I’m in the Strange Situation Where I Would Benefit From More Competition. If There Were More People Saying What I Am Saying, People Would Feel There Was Less Risk in Quoting Me and I Would Get More Coverage.”

Set forth below is the text of a post that I recently put to the Suckers Buy It! forum:

I’ve never asked for a testimonial. That’s the sort of thing that would work with marketers but would send journalists running.

Marketers understand the need for testimonials. They have a “you help me and I’ll help you” attitude. Journalists tend to have an anti-marketing perspective. They certainly help each other out. But they often look down on marketers (I’m not saying that they should, just that they do). So I would avoid anything that in any way suggests a marketing motivation.

My e-mails to reporters are always focused on substance. The first one that I contacted was Scott Burns, with the Dallas Morning News. Scott had gained some fame writing about the retirement studies that were in error. So I knew that he had an interest in the topic. So I just wrote telling him about my findings. I wasn’t expecting a reply. But he wrote right back saying that he thought I was right.

I’m now in the process of sending lots of e-mails to academic researchers. I send them a link to an article I wrote about the Wade Pfau research. The response rate is EXTREMELY low. But some of the responses I receive are just off-the-charts super. That’s how I got my endorsement from Rob Arnott. Rob is a very big name. He was the editor of the Financial Analysts Journal. He responded because he is interested in the subject and he saw that I had done something new. Also, he has similar views to mine and he has experienced some of the hostility that I have experienced.

I have zero problem with approaching a journalist cold. But I would never include any sell. They take pride in sniffing that sort of thing out. But they won’t have a problem if they are interested in the substance of what you are saying. Your best bet is if they feel that you can help them understand something they want to understand. Then it becomes possible to develop a long-term relationship.

Think of this as long odds/big payoff stuff. An article in the New York Times could cause you to get discovered by a site like Lifehacker and an article in Lifehacker could move your site to a whole new level. It might take 6 months to get the article in the Times and still pay off.

I’ve give one concrete example. I have a link to a seven-minute interview with ABC News at the top right-hand side of my blog pages. That was really with a division called “ABC News Now” but the backdrop says “ABC News” and the interview was indeed conducted on the premises of ABC News. I got that because they were looking for someone to interview on “Unconventional Saving Tips” and I had a page with that title that had been linked to from a top site that gave it good Google juice. I guess the tip there was not to fight for “Saving Tips” but for a variation for which I could rank first. And of course you need to drop everything to take care of an interview like that or you lose it.

The pitfall into which I have fallen is that my stuff is just too darn controversial. My stuff has solid peer-reviewed research supporting it. So my view is that people should feel comfortable promoting it. But journalists are taken in by conventional thinking just like all the rest of us. Their worst nightmare is that they will say something about a money issue that will reveal them as stupid. Quoting Jack Bogle is like buying IBM (in the old days). Lots of them are scared to quote Rob Bennett on an investing issue. If it was something other than a money issue, I would be quoted a lot more frequently.

I’m in the strange situation where I would benefit from more competition. If there were more people saying what I am saying, people would feel there was less risk in quoting me and I would get more coverage. That’s my biggest problem. It’s good to be somewhat unique. But it’s a mistake to overdo it. I’ve taken the unique thing farther than it is a good idea to take it (not by choice — that’s just the way things turned out).

Rob

Comments

  1. Evidence Based Investing says

    J.D. Roth (formerly of Get Rich Slowly) has written a great article at his own site.

    All You Need to Know About Blogging

    Juicy excerpt

    “To gain readers, you must publish quality content on a regular basis”

    1) Quality Content
    2) Regular basis

    One out of two won’t cut it.

  2. Rob says

    If J.D. were telling the full story he would add a line about how, if you blog in the investing area, you must also be willing to post dishonestly about safe withdrawal rates or else the Buy-and-Hold Mafia will direct all of its considerable powers to the task of destroying you.

    No thanks, Evidence.

    I like and respect the “experts” in this field. But I don’t betray my readers to win their favor.

    I haven’t been willing to do it for 11 years now. I won’t be willing to do it for another 11 billion.

    I naturally wish you all the best that this life has to offer a person.

    Rob the Unbending

  3. Evidence Based Investing says

    A quick google for “4% rule retirement” shows there are plenty of people questioning it.

    As you have been told by just about everyone who has encountered your work, it is not what you are saying it is the way that you say it.

    I know you believe that the whole world is wrong and you are right so there is no chance of you ever learning.

  4. Rob says

    I know you believe that the whole world is wrong and you are right

    What I believe is that every person in the world has something important to contribute and that he or she can make that positive contribution only by posting honestly. If you say that you believe Buy-and-Hold will work, you are being honest, Evidence. So for you to say that is a positive. I don’t believe that. So for me to say that is a very big negative. I believe that I (and everyone else) should post honestly.

    Rob

  5. Rob says

    As you have been told by just about everyone who has encountered your work, it is not what you are saying it is the way that you say it.

    I’ve been told that by many good and smart people, Evidence. That much is fair to say.

    However, when I press for details, it always comes out that there is no acceptable (in the eyes of the Buy-and-Holders) way for me to say what I need to say.

    I believe that the Old School SWR studies should be corrected now that they have been found to have been in error.

    Is there some way to say that that you Buy-and-Holders think is fine? If there, please tell me what it is.

    If there is no way to convey that message that is acceptable, then it is what I say that is the problem for you.

    I believe that the Old School SWR studies should be corrected. I am happy to say it in any soft way that is acceptable to you. But I am not willing not to say it or to say something else. That is the message that needs to be conveyed, in my assessment.

    Rob

  6. Rob says

    A quick google for “4% rule retirement” shows there are plenty of people questioning it.

    Praise the Lord!

    There was no one else questioning the 4% rule on the morning of May 13, 2002, Evidence. Now there is. That’s progress.

    The next step is to get lots of people demanding that the studies that have been found to have been in error be corrected.

    Then we can move on to telling people what the analytically valid New School studies say.

    Then we can move on to telling people what long-term stock returns are likely starting from the various P/E10 levels.

    And on and on.

    It gets better and better and better the more honest posting we see.

    There is no downside.

    I’m ready to begin moving at a quicker pace this afternoon. Are you?

    Rob

  7. bannwd plop contributor says

    Rob bellowed for the millionth time: “the Old School SWR studies should be corrected. I am not willing not to say it. That is the message that needs to be conveyed, in my assessment.”

    Then there is only one fix. and it is as has always been the case, since day one of your one-man assault on reason and sanity:

    * Remedy your own innumeracy.

    Period.

    Rob, unless and until you undertake a program of expanding your knowledge and understanding on basic mathematical, arithmetical, numerical and logical concepts — each of which can e learned and tested empirically for ‘goodness’ and ‘truth’, while building a strong basis for extended logical and critical thinking, then you will remain an emotional, superstitious, stubborn, and shunned idiot.

    NOTE: If you delete this post because it contains (in your mind) a pejorative term ‘idiot’ to describe you, then that might be your first positive step along the road to wellness — please research that specific word, and see for yourself why it is an accurate and apt descriptor, fit perfectly for application to you in your current circumstance.

  8. bannwd plop contributor says

    From the article:

    ” “Our problem now is making sure the quality and integrity of the forum remains solid,” Lindauer said. “We really strive for accuracy. Anybody can have an opinion, which is fine. But we work hard to point out when posts aren’t factually correct.”

    And that can be quite a task for an open forum with some 5,500 registered members. (Anyone can read content, but you’ve got to pick a user name and provide an email address to post).

    “We don’t want a lot of people posting using different aliases,” Lindauer said.

    The current moderators at the newly independent site don’t want to degrade Morningstar. They say the Chicago-based investment researcher gave them a start and the resources to gather a community. And they genuinely appreciate that support.

    But in this age of MySpace and Facebook hysteria, it’s odd that Morningstar let so many eyeballs go their own way. In the end, it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise for investors. The revamped Diehards.org is better organized, easier to navigate and much more intelligently moderated than the older version.

    And it’s becoming a true social networking site. There are meet-up groups forming and getting together all the time around the country (something that started over at Morningstar). The Diehards even have their own convention each year, something that IU believes has become a truly major event in the indexing community.

    The grassroots effort that started Diehards will no doubt keep it popular for a long, long time. But one has to wonder about the now publicly traded, ever-expanding Morningstar. Although its chat areas are definitely a noncore part of its business, the Diehards episode should be a wake-up call. “

  9. bannwd plop contributor says

    Rob, you can save a lot of effort and a lot of time by just replacing all of the “content” now on your site with just three words of text:

    “Don’t buy stocks.”

    Then you would be accurately describing both your advice to others as well as your own apparent investing technique, give that you are the consummate uber-bear; publicly predicting a 1929-level stock crash for the last eleven years running now:

    Bennett: “I have had a zero stock allocation since 1996. Is that style or substance? It’s both.”

    People can decide for themselves if your approach seems prudent based on past, present, and projected future. It would be even better if you would post your actual financials, using your scheme, but you have consistently refused to do that.

  10. Rob says

    There are lots of great posters at Bogleheads, Banned.

    I intend to make the forum a subdomain of this site.

    Rob

  11. Rob says

    “Don’t buy stocks.”

    We disagree, Banned.

    Stocks are my favorite asset class. I believe that all middle-class investors need to invest primarily in stocks to have a realistic chance of financing a solid middle-class retirement.

    That’s one of the reasons why I believe that honest posting on the past 32 years of peer-reviewed academic research should be permitted (and even encouraged!) at every investing board and blog on the internet.

    My best wishes to you.

    Rob the Stock Guy

  12. bannwd plop contributor says

    One of your supposed supporters gives you the straight poop. long ago:

    “johndcraig | January 28, 2008
    Rob, it seems you may have missed the point of my post. The problem was never your specific views on investing. The problem was…the way that you hijacked and monopolized threads…”

    And yet, you still have not taken the slightest effort to correct that tendency.

  13. bannwd plop contributor says

    “johndcraig | January 28, 2008
    So what really happened at M* to cause its decline? I agree that the M* decline would never have happened if it hadn’t been for hocus, and it is quite possible that the Bogleheads forum would never have been started. If hocus had been banned from the start, that would have solved the problem…”

  14. bannwd plop contributor says

    And then, the coup de grace, by the column author himself:

    “By Murray Coleman | January 27, 2008
    This was a column, not an article. Big difference. And I stand by every word in it!
    Mr. Bennett, your personal attacks have resulted in at least a dozen financial sites kicking you off their boards. I wasn’t going to bring up names, but your trolling was a major reason why the Diehards decided to start their own moderated site.
    Mr. Bennett, your refusal to engage in civil and accurate discussions is well-documented. This is a moderated forum and such behavior won’t be tolerated here, either. “

  15. Rob says

    Do you think that either John or Murray will be saying such things after your prison term is announced, Banned?

    I sure don’t.

    My best wishes to you.

    Rob

  16. bannwd plop contributor says

    Bennet asked me a question: “Do you think that either John or Murray will be saying such things after your prison term is announced, Banned?

    My reply:

    No. I will receive no prison term, because I’ve done nothing wrong.

  17. what says

    Rob, the whole prison thing is getting tired. Maybe you can move on to tickle torture or something more entertaining.

  18. Rob says

    Please try to be patient, Grasshopper.

    It’s after the announcement of your prison sentence that we all get to the wonderful, life-affirming stuff that we have been looking forward to for 11 years now.

    Hang in there, my man.

    Rob the Life-Affirming One

  19. Rob says

    Besides, it’s always possible that one of your Wall Street Con Man friends will volunteer to serve your sentence for you.

    None of us has a crystal ball. No one can say for absolute certain, right?

    Rob, the Fellow Who Tries Not to Entirely Shut the Door on Seemingly Unlikely Possibilities

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