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Author: Jon408 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 49604  
Subject: Re: An open letter to Tom and Dave. Date: 1/31/2002 12:40 AM
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Recommendations: 10
For the Motley Fools to make money off of efforts of these people is simply wrong.
_______________________
I think you've got it backwards, I really do. TMF isn't trying to make money off of your efforts, it's trying to stay in business so that you can have this kind of forum at all.

There have been all kinds of arguments on the boards these last two days about the situation, but this is my take on it:
I signed up a couple of years ago, and since then, things have changed. For one, the economy has gone into a recession. Which means that ad revenue has fallen. Also, the "click-through" rates have changed quite a bit (downwards), because people just aren't "clicking through" as much as they used to, or because they have less money to spend.

Remember all of the issues surrounding the changes made in the "my portfolio" part of TMF? I went to the "Improve the Fool" and read many of the threads (some positive, most negative), and found that TMF was attempting to reduce costs.

Also, just before the changes in "My Portfolio", there was an announcement of layoffs - and there were a number of fond fairwells made to various TMF(Staff) posters, who, at one time or another, made their presence felt for our benefit. And then came all the pop-up ads - for this, that, and the other thing. Along with the "TMF Money Advisor", which they introduced to turn things around.

Obviously, TMF was cutting back, attempting to save money by outsourcing the portfolio data and charting data, attempting to add revenue with advertising and with their own special take on how to manage finances for those who needed some hand holding...

The point is, from my perspective, TMF had been doing everything possible already to cut costs and get themselves out of a widening hole. And it just wasn't enough.

Now, I'm not privy to TMF's accounting, so I can't answer or comment beyond my own observations, ok? But it does seem to me that the Gardners did everything they could to make this site work - at least to a "break even". And it didn't work. Maybe part of it worked, or maybe some parts worked better than others, I don't know - but at some point there was a meeting with the accountant, with charts and graphs and P&Ls and Balance Sheets... and as an investor, I can tell you that such meetings are not always pleasant...

The upshot was that to continue TMF, the Gardners would have to charge a fee of some kind. Their choice was a) discontinue operations, or b) charge some kind of a fee. For whatever reason, the Gardners decided to forge ahead, by charging a fee.

And yes, these boys are no dummies, ok? They knew that there would be chaos on the boards. Heck, there was chaos on the boards when "My Portfolio" changed. There was grumbling in the ranks when the Java "tennis ball" ads appeared. There was absolute misery on some boards when layoffs were announced and we found out that some of our favorite TMF staff members would be leaving. And if the members screamed then, you know you can hear them now, right?

Be that as it may, TMF took the first hit. And the second hit. And the third hit - all just trying to turn this site around, financially. But the final hit (fee-based membership), was more personal in a way, because they announced that all of "us" would have to be a part of the solution for this site to go forward into the future.

There is an old saying: "lead, follow, or get out of the way". Well, the Gardners have decided to do what they know they have to do to make this site work. That is called leadership. It has to do with the ability to make tough choices, and it comes from character, belief in core values, and common sense.

I have not seen any post over the past two days that has a single suggestion of how they could do it any differently.

Think about it. From all that I've read, the Gardners started this site out of whimsy, and continued with it because of the community they created. And there really was no other site like it on the web. None. And the site grew... beyond all dreams, it grew because investors like you and I felt that we had at last found a home - a place to discuss investing (and other) issues with other rebels - people who somehow knew that we were being manipulated by brokers and so called "market gurus".

And we appreciated the stance that TMF took - that "market timing" was virtually impossible, and that the best stance any investor could take was to really look into the fundamentals of a company prior to investing - and then to back away from market fluctuations. They advised us to be different. They advised us not to "churn" our portfolios. And, at times, that seemed like terrible advice - but over the very long haul (which they also advised us to take), their advice is statistically correct. You know it, and I know it.

So what will happen now? A lot of members will leave at the end of the month. Many will stay. Some will stay simply because they've been invited to stay. A whole lot of non-serious investors will leave, including the ones who enjoy trolling specific boards just to get a rise. I have no idea what the eventual outcome will be, but I do have a suggestion...

Give the Gardners their due; they've done a hell of a job. And for me, I'm in it for the long haul... I want to remain a part of, and contribute to the fabric; I want to hear what "evildavid" (from the AAPL board), has to say about the "evil MSFT" - and what comments Blueherring has from Europe... all that "stuff" is important to me. In the olden days, this was called "being in the union", and it meant a lot to the working folk. Like me. Like you. Like TMF.

Jon
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