant your posts are an incredibly welcome respite from the noise and always add value to my own thought processes. Great work and thanks to all of you guys for graciously providing it all to the public domain. Keep it up!

slowdive said...

Another long-time reader here, since the days of the original Macro Man. I wanted to thank you all for persisting with this endeavour, through which you have educated and entertained many. I started reading this blog when I was a university student, since then, I have moved on to the sell-side and now a hedge fund, and continue to find the insights to be as original and thoughtful as ever. Much appreciated, gents.

Anonymous said...

Ol' Dirty Bastards says...

Team Macro Men taking over from the Macro Man... This reminds me of something:

We're not worthy !!

Congrats gentlemen, you do an excellent job ! This is one of about three finance blogs that are worth reading.

Anonymous said...

C Says'
You just need a little;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFGg0AgDTz0

The consesus appears to be in the title.

Remember guys,imo the bloggers enemy is the compuslion to post value everyday.IMO the markets don't offer us vale added info everyday to do that, and certainly not on a macro level which is why the posts get a bit micro occasionally.
Just get the luv guys!!

Anonymous said...

C Says
So much for links !! That was of course the great Frank Wilson with "Do I love you (Indeed I do)"

Now we need to be aware of a gradual increase in volatility out there.Don't follow options,but I expect the price of buying protection is likely rising as we speak.
Coincides well with the upcoming elections etc.

Fifth Estate said...

Great post! I hope you don't mind if I link to your blog at my site fifthestate.co. Thanks for all your contributions and please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I'm another long time reader from the original macro man days, but who rarely comments. I dont personally fish in your pond, but I like the quality and perspective of your thinking.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I'll never forget back on '08 when I saw Arianna Huffington on CNBC opining on bank balance sheets and regulation. Suddenly, everyone was a banking expert.

Enlightenment said...

nice written

Enlightenment said...

nice post

The PM said...

What do you mean a year of flat returns.. most risk assets are up a bucket load... unless if you were buying Spain!?