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No. of Recommendations: 50
Interesting responses to the layoffs at TMF yet most are from those who have never had to meet a payroll. It's a simple fact that if I can't meet my personnel costs I will have to reduce personnel Of course this creates dislocation. Letting staff go because income is down and you can't meet salary and other costs is not only painful for all but despair equally opposite to the delight in hiring people. This is Staffing 101.

TMF let 115 people go in one fell swoop. This tells me that TMF was late in its decision to trim staff. In all probability, TMF kept people on past a point where it was evident that some would have to go. Maybe TMF was hoping things would turn around, cash would flow better, whatever, but held off too long. On 100 percent hindsight TMF should have whittled staff down across the past half year. They didn't. So it came as an avalanche not a slow slide. A short big hit rather than a long smaller swoosh.

Now is not the time to attribute blame because much of TMF's ills have been because of their cash flow. That's the center causality. However, I have seen many instances of posters lambasting TMF in what I call a true negative: complaining without offering a solution. I have sat at my computer amazed at the sheer lack of understanding that TMF has espoused their investing philosophy, given a platform for a disparate variety of views (and here I count NADA, Martini Club, Randall's Quiet Corner, and a host of others giving an opportunity to communicate divergent opinions) and what did TMF get in return but scathing remarks. The founders of TMF were vilified – yet they were our hosts.

Nothing is perfect, even TMF, and I would be the first to say so. However, I find it deeply disgusting that our hosts have been often insulted. Kudos to jeanpaulsartre for his post saying that he would, in any capacity he could, aid ex-TMF staffers. Not one post since have I seen that offer. Not one. Most have taken the view that TMF has compounded its error by letting certain, obviously talented, people go. Has it not occurred to some that TMF itself knows this and also grieves?

To those who made the cut, I am glad you did; to those who didn't, remember that having TMF on your resume is a decided plus. You were not let go because of any lack of talent but because TMF didn't have the financial wherewithal to keep you. Will you be missed? Damn right you will. Will another company benefit from your talent? Damn right they will.

Now the crunch. Would you pay, say, $19.99 a year to be a fully accredited Fool? Full access to all the site has to offer plus the right to have your own site within TMF? To read some of the best of the best writing on the Internet in the various boards? Simple fact is that TMF is one of the most visited sites on the Internet and, let's be frank here, some of the best informed views available anywhere. I often click on a poster's profile to find where he/she has posted. I could mention several posters such as JPS, Trick, Randall, Foolabaise, Waddafooliam, JMHawkins, Nelson(0), and many others who I appreciate (short list, I have many others).

Simply put, TMF has created a venue that is far, far better than certain others. Would you pay a small yearly sum to be here? I would.


Remember, There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

MichaelR
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No. of Recommendations: 6
Would you pay a small yearly sum to be here?

We discussed this, fairly in-depth, here a couple of months ago. I'll go back and find the thread, posting it later. A few TMFs got involved in the talks, even TomDave showed up. And if memory serves correctly, you made an appearance too Michael.

Nothing has changed my stance since then. For the priviledge of reading, lurking and occaissionally posting at The Motley Fool, as it stands now, no I wouldn't pay anything even though I do have a look at Martini Club everyday. But then the posters I respect the most are involved in the same private boards that I frequent, so I get most of my reading/posting satisfaction from there.

However...the private boards I post on and read are inferior to TMF's. Myevents was great, but they're more or less out of business now. If the Fool would offer everything they now offer for free, but also offer private boards, with some file storage, the ability to post jpegs, a calendar, etc etc, then I would pay $20 - 30 a month to join those private boards here. But only if I could join as many as I wanted. It's been said before, "People follow content," and the best online content is to be found in a room full of cyber-pals, unafraid that what you say may come back to haunt you via your workplace, stalkers, or ex-spouses.

But to pay $20 for TMF as it stands now? No. And while I truly hope to see TMF succeed, I believe they will ultimately fail unless they start showing the same initiative we all saw back in the early days.

Paul
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Here's the link to the Beginning of the Hook, Line and Sinker thread.
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14048535

It's a long thread, but about halfway through Bogey asks MC point blank whether we'd pay for private boards. The answers are generally "yes" but with many well thought-out, varying conditions or suggestions.
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No. of Recommendations: 11
<<about halfway through Bogey asks MC point blank whether we'd pay for private boards.>>


Thud
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14026438

We all sat around and waited for the other shoe to drop.
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14045612

When Bogey kept getting hung up on, "How much would you pay?", round one was a done deal. I sensed desperation at TMF HQ when I was there several months ago.

And this is where it got sad. I certainly recognized the desperation around TMF when Bogey and TomDave showed up to engage the community. When was the last time that happened?
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14079747

We discussed (on the private boards) how serious it was and nominated individuals who make the least contribution to "our" community needs. We ran polls (half a joke, half a message), for more community input. We offered to pay for value provided.

This may have been a surprise to some, but not to the Martini Club.

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14055885
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14055894
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14068452
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14147481

Never saw it coming.
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14301381
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14070142
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14285333
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14301468
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14288108
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14300655
http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14294727
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Now the crunch. Would you pay, say, $19.99 a year to be a fully accredited Fool? Full access to all the site has to offer plus the right to have your own site within TMF? To read some of the best of the best writing on the Internet in the various boards?

Yes.

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No. of Recommendations: 31
I certainly recognized the desperation around TMF when Bogey and TomDave showed up to engage the community

Scuba,

I can't speak for Tom, but this is kind of unfair to me. I've always been around, some times more than others, but I've always been around. As for "desperation," I definitely would not use that word, but we want to figure this out, so we engage those people that know the most about it and would likely pay for the service if we charge.

The Fool is in a situation where no matter what we do, we assume risk. We know this. There's risk in the "status quo" model, to hope that ad revenue will come back with sufficient alacrity. There's risk in putting the whole site behind a wall like Wall Street Journal has done, or Consumer Reports.

There's risk in hybrid models like Playboy.com, theStreet.com, and New York Times digital. Playboy has a combination of premium, commerce, and "free" content. Street has a similar hybrid model. New York Times makes decent commerce money, but forces registration on the entire site. They claim that they get better CPM's than everyone else because they have 14 million members and a rich demographic. But, they also turn away 80% of the people that come to the site because of the forced registration.

I also know that they are bleeding cash like it's going out of style. Their expenses are like $85 MM with losses of close to $60MM. Good thing pappa has deep pockets, eh?

You have multiple variations on the theme:

Fool.com
WSJ.com
Playboy.com
Street.com
MYTimes.com

...all at various stages of development and in various degress of financial uncertainty. 3 of the 5 have deep-pocketed parent companies that could allow them to continue on their current path to find out if the ad model works, eventually.

Again, we understand and accept that we take risk no matter which model we choose. Personally, I'm a believer that the ad model isn't dead, it's just sleeping. I just don't know how long it's going to be before the ad agencies wake up and figure out how to make as much online as they do offline, or, more importantly, for corporate America to wake up and realize they are getting screwed by agencies that don't have their best interests in mind. I imagine that most ad-supported sites can't afford to wait to find out.

So, the obvious models become:

1. Subscription - put it all behind the wall, and ask people to pay.

Pros: stable revenue stream coming from the customers that you actually want to serve.

Cons: cost structure that must remain the same, or grow, to provide the expected level of service, with a possible short-term reduction in the revenue stream if people aren't immediately accepting of the model.

Questions: what percentage of the people will pay? What's the price point? Will they pay anything for the service as it exists now or will they need to get more? Can you bundle certain services at a lower cost to consumer?

2. Hybrid of free and premium - this is actually what we have now, with our research reports, seminars and free content, including boards.

Pros - flexibility and not forced. Allows the consumer some choice while diversifying the revenue stream somewhat away from the ad model.

Cons - still dominated by ad sales because of sheer volume, keeps you guessing about what people might pay for, endless product development cycle of trying things, killing things, and trying again. Costly in that regard.

Questions: are we charging for the right things? Should we be bundling instead of a la carte? Should seminars and research reports be free and boards and content be paid for? Or is price the ultimate arbiter?

Anyway, these are some of the questions we've been throwing around. There's no easy answer and there is definitely risk to be assumed. Like all businesses, we learn and evolve. To the extent that you'd like to honestly inform that, please do. I know we've already had a good thread about this, and I'm not looking to rehash it, but that was mostly about boards. We have to take a holistic view of the business, and that involves considering the needs of the people that don't use boards. Without giving numbers, I can tell you that the number of people that visit the Fool and don't use boards is significantly larger than those that do use boards. I'm not saying this to diminish the importance of the boards, but merely to point out that our future direction can't be driven only by the needs of those using boards. Many don't.

Best,

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Again, we understand and accept that we take risk no matter which model we choose. Personally, I'm a believer that the ad model isn't dead, it's just sleeping. I just don't know how long it's going to be before the ad agencies wake up and figure out how to make as much online as they do offline, or, more importantly, for corporate America to wake up and realize they are getting screwed by agencies that don't have their best interests in mind. I imagine that most ad-supported sites can't afford to wait to find out.


One problem with the ads on this site is that I keep seeing the same ads over and over for brokerage firms. How many accounts do you expect me to open?
* I started subscribing to the Wall Street Jounral thru an ad here.
I already opened a buyandhold.com account thru an ad here. I have this board up in another window reading messages, and there are three buyandhold.com ads with the message.
* I have neither the time nor the interest to read Investor's Business Daily. My husband already compalins about the amount of paper he has to bundle up for recycling.
* I'm not interested in classes at the University of Phoenix online because I work for a university and I'd rather take classes there.
* American Express Bokerage is interesting and I am actually thinking about that one to consolidate most of our brokerage and banking accounts with one institution.
* Datek, Ameritrade, Scottrade, etc. won't be gettin my business because I already have accounts elsewhere.

-- Fran

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No. of Recommendations: 2
Fran,

Thanks for the note, and I hear you. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks with the ad serving is that we don't know that you opened the BH account. Effective targetting is crucial and hard to do. I feel the same way about CNET. I keep seeing ads for Oracle and Sun Micro on News.com, but know how silly it is. I don't purchase IT equipment and may never. Computer games or consumer electronics would be far more effective for me. I'd click on the latest game that's coming out, or the new electronic gizmo. Unfortunately for them, CNET doesn't know that. Short of asking me, I'm not sure how they'd know. I also don't know what percentage of their audience would answer honestly if asked. I would.

Best,

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 6
DiabloQueen (paraphrasing): Nothing is in the ads I'm interested in.

Bich, bich, bich. Actually I could say the same about myself and the print Sunday NY Times (or any other day). I still get the paper. I even get to look at girls in skimpy underwear ($69 for a bra and $35 for thong underpants at Bloomingdales, Holy Mackinaw) even though I will never buy any. Bras and thong underpants, not girls, I mean.

Bogey's point about board vs. non-board hits may be well taken, and has to affect the decisions being made at Fool HQ. I sure hope those discussions include the way in which you capitalize goodwill. The Fool site oozes goodwill, as the hundreds or thousands of posts over the last couple of days have demonstrated. Even our host, the namesake of that Frenchie who smoked too much and was mean to his girlfriend for the better part of 60 years, has goodwill towards the Fool in ways that might possibly be quantifiable as regards generating ad revenue.

More later, perhaps, if I am able to collect my thoughts after looking at those irrelevant underwear ads in the Times.
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No. of Recommendations: 2
DiabloQueen (paraphrasing): Nothing is in the ads I'm interested in.


A more accrurate paraphrase would be: I've already responded to the ads I'm interested in, what else do you expect from me?

-- Fran






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No. of Recommendations: 3
I've already responded to the ads I'm interested in, what else do you expect from me?

Fran,

How willing would you be to share info with the Fool in the form of a personal, private profile of hobbies, interests, and even financial needs? We've talked about many, many things internally, and some folks have thrown out, as a straw man, "heck, let's ask people when their car insurance policy is due so we can show them offers that might lower their bill."

Do you think people would be willing to share that kind of information on any level, if it could benefit them to do so?

Thanks,

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 0
How willing would you be to share info with the Fool in the form of a personal, private profile of hobbies, interests, and even financial needs? We've talked about many, many things internally, and some folks have thrown out, as a straw man, "heck, let's ask people when their car insurance policy is due so we can show them offers that might lower their bill."

Do you think people would be willing to share that kind of information on any level, if it could benefit them to do so?


It depends on how detailed the info is. I already do a lot of surveys and stuff so it wouldn't bother me to answer general questions. I wouldn't be comfortable with stuff that was too specific (such as an exact dollar amount in a brokerage account), but I wouldn't mind answering some questions.

Good luck finding me a better deal on car insurance, though. (I live in NJ and have NJ Manufacturer's, so we already have a good deal.) Home owner's insurance is something I might be interested in.

Also, I'd want to know what you'd do with the information. If it's to target ads to me while I'm on the site, fine. If the fool's going to occasionally send me offers of interest, fine. If you're going to share my email address with advertisers, no thanks, I already get more than enough spam.

But I think any surveys/questions like that should be voluntary because some people don't want to give out any information.

-- Fran



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No. of Recommendations: 6
Bogey, I think some of us would provide that kind of information, others would not. Some of us are still leery of giving out too much information over the web, given all the horror stories we've heard. I personally would probably not give out any information beyond that in my profile. Better safe than sorry, even on a large site such as the Fool that is probably as honest as is out there and probably has pretty good security, too. The hackers can still get you, and I'm inclined to be careful about that.
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No. of Recommendations: 3

Also, I'd want to know what you'd do with the information. If it's to target ads to me while I'm on the site, fine. If the fool's going to
occasionally send me offers of interest, fine. If you're going to share my email address with advertisers, no thanks, I already get more than
enough spam.

But I think any surveys/questions like that should be voluntary because some people don't want to give out any information.


exactly. everyone has a muddled sense of what's "too personal" ... make the questions optional, most folks would answer some to help target ads (and very few would lie). Many would answer anything you asked just to help TMF...



-jp
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No. of Recommendations: 5
TMFBogey:

How willing would you be to share info with the Fool in the form of a personal, private profile of hobbies, interests, and even financial needs? We've talked about many, many things internally, and some folks have thrown out, as a straw man, "heck, let's ask people when their car insurance policy is due so we can show them offers that might lower their bill."

Do you think people would be willing to share that kind of information on any level, if it could benefit them to do so?


You've just described the flawed dot com business plan that most of us got hammered with.

I'm one of those that gave up on the Motley Fool some time ago. Not from the posters who in my opinion are some of the most astute people in the world, but from all the revenue gimicks that the Fool started doing about a year ago:

Seminars, Books, and now you are even suggesting using personal information for Spam.

In 20/20 hindsight I guess I must have seen this comming.

In short I guess this unfortunate turn of events is just another phase of the internet bubble. Sure the Fool was great for investment advice when everything was going up. And the Rule Breaker investment strategy was fantastic by purchasing AOL and AMZN when they were low. LTBH was also great when the market was only rising. Who needed professional advice when all tech was a sure thing.

The problem was that reality finaly hit and people realized that businesses actualy had to make money to survive. I guess even the Fool has realized that with

Now even the Fool has realized that with actually contemplating the sale of AMZN.

Unfortunately the Fool has also realized that a dot com enterprise can never go on forever just based on the old business model of making money on ad revenue.

My heart goes out to all those affected by this downsizing. And to those TMFers that are remaining, I urge you to be carefull of the words you use on these boards. It has been my experience that most companies usually don't stop with just one round of layoffs.

Again good luck to all at TMF (past and present).

Onslow
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No. of Recommendations: 10
DiabloQueen (paraphrasing): Nothing is in the ads I'm interested in.

Bich, bich, bich.


Really unfair. You could do better than this. DiabloQueen made a good point. She did her best to support the site and sees no further opportunities to do so.

rad
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No. of Recommendations: 5
Do you think people would be willing to share that kind of information on any level, if it could benefit them to do so?

Maybe. I work for a public college so I have to say not only am I not interested in the University of Phoenix, the ad offends me(I know that may be an unusual reaction).

Fran makes a great point, though. You need to find advertisors who generate multiple orders. Long ago there was market research info around somewhere - I only fit a couple of categories. There's got to be some middle ground between the Viagra ads and the IBD ads. It's not just a question of who is your audience but who in your audience buys what online ?

One thing I can tell you about me - my zip code and income make many, many advertisers interested in contacting me. I also average probably 5 purchases on line per month - maybe more. Where do I buy ? amazon,ebay, half.com, Bn.com on a regular basis. Over the holidays - j&r electronics, 800.com, landsend, coldwater creek, walmart.com, ourhouse.com and probably places I've forgotten. The biggest(physically) purchase I think I've made online is a garage door opener(the whole thing, not a remote). The most expensive thing I researched online was a car. No, make that a rental property in another state.

So there's a start. If the ads were here, it's entirely possible I would click through. Can you track the clickthrough to purchase ? I don't know.

Car insurance ? Brokers ? not for me. In any case, it's 2 click throughs period vs the multiples for the above examples.

Just a few thoughts.

rad
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No. of Recommendations: 6
But to pay $20 for TMF as it stands now? No. And while I truly hope to see TMF succeed, I believe they will ultimately fail unless they start showing the same initiative we all saw back in the early days.

Paul


I have to agree with neofool/Paul. In the present format - no way would I pay. Pay to suffer the weird stalkers, kooky threat makers, and then the GMS & UK invader spammers that TMF seems to not only tolerate, but encourage? Nope. Then the seemingly random application of naughty post pulling? To see an entertaining and scintillating jeanpaulsartre post pulled because one sentence's enuendo skittered into adult land without using poopy language? Nope.

That is why so many have fled to private board areas such as MyEvents and the newer ones. And it is worthy of note that even though in the first 2 days of posting on these sites, the F word was typically used twice in every heading and 6 more in the body (never pulled) to test the waters, profanity is used less there than here.

People do want to be treated like adults, don't they?

So, if TMF were to institute the value added pay for options that jeanpaulsartre and others defined, yes I would pay. But not for what is here now, when I can get it for free elsewhere.

The question becomes: Does TMF, with its clearly superior technical and convenience features, institute the easily installed and cleared desired valued added features of MyEvents before sites like MyEvents/EZboards/Others can learn to provide the technical features TMF already has?

Go figure,

Hops

Who eats whose lunch? It's on the table.


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No. of Recommendations: 3
Oh man rad, you did an excellent job of leap-frogging on what Fran said - I didn't quite grasp in her post (apparently TMF hasn't either so I don't feel too bad.)

Fran makes a great point, though. You need to find advertisors who generate multiple orders.

Why only the same limited financial ads here?

There is at least some disposable income among most of the investors here (although some do brag that they have never and never will invest).

Why not look at the content in the off topic boards for clues. Do you really have to be hit in the head with a 2x4? Photography. Travel. Cloths/Fashion. Vacations. Scuba (hehe). Alcohol. Culinary tools. LBYM tools (hehe). Skiing. Canoeing. Boating. Web page software. Investment property.

Sure, I know enough to start looking for these things with a search engine, but if I see it here first, I'm likely to click and follow.

As Fran said, I only need one on-line brokerage.

Hops
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No. of Recommendations: 4
Seminars, Books, and now you are even suggesting using personal information for Spam

Onslow,

I wasn't suggesting spam, really, and not even suggesting that you associate an email or snail mail address with the information you'd share. What I am talking about is letting us know what interests you so we can show you ads or offers that might be of interest and actually help you in some way. Spam is unsolicited email and we'd only send you something if we had your permission to do so. When you give permission, it's not spam.

But, given your belief that everything we've done on the revenue side is a "gimmick" I'll ask you how you think the Fool SHOULD make money. Or, should we not make money?

Thoughts?

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Why only the same limited financial ads here?

Truth? Because they still represent the best CPM around. I know it's crazy, but even the best deal with someone else proves to be only half as good as the money that the financial services companies will offer for the space. Supply and demand.

My take is that this is somewhat fleeting though and eventually everyone who comes here has a broker, so the broker ads become far less effective. The Fool has made a number of efforts in the past to target specialty subjects, but so far, it hasn't made economic sense. Maybe it will in the future and maybe we're closer than we think.

Best,

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Fran makes a great point, though. You need to find advertisors who generate multiple orders. Long ago there was market research info around somewhere - I only fit a couple of categories. There's got to be some middle ground between the Viagra ads and the IBD ads. It's not just a question of who is your audience but who in your audience buys what online ?

One thing I can tell you about me - my zip code and income make many, many advertisers interested in contacting me. I also average probably 5 purchases on line per month - maybe more. Where do I buy ? amazon,ebay, half.com, Bn.com on a regular basis. Over the holidays - j&r electronics, 800.com, landsend, coldwater creek, walmart.com, ourhouse.com and probably places I've forgotten. The biggest(physically) purchase I think I've made online is a garage door opener(the whole thing, not a remote). The most expensive thing I researched online was a car. No, make that a rental property in another state.


Thanks for making the point more clearly than I did.

-- Fran
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No. of Recommendations: 9
MichaelR,

>>The founders of TMF were vilified-yet they were our hosts<<

WRONG!

I am a CUSTOMER (yes a paying one) of the Motley Fool and the founders. Have bought merchandise, reports etc.
And I am one of the "hits" on their site that supports the income they do recieve from advertising. If it isn't enough to support the business right now, well welcome to the dot-com world and the world of business.

A host is someone who invites you to dinner or a party. Not two guys who are running a business. MichaelR, you make out like you are a hard headed business person who has had to meet a payroll and yet you call David and Tom hosts? Come on. It's a business and the brothers made a business decision.

If you haven't bought merchandise from the Fool than maybe the brothers are hosts to you. That's probably part of the problem. But even someone who has bought nothing supports advertising rates.

Finally, I like you would definitely pay a monthly fee for access to the Fool. It's the ONLY site I would be willing to pay a monthly fee for right now. Which explains the disasterous dot-com business model.

My only concern would be that there are probably alot of people ( or at least some) who have contributed alot on the boards but who would be unable to pay. On the other hand, a monthly fee might keep alot of the persons whose main purpose is to cause trouble and be a general pain in the a-- off the boards. Fees are a tough question that our "hosts" would really have to give some careful thought.

Mike. (Customer)
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No. of Recommendations: 3
Thanks for making the point more clearly than I did.

You're welcome. But since it was dismissed out of hand by the power that be, I might have used the time to continue on my taxes.

rad
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Truth? Because they still represent the best CPM around. I know it's crazy, but even the best deal with someone else proves to be only half as good as the money that the financial services companies will offer for the space. Supply and demand.

My take is that this is somewhat fleeting though and eventually everyone who comes here has a broker, so the broker ads become far less effective. The Fool has made a number of efforts in the past to target specialty subjects, but so far, it hasn't made economic sense. Maybe it will in the future and maybe we're closer than we think.


Trnaslation : We still know best.
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Truth? Because they still represent the best CPM around.

For those, like me, that don't know, what is a CPM?

Cost per minute? Cost per message? Certified Public Mime?

Thanks,

Hops
uninformed. I just figured out FWIW 2 days ago.
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No. of Recommendations: 3
reallyalldone, commenting on Bogey's excuse for using financial services ads and not other kinds, so much: We still know best.

Well, maybe they do know best. This is a problem in optimization. If from a marketing point of view you think you can position yourself for bigger sales later by accepting smaller sales now, then you might go that route -- if you can afford to wait. If you're hungry now, maybe you can't wait. So a strategy that is not optimal in the long run, keeps you alive now. Once you stay alive, then you can do the ultimately more profitable thing.

One hopes that the strategic planners at Fool HQ have taken off their jester caps and put on thinking caps. My suspicion is that the trauma at the highest levels at Fool HQ in the last month or two (because it had to be seen to be coming -- Martini Club has known for ages and we have no information except what we infer)has left the head Fools sort of discombobulated. The layoff, and the treading water, at least allow the spending out of the $30 million to slow.
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No. of Recommendations: 5

What's CPM?

CPM is Internet ad lingo "cost per thousand ad impressions." Last time I checked, a banner at the Fool was about $35/CPM.

The TomDave PR blamed declining Internet advertising as the reason for the layoffs, and used "FirstFederal" as an example. The "FirstFederals" I know, including the one I work for, as well as "FirstFargo" and "FirstOfAmerica" and "Firstchovia" and "FleetFirst" and "ChaseFirstFederal" have not cut their Internet advertising at all this year; in fact, they've increased it, especially at the regional bank level, because it's getting to be a tighter market all the time. But if the Fool in its moment of doubt and pain wants to blame other than itself for declining ad revenue, all I can say is "what else is new" and so be it.

You usually buy a minimum of $5,000 worth of impressions. Of course, the more you buy, the more your CPM declines. As is true in all things in life, everyone strikes their own best deal.

jeanpaulsartre



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No. of Recommendations: 19
So, the obvious models become:
1. Subscription - put it all behind the wall, and ask people to pay.


Well, you didn't the hybrid subscription model which Raging Bull uses (I think), which is "read everything for free, pay to participate." I thought that was a great one, since it should immediately knock out the spammers and reduce the posting population to only those who truly care.

However I must admit that having looked at their boards, the quality was nowhere near that which I find at the Fool. Maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance, it still seems like there's something in that model.

Questions: what percentage of the people will pay? What's the price point? Will they pay anything for the service as it exists now or will they need to get more? Can you bundle certain services at a lower cost to consumer?

Many people will say they will pay. Most won't. You are, unfortunately, at the mercy of your stupidest competitor, and there are plenty of free sites still available. Heck there's even a whole set of boards inside AOL, one of your investors. The quality is less, but unless you want to reduce yourselves to a smaller audience (which will impact the sales of books, the ability to get newspaper placement, radio clearance, etc.) then you're sort of stuck.

The price point is wayyy less than $10/mo, which is RB's, I believe. (Haven't checked them in over a year, so if I'm off on this, forgive.)

If the earlier comment is accurate that far more people come to the Fool and don't use the message boards than do, then I'm speechless and answerless. I'd like more data, which I'm sure you'd share willingly here in public so your competitors can read it too, right? OK, maybe not.

I would assure you that the ad market will come back. Painful as it is to know, a sudden downturn like this can actually have great benefit for the survivors, assuming that you are one. The mass-market magazines are bleeding because of the proliferation of special interest ones, the networks get more competition every year from start-up cable networks, and you have a plethora of competition because it ain't so hard to start a website or open up message boards.

Run some of the competition off the ranch, manage your business well, and have a brand which endures and you will be better positioned after the carnage than you were before.

I read many years ago that "marketing" has grown as a percentage of GNP every year since World War II. The difficulty in the past 10 years has been the absolutely explosion of places to advertise: cable nets, niche publications, websites. This is a supply-demand thing, and just as everybody overreacted to the "easy money" of the past few years, they are now overreacting to the sudden cut-off at the first hint of recession.

(I believe it is exacerbated by the heavy imbalance of "supply" for the first time, and therefore appears to be more severe than it may actually be. Additionally, during a recession the "strong" become the "safe play", and by that I mean "radio" and "tv" and not "internet", since it's still a question mark for many marketers. The "media landscape" has been fairly stable decade by decade since the 1930's, with only the advent of TV in the 1950's and FM Radio in the 1970's as potent new forces. Print has ebbed and flowed, consolidated and not, but it's not seen violent upheavals in any short time frame that I can think of.)

So get your ducks in order, hunker down, and continue doing most of what you're doing. Frankly I thought Soapbox was a terrific idea, and still do. I don't know anything about the cost structure, of course, but as a "concept" it's aces.

That's the best I can do given the lack of information I have. I'm sorry I'm ill informed, but then nobody has sent me a manilla folder or tutorial on "costs vs revenues" at the Fool.

Maybe you could have a seminar? A sort of "MBA by proxy" with the Fool as the patient? I think I'd pay to be part of that!
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Bogey said:
How willing would you be to share info with the Fool in the form of a personal, private profile of hobbies, interests, and even financial needs? We've talked about many, many things internally, and some folks have thrown out, as a straw man, "heck, let's ask people when their car insurance policy is due so we can show them offers that might lower their bill."

For you guys, yes, but no one else. That's what you have going here, and you seem a bit hesitant to use it. I understand your apprehension, because you could really screw up the trust you've developed. How much I participate depends a lot on how much I know about what you need and why, how you will use it and how I am approached.

As much as I am sad many of my TMF friends are without work now, I'm glad to know you are willing to cut fat. Now, concentrate on doing what it takes to convert us to cash.

I love Nordstrom too, and I give extra to keep them in business. Because they offer so much to me, I don't mind at all, in fact, I advertise for them. Trust what you have, and explain it to us.

Rick
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No. of Recommendations: 6
Why not look at the content in the off topic boards for clues. Do you really have to be hit in the head with a 2x4?

You get three chances to guess what regulars on this board most assuredly would click on at least once. Hint: Look at the board name.

Now, if a click on a banner ad leads me to a variety of recipes for interesting cocktails using, let's say Absolut, I would certainly not order a bottle online. However, there's a good chance I might walk across the street to my nearest convenience store to buy a bottle and the necessary ingredients. That's got to count for something, no?
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Trnaslation : We still know best.

An alternative translation: Here's more information.

I guess I'm seeing this differently. If I'd just fired a third of the payroll I meet, I would have retired this weekend to a hotel room and a dark bar. What I see from the Fool is some of their top people out here engaging discussion on what can be done to keep things going. David's over at ITF, Bogey and Selena are here. Even that wacko guy who thinks the President doesn't matter showed up on a day off. (C'mon Otter, the new President is now trying to offer every American a gold piece to make us like him. That is really what killed Rome, you recall? Our economy is in for hard times and the President matters.)

I expect I get as frustrated but TMF as anyone, but they are here for ideas. Ideas are give and take, not just we give and they take. Keep throwing out ideas and let's hope this time, TMF keeps the discussion going.

Rick
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No. of Recommendations: 1
jps said:
But if the Fool in its moment of doubt and pain wants to blame other than itself for declining ad revenue, all I can say is "what else is new" and so be it.

Can you say more, for example about whether the advertisers are becoming more focused? Has FirstFederal been able to spot where it gets the most benefits?

FWIW, I agree with your general point, jps, about criticism. Some of TMF is still too sensitive. Now that the blood is in the streets, maybe that will go away. Anything to avoid cutting another 100.

Rick
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Now, if a click on a banner ad leads me to a variety of recipes for interesting cocktails using, let's say Absolut, I would certainly not order a
bottle online. However, there's a good chance I might walk across the street to my nearest convenience store to buy a bottle and the necessary
ingredients. That's got to count for something, no?


one would think so, but
maybe i misunderstood... didn't Bogey say just say, they don't want to advertise here?

isn't that what
"Because they still represent the
best CPM around. I know it's crazy, but even the best
deal with someone else proves to be only half as good as
the money that the financial services
companies will offer for the space.<?tt>"(#9124)
means?


...like GoofyHoofy said, without knowing the cost and revenue streams, it's pointless to discuss how to improve TMF financials.


-jp
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No. of Recommendations: 9
I emailed Bogey about my previous frustrations as an advertiser. I hope he reads it. I have never really seen the Fool ad department as being an easy place to deal with. And when it's not, that's really bad, you just go somewhere else.

This is a really sensitive issue, and I don't really want to get into it publically. But I was really surprised to read TomDave lay so much at the doors of advertisers, and thinking of the recession as a fait accompli. As far as I can see, people are as willing to advertise as they ever were. Could it be the ad reps don't knock on enough doors, they generally expect people to knock on their doors? Or could it be they're only knocking on the wrong kinds of doors? Whatever it is, to blame advertisers for cutting back, and to not blame yourself for inadequately selling ads, is shocking, especially in public, and speaks volumes about how the chief Fools see their company.

jps
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No. of Recommendations: 2
didn't Bogey say just say, they don't want to advertise here?

Uh, I was kind of responding to the previous Bogey comment.

What I am talking about is letting us know what interests you so we can show you ads or offers that might be of interest and actually help you in some way.

A bottle of booze goes a long way to defining my interests. Eating whale sashimi is another pursuit of mine, and I'd definately click on any such banner ad as long as the proper serving plate was depicted in the ad.

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No. of Recommendations: 9
Per Bogey

<<Playboy has a combination of premium, commerce, and "free" content.>>

Now I see why many of your posts are so late at night. This is when you're doing your best research.

As far as I'm concerned, I vote for the Playboy.com model. Oh wait, I thought you were talking about a different model. Sorry.

Kinsey

...just wondering if "those" dot coms are the only profitable ones in the business

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No. of Recommendations: 8
TMFBogey wrote:

So, the obvious models become: [Bogey lists the pros and cons of Pure Subscription and Hybrid models]

I almost hesitate to mention this, since it's not really a legitimate business model, but it has been brought up so many times before. For lack of a better term, it's the "donation model."

All around the boards for the past few days, I've seen poster after poster voice their willingness to kick into the kitty to keep the Fool around. No doubt a lot of that is just folks blowing off some feelings of hurt. Perhaps, though, some of that is an expression of a legitimate desire to economically support an institution they value. Even if they don't value the seminars, research reports, etc. [quite honestly, I think that some of your most likely donors are the ones who wouldn't touch those products with a Malgorzata Dydek].

So - how 'bout a collection bucket at the front entrance? Amazon seems to think that the "voluntary donation" model is at least worth a press release and a little bit of code. As long as you promise to make the pledge drives only slight less painful than NPR, we might be able to stand it. That might mean abandoning any hopes of a massive payoff for the near-term; but it might also get you through the leaner times until the advertising kicks up again. Don't call it a donation, just a voluntary subscription fee.

It could be surprising how many folks might be willing to click that "Give TMF a Buck" button on the way in. Then again, it might also be depressingly low. At least it's a third path. There should always be a third path - keeps the mystics happy.

Albaby
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Albaby said:
Even if they don't value the seminars, research reports, etc. [quite honestly, I think that some of your most likely donors are the ones who wouldn't touch those products with a Malgorzata Dydek].

It's true, I made a donation and bought the Rulemaker Seminar, but I do expect to get something out of the current Tax Seminar. So far, I know what an "AGI" is. Woohoo!

Rick
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No. of Recommendations: 2
<<Maybe you could have a seminar? A sort of "MBA by proxy" with the Fool as the patient? I think I'd pay to be part of that!>>


In Business School, we prefer to call them "case studies."
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<<Whatever it is, to blame advertisers for cutting back, and to not blame yourself for inadequately selling ads, is shocking, especially in public, and speaks volumes about how the chief Fools see their company.>>

They might not realize, This ain't Coke. Either kind.
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<<It's true, I made a donation and bought the Rulemaker Seminar, but I do expect to get something out of the current Tax Seminar. So far, I know what an "AGI" is. Woohoo>>


Rick, I told you far more than that for free.

I guess everything is my fault.
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No. of Recommendations: 21
But I was really surprised to read TomDave lay so much at the doors of advertisers, and thinking of the recession as a fait accompli. As far as I can see, people are as willing to advertise as they ever were. Could it be the ad reps don't knock on enough doors, they generally expect people to knock on their doors? Or could it be they're only knocking on the wrong kinds of doors? Whatever it is, to blame advertisers for cutting back, and to not blame yourself for inadequately selling ads, is shocking, especially in public, and speaks volumes about how the chief Fools see their company.

This is terribly unfair, because "as far as you can see" isn't very far at all.

Let me start with the caveat that it's possible that the Fool sales department is a bunch of hopeless dupes, layabouts and ne'er-do-wells. I don't know a single one of them, so it certainly is possible.

However it is not possible that that is the only problem.

Broadcasting & Cable 2/5/01 p.13

"Advertisers opt out" by Steve McClellan


Major advertisers are backing out of second quarter TV commitments at unusually high levels. It's the latest sign that ad-drive businesses are in for a bumpy 2001.
<snip>
Advertisers have backed out of an average 20% to 25% of network upfront money committed to the second quarter...
<snip>
The biggest advertiser to do so is General Motors. A spokesman confirmed that the auto giant had exercised its options to pull as much as 50% of its network ad budget for the quarter. She wouldn't confirm how much money GM is pulling, but network and Wall Street sources said $50 million is a good estimate.


At my cable TV network we have prided ourselves on the quality of our advertisers. (Believe it or not, the philosophy is that everything on the screen contributes to the viewer experience.) As of December, we began taking "PI" (per inquiry) ads. Those are those horrible 2-minute spiels with an 800 number at the end, and we get a piece of the $19.95 if somebody actually goes to the phone and orders the ginzu knives or whatever it is. We generally get $5 or so per inquiry, and each one of those ads produces far less revenue (well under 10%) than an equivalent 'branding' commercial - and takes up more time to boot. (That's a good thing, sort of, when you suddenly find yourself without anything to fill those slots which are already built into the programs.)

I ran major market radio stations through the recessions of 1992 and 1982, and was in the business during the one in 1974. Radio, at least in the past, hasn't been hurt as much as some other media - mostly because it's cheap, and as GM (in the example above) cuts $50 million from TV, they reallocate $10 million to radio and put the other $40 back to the bottom line to husband cash. (Of course we were simultaneously losing clients in radio, too, who just pull into their shell until the war is over.)

Media - and I include TV, radio, and The Motley Fool, is a high leverage business. The cost structure is the same whether you service one viewer or one million. That is terrific when times are good, because each incremental dollar is very high margin. That contrasts with a factory, which sells fewer cars, but also therefore needs to buy fewer raw materials. However you can see what happens when your revenue stream dries up on a fixed-cost business.

The Fool found itself in an environment they had never confronted before, and I have not seen the virulence of this kind of quick shutdown in my experience in any previous economic pullback. Heck, the advertisers used to wait until it was "officially" a recession, now it looks as though they're on internet time.

So. Back to the beginning. It's possible, as you posit, that the Fool's advertising salespeople are "knocking on the wrong doors", or just aren't doing their jobs. Yes. It's certain however, that many doors have closed and many more are closing. Dollars will be allocated more carefully, and in these kinds of times the "sure fire brand names" will do better than the little guys.

The CEO's are now watching this discretionary money more carefully, and Ms. Marketing Director wants to say "And we're buying AOL", not "And we have a new program going with a new website you've never heard of." (The Fool falls somewhere between these two extremes, of course.)

Heck, GM signed contracts and committed to spending $100 million in Q2 in the network upfront market, and then just decided one day "No we won't."

You think NBC liked getting that phone call, and that it doesn't affect them just a little? Luckily they have rich parents and rich history and they'll ride it out. But the ocean is big, the waves are tall, and the Fool is small, relatively speaking.

Frankly I think they'll be OK, they do have a good brand, it appears that management has made the tough choices. I also note the recent "investment" of $30 million in a secondary placement by AOL and two venture capital firms. But just do the math on 225 (remaining) employees, gross it up by 1/3 for benefits, (I figure you're at $15 million already), pay light/heat/water, add IT, keep some marketing and distribution, and you can chew it up quickly. Time will tell.
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No. of Recommendations: 23
... and have a brand which endures and you will be better positioned after the carnage than you were before.

I wonder if the Fool is in the position of having built up two brands that are now in conflict with each other.

Most MF customers don't use the mesage boards. They come to check stock quotes or to read articles on the home page. There is a large number of them, so there is money to be made selling them seminars, etc. But they are not intense in their devotion to the brand. They can get stock quotes elsewhere, and almost certainly would if there were a charge to come here.

There's a smaller group (perhaps 20 percent?) that uses the message boards. Most in this group return regularly because they have developed a strong attachment to one or more boards. They are pain-in-the-neck customers because they don't pay anything for the boards, there aren't enough of them to provide much product revenue, and they make demands.

Which group should Motley Fool be focused on? If the rule of thumb that says you will get 80 percent of your revenue out of 20 percent of your customers is true, it should be worried about the small intense group. The revenue potential from this group is probably greater because this group does not want to walk to the competitor next door now that they've grown to know about the inner workings of this place.

But you can't expect this group to behave the way the other group does. They are a different type. Participating on a message board is not a passive activity like reading an article on interest rate cuts. You have to make decisions as to which boards are worth reading, you have to learn how threads are set up, you have to post messages, etc. Message-board participants are motivated information seekers.

The business strategies that work for passive information consumers and those that work for motivated information seekers are not necessarily the same. Motivated customers are usually willing to pay when you offer a value proposition with appeal. They recognize value and they understand the need to pay for it. In fact, they often enjoy paying for things in which they perceive value.

But they are less inclined to accept compromise than the other group. They want what they want. If they don't get it, they complain. If no one listens, they leave. This is what it means to be "motivated."

I think that there's money to be made from the message-board people. But I don't think that the way to go about getting it is to announce that "starting Monday, we're going to charge you for what you've been getting for free up until now." You have to look at what it is that forms this group's bond with the brand and develop a package that they want to pay for.

Personally, I'd rather pay a lot for something set up right than pay a little for something that is not. If it's not set up right, I'll keep looking at other sites until I find something that works perfectly for me. When I find a home, I'll pay whatever it takes to keep it.
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Hi hocus,

There's a smaller group (perhaps 20 percent?) that uses the message boards.

I don´t have exact figures for you about that, but it´s far less than 20%. In Germany, we got nearly all of our posts in the boards from about 30-40 people.

Jörg
(Ex TMF Zahl)
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No. of Recommendations: 5
Hi Goofyhoofy,

Well, you didn't the hybrid subscription model which Raging Bull uses (I think), which is "read everything for free, pay to participate." I thought that was a great one, since it should immediately knock out the spammers and reduce the posting population to only those who truly care.

However I must admit that having looked at their boards, the quality was nowhere near that which I find at the Fool. Maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance, it still seems like there's something in that model.


I don´t know how that model could attract intelligent contributors to the boards. If you have something interesting to say, you don´t want to pay for the "right" to say it, do you?

So, Raging Bull seems to attract people with questions or people who want to sound off (is that the correct expression?), or people who want to make money by means of pumping and dumping? I haven´t been over to raging bull, though.

Look at a newspaper. Writers get money, readers pay money. Why should it work the other way round?

Jörg
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Look at a newspaper. Writers get money, readers pay money. Why should it work the other way round?

Sort of; but in the US, the money that readers pay is a token sum, less than the cost even of blank newsprint. Advertisers carry the load for newspapers.

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in the US, the money that readers pay is a token sum, less than the cost even of blank newsprint. Advertisers carry the load for newspapers.

That´s true in Germany, too, albeit a little less extreme.

J.
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No. of Recommendations: 4
However, there's a good chance I might walk across the street to my nearest convenience store to buy a bottle and the necessary ingredients. That's got to count for something, no?

Neo,

It's funny you mention this. We were having a discussion a few days ago about advertising and how on television and radio it's almost entirely branding and mindshare, simply because there's no really effective way to track things. One of the great advantages, and at the same time, disadvantages, is the ability of the Internet to track almost anything.

Because media buyers can track things online, they have different expectations. If you look at the relationship between Net and TV CPMs, they are not even close to parity. Nielsen media reports that TV CPMs are around $15 and $50 for very targetted spots. The web, on the other hand, is currently about $9. Way out of parity. This is why I believe, as Joseph does, that web advertising is grossly undervalued right now.

There are some key differences though. The old school keys to advertising and media buys are frequency and reach. How many people are you showing your ad to and how often are you hitting them with it? In his book "Permission Marketing," Seth Godin talks about how Ali became boxing champ not by hitting 20 guys one time, but by hitting one guy 20 times until he fell down.

Advertisers think the same way in terms of frequency and reach. I want to hit as many people as I can, as many times as I can. Doing this will affect mind share, increase brand awareness, and somehow translate into sales and brand loyalty. Budweiser is king of this. Your question about Absolut applies if the company is paying hommage to brand equity and mindshare in their net advertisements. Most don't. They judge the effectiveness by click-throughs to their site, because they can.

The problem with web advertising is frequency and reach. A television ad, richer from an audio/visual standpoint, can reach 20 million people at once with limited coordination and just a single buy on a major network during prime time.

In order to achieve that same instantaneous reach, an agency or company would have to do massive coordination of their media buys to get all of their ads to hit that many people at one time. This is why I think you'll see even more importance placed on virtual ad agencies and networks like Doubleclick. They might not be such a bad bet right now, assuming they survive.

Anyway, I'm rambling. The answer to your questions is that "yes" the Absolut sale does count, but may not necessarily be credited to the Fool. That's something we have little control over.

Bogey
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No. of Recommendations: 11
I don´t know how that model could attract intelligent contributors to the boards. If you have something interesting to say, you don´t want to pay for the "right" to say it, do you?
So, Raging Bull seems to attract people with questions or people who want to sound off (is that the correct expression?), or people who want to make money by means of pumping and dumping?


Perhaps that is the flaw. When I left the internal AOL boards (when AOL put a direct link to their boards from the 'stock quotes' page which produced a 10-fold increase in posts, and a 10-fold decrease in quality) I went looking. Since the Fool already also had a set of (monitored) internet AOL boards, I naturally went to their web boards to check them out. I also went to RB and a few other places (Yahoo, Quicken, Excite, some others I probably don't remember.)

When I heard about the RB "pay for posting" policy I thought it would be a good thing. Spammers wouldn't bother, because one spam and you're cancelled and RB keeps the money. I thought it would get rid of the teenagers and morons with nothing to say, but that was not my experience. (I went back 6 months later and it seemed the same.)

Yes, there were some good posters. But overall the quality was no better, and arguably worse than the Fool, plus you had to pay to play anyway.

(I would have paid for quality; for me, at least, that's not an issue, although $10/mo seems high. I would think an "annual subscription" for, say $29.95 would be better than seeing a charge every month on the credit card bill. I also like $30 better than $120 ;). I don't pay $120 for many magazines, even my favorites; it seems steep.)

Look at a newspaper. Writers get money, readers pay money. Why should it work the other way round?

Newspapers have variable production costs - in newsprint, ink, trucks for delivery, drivers, etc. That is not true of radio or TV, obviously. The newspaper "pay" model grew out of that (and the fact that "advertising" was not nearly so robust 100 years ago), and while it is true that "advertising carries the weight", I believe that newspapers get around 30% of revenues from subscription, plus or minus. That is not an insignificant piece. They also get 35-40% from the classified ad pages and a single-digit percentage from such things as "syndication" and "back issues" and other miscellaneous. So "advertising" in the sense that we're using it here is much smaller than it may first appear. Have you noticed that there are no "free" newspapers worthy of note? There's a reason for that.

(Incidentally, for those who don't know, early radio was not supported by advertising. It was provided "free", as a service in order to sell "radios" because without "programming", who would buy the sets? That's why the first broadcasters were Westinghouse and RCA, which made their money through another door. There were also hobbyists who got involved, and folks figured out "advertising" in fairly short order, but it didn't start that way. I don't know if "subscription radio" was ever tried, but it's about to be with "satellite radio". I predict a tough road for them outside a few very special interest communities which are starved for programming in some geographic areas: classical music buffs, metalheads, etc. And their price-point seems high to me ($10/mo), but then I've not seen their research either, so what do I know?)

Sidenote to hocus: Your post #9156 is an excellent analysis (I say that with the given that neither you nor I really know who those audiences are, nor what the percentage might be) of what may be happening "below the surface" with the Fool's users.

I hadn't thought it that far through. Good show.
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...just wondering if "those" dot coms are the only profitable ones in the business

Kinsey,

The irony is that Playboy.com isn't profitable. I don't know their exact current loss, but Christie Heffner said that they're expected loss next year is $10MM. I believe it's close to $20MM this year from what I've read.

Best,

David
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So - how 'bout a collection bucket at the front entrance?

Albaby,

We've even discussed this one too, and the shareware model as well. One bit of data to look at, that may or may not be a good indication of the success of something like this, is the amount of money raised from Foolanthropy, which was in the $750K range. I won't say any more on the model than this, because I don't know much more about it.

Best,

Bogey
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In Germany, we got nearly all of our posts in the boards from about 30-40 people.

Hi Jorg,

Small correction, just to make sure we're not talking on slightly misleading info. The % of people who write is very small, but the total number of people who read and write is substantial. In other words, there are far more lurkers than posters.

Best,

Bogey
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When I heard about the RB "pay for posting" policy I thought it would be a good thing. Spammers wouldn't bother, because one spam and you're cancelled and RB keeps the money. I thought it would get rid of the teenagers and morons with nothing to say, but that was not my experience. (I went back 6 months later and it seemed the same.)

Yes, there were some good posters. But overall the quality was no better, and arguably worse than the Fool, plus you had to pay to play anyway.


This is the core issue. One given is the superior functionality of the TMF boards. The question is how to sustain that quality - and here I'm talking strictly about the technical functionality. That means some sort of distinct budget / revenue model for the board side. In addition to the functional attractiveness, there has to be content. My fear is that a closed community has a tendency to atrophy. It's true that a totally open community is subject to the disruptions noted by GH. Is there some middle ground, that allows some free sample period followed by a subscription offer. I find enough value in the content and connections to pay some sort of monthly access fee. I don't think I would have had this feeling as a first time user. In addition, offering private boards to subscriber / administrators would become a logical extension.

D
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No. of Recommendations: 11
My fear is that a closed community has a tendency to atrophy.

Agreed. I have seen it happen on the Wal-Mart board here, where they set up a "closed club" and everybody goes away. Then eventually they come back. Perhaps they get tired of the same old same old, congratulating and stroking each other. Dunno. I've never gone there. They probably wouldn't have me if I did.

I suspect the same is happening on the Berkshire board even as we speak. Dunno, and ditto about my welcomeness there, I suppose. It doesn't matter, I agree with you. A closed society is inherently less robust than one which is open, although "closed" does have some tangible benefits.

It's true that a totally open community is subject to the disruptions noted by GH. Is there some middle ground, that allows some free sample period followed by a subscription offer.

I've thought about this, and have the following suggestions:

The boards should remain open and free to all, as they currently are.

However for another $2 per month, I would be allowed to use swear words.

For $5 per month, I could not only penalty box someone, but stop them from posting for 24 hours.

For $10 per month I could simply dictate that "I'm right" and no further dissent be allowed.

I'm still working on the $20 per month plan.
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In other words, there are far more lurkers than posters.

Yes, I know, and I know even more, but I don´t know which numbers could be published ...:-(

Still, that 20% figure is much too high. x% of all clicks went to our boards in Germany, with x << 20, OK?

Best,
Jörg
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"So - how 'bout a collection bucket at the front entrance?"

Maybe the Fool could add a symbol next to the name of users who donated sort of like the star system for posts to motivate people to contribute?

I'd give FWIW

Charles

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Scuba said:
Rick, I told you far more than that for free.

I had another semi-regular TMF poster tell me how to set up sheltered accounts offshore. He did that for free, too. My point, of course, is that much of the real value of TMF comes from the community that assembles here. It's going to be a challenge for TMF to deliver seminars that supplement the resources already present. Until they figure out a way to do that, I'm willing to support TMF with the purchase of high margin product, even if I might not get too much from the actual content. Again, it's about the people as much as the words.

Rick
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Bogey said:
Advertisers think the same way in terms of frequency and reach. I want to hit as many people as I can, as many times as I can. Doing this will affect mind share, increase brand awareness, and somehow translate into sales and brand loyalty. Budweiser is king of this. Your question about Absolut applies if the company is paying hommage to brand equity and mindshare in their net advertisements. Most don't. They judge the effectiveness by click-throughs to their site, because they can.

May I ask, as a long time TMF user, why haven't I ever been quizzed as to branding effectiveness on TMF? Can you not educate your advertisers as to the effectiveness in building branding among long time users here?

I'm happy to help TMF out in this way. If I got a survey from most other Websites, I would ignore them fast. If you explain what you are doing when you ask for my help with a survey, I'll gladly give it, especially if it is done well.

You have a core audience here that will help you build your case. Make us part of the team and we will help you out. Unfortunately, this would have worked two years ago, it might be too late now.

Rick
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Goofy said:
Sidenote to hocus: Your post #9156 is an excellent analysis (I say that with the given that neither you nor I really know who those audiences are, nor what the percentage might be) of what may be happening "below the surface" with the Fool's users.

I agree and said so privately. We like provocative at this watering hole. Thanks hocus. Goofy, your overview of advertising was also excellent.

About RB Goofy said:
When I heard about the RB "pay for posting" policy I thought it would be a good thing. Spammers wouldn't bother, because one spam and you're cancelled and RB keeps the money. I thought it would get rid of the teenagers and morons with nothing to say, but that was not my experience. (I went back 6 months later and it seemed the same.)
Yes, there were some good posters. But overall the quality was no better, and arguably worse than the Fool, plus you had to pay to play anyway.


There is an alternative model on the table, suggested here and I am sure other places. Charge for premium boards behind the public boards. Run them by invitation only, in a variety of cost structures. I might pay for unlimited access to all premium boards, or only one if that is the only one where I am invited. Another way to run this might be to "sell" a board to an individual, who then resells to all who are invited. For example, Bernard might have been motivated to do this, since he was comfortable giving real and specific stock tips. He might pay $100/month for a board for 100 people, and sell access for $2/month to each individual who participates. That will work for the right people. I see it as a better approach than Soapbox, and said as much earlier.

This model recognizes the importance of "harvesting" the public boards for articulate and knowledgable people, but using to to leverage income. I've never seen a repsonse as to why this approach will not work.

Rick
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This model recognizes the importance of "harvesting" the public boards for articulate and knowledgable people, but using to to leverage income. I've never seen a repsonse as to why this approach will not work.

It very well might work. It does, however, carry the risk of degrading the "regular" boards, which is what "new customers" see.

When somebody comes on the Wal-Mart board and says "Hey, I'm sick of all this (union talk) (K-Mart talk) (denigration of Sam) (pick your vice) and says "Let's all go over to the xxx club site", the posting volume drops as the "regulars" leave the board. It builds up again of time, of course, and (as I've noted before) the regulars trickle back eventually, but in the meantime the Wal-mart board isn't as lively, nor informative as it used to be.

So it's a risk that you are putting your second-best face to the public, while your first best is locked away, privately writing for the benefit of those who have also decided not to stay "out in public". (Not that they couldn't do both, of course.)

Can you not educate your advertisers as to the effectiveness in building branding among long time users here?

Advertisers don't want to be "educated". They have the money and they think they know it all. It's the 'golden rule' (you know, he who has the gold, rules)

May I ask, as a long time TMF user, why haven't I ever been quizzed as to branding effectiveness on TMF?

Because 'research' taken by and presented by an interested party is immediate suspect and is thrown out. You have to get your research done by an independent third party - and more than that, one of the 'brand names' with which the advertiser (or agency) is already familiar, studied the methodology, and is conversant with the company.

Then it is perfectly permissible to manipulate the data to show your best side. For instance, at my station we could show that although we reached fewer total people, we reached more people who were going to buy a car in the next 6 months, so wouldn't you really rather spend your money with us? More than that, Mr. Buick Dealer Group, we index 1.5 in Buick owners, and that other station you're considering only indexes .8 (from average), and their cost is twice ours. Of course they have twice the gross audience, but they have only 2 (gross audience) x .8 the relevant audience, or 1.6, whereas we have 1 (gross audience) x 1.5 (index), or 1.5, and they cost twice as much; now run that against likely car buyers in the next six months and you can see we're much more efficient.

Confused? Great! Let's go to a Bulls game.
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<<You have a core audience here that will help you build your case. Make us part of the team and we will help you out. Unfortunately, this would have worked two years ago, it might be too late now.>>


I thought that was what the Fool Circle (or whatever it was) was supposed to be. I haven't heard a thing since reviewing those reports a very long time ago.

I guess they didn't like my feedback.
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<<It very well might work. It does, however, carry the risk of degrading the "regular" boards, which is what "new customers" see.>>

That risk has already been realized. Many of the best posters from the last several years have either stopped completely, moved much of what they do to other sites, or gone private elsewhere.
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I guess they didn't like my feedback.

Don't feel bad. It sounds like they don't want my money.

rad
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Trick:

Another way to run this might be to "sell" a board to an individual, who then resells to all who are invited. For example, Bernard might have been motivated to do this, since he was comfortable giving real and specific stock tips. He might pay $100/month for a board for 100 people, and sell access for $2/month to each individual who participates. That will work for the right people. I see it as a better approach than Soapbox, and said as much earlier.

As usual I defer to my favorite Florida legal expert (Albaby1) but I see a problem with your proposal. It would be very difficult for Bernard to avoid giving personal investment advice. Because both Bernard and TMF derive revenue from such an arrangement they would then be subject to SEC regulations. This would significantly change TMF's business model so I'm not sure they want to go there. To avoid such problems TMF would need to micro-monitor the premium boards (and the hosts to void TokyoJoe type issues) which is costly.

I've also been thinking about the viability of TMF's business model lately but since I don't have much information available I can't go far. I may not be representative for the typical audience but I asked my self whether I would pay for anything at TMF. What financial advice do I need so much that I would pay for it? It turns out that everything is related to my personal financial situation. When I'm ready to retire I will pay for advice regarding my specific situation. I don't want to become educated about retirement issues in general in the form of a seminar. I may pay to learn whether my portfolio is sufficiently diversified without having to attend a seminar, etc. This doesn't imply that seminars can't be useful only that I more often need specific advice due to time constraints and other issues. I don't need to be an expert in everything. If my car won't start I call AAA instead of becoming a mechanic myself. I'm sure I could learn to repair cars but it's probably a more profitable investment of my time to sell vacuums. Perhaps TMF should cross the line and become financial advisors to individuals subject to SEC regulations? They could still have a University responsible for courses (or seminars if you will) and community boards. This "wise-ification" would of course break TMF's business model but maybe that's needed.

Datasnooper.
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jps: But I was really surprised to read TomDave lay so much at the doors of advertisers, and thinking of the recession as a fait accompli. As far as I can see, people are as willing to advertise as they ever were. Could it be the ad reps don't knock on enough doors, they generally expect people to knock on their doors? Or could it be they're only knocking on the wrong kinds of doors? Whatever it is, to blame advertisers for cutting back, and to not blame yourself for inadequately selling ads, is shocking, especially in public, and speaks volumes about how the chief Fools see their company.

GoofyHoofy: This is terribly unfair, because "as far as you can see" isn't very far at all.

With all due respect, I note that you go on to post some examples about reticence in broadcast media advertising, and that the examples you post are very recent.

The instant matter is Internet advertising, which is what TomDave were talking about too, and which has actually been taking some dollars away from TV and radio, but which also started its own slump over six months ago.

Internet advertising experienced a small slump between the second and third quarter of last year (which was likened to "travelling at normal speed rather than above the limit"), so recent ad sales trends, which are simply flat since that time, have taken nobody by surprise here in February 2001. Because Internet advertising is still taking ad dollars away, slowly but surely, from other print and broadcast media, it has not experienced the same kind of sudden dilapidation that you discuss in your broadcast and cable market. The adjustments were already made, last year--they are not immediate threats to anyone's business.

It remains a question as to whether or not we can extrapolate if Fool ad sales management is getting in front of the right people. But I maintain that a healthy business ethic, even in a somewhat tighter market, would not point the finger at the marketplace on the shortfalls it experiences--it would point the finger internally.

jps
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Snoop said:
This "wise-ification" would of course break TMF's business model but maybe that's needed.

At over 100 layoffs in one day, I'd say it is at least cracked. It still seems that ad sales are the most important issue that needs addressed. If there really are 2.5 million readers a month, it's too hard for me to believe this isn't a business with 10X in 5 years potential.

Thanks for your comments about reselling boards. You raise some issues that haven't crossed my mind.

Rick
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Internet advertising experienced a small slump between the second and third quarter of last year (which was likened to "travelling at normal speed rather than above the limit"), so recent ad sales trends, which are simply flat since that time, have taken nobody by surprise here in February 2001.

If you say so. Yahoo issued its first warning on January 11, 2001. Bob Pittman at America Online told a recent conference "We're not affected in any meaningful way." And Dr. Koop crashed a long time ago.

My place (and several friends in the broadcast industry) saw a drop off last summer as well, but some of our properties were entirely unaffected, and some were hit hard. It was quite situational - until it wasn't.

I have been critical of the Fool for waiting long enough that surgery of this degree was necessary, but then I don't have all the information. It's possible that they thought themselves immune. It's possible that they had contracts which were rolling - and were suddenly terminated mid-cycle. A lot of things are possible, and...

...it's possible that

Because Internet advertising is still taking ad dollars away, slowly but surely, from other print and broadcast media, it has not experienced the same kind of sudden dilapidation that you discuss in your broadcast and cable market.

...the revenue shortfall in broadcast is less than it is, on percent of expectation basis, in "internet".

If you have built your business expecting another growth year of 30-40%, and it suddenly goes flat, that is far worse than expecting 8% growth and finding yourself down 2%.

It remains a question as to whether or not we can extrapolate if Fool ad sales management is getting in front of the right people. But I maintain that a healthy business ethic, even in a somewhat tighter market, would not point the finger at the marketplace on the shortfalls it experiences--it would point the finger internally.

And I posit that it is equally as likely that the cause is external, and that beating the donkey harder won't make it go any faster. I also ran a station in Pittsburgh in the early 1980's. Thank goodness my corporate overlords understood that the collapse of the steel industry, unemployment over 10%, and the shuttering of hundreds of local businesses might impact our ability to sell what we had sold before. (We did fine, BTW, but it wasn't exactly 'kick out the jams' time.)

Your scenario is entirely possible. So is mine, and because the internet is such a new phenomenon we probably won't know "how this works" until it's over. I can tell you how radio and television have historically worked during a downturn. Neither you nor I can tell how it is likely to play out on the net.
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Amazon seems to think that the "voluntary donation" model is at least worth a press release and a little bit of code.

http://www.modernhumorist.com/mh/0102/tipjar/
(MH is making fun of it, but the concept is for real.)

But is that any way to run a business? I don't think so. If you start taking donations, aren't you a not-for-profit enteprise? If you're getting money for services from some people but not from others, isn't that unfair to everyone involved?

Jen/Amused
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If you say so. Yahoo issued its first warning on January 11, 2001. Bob Pittman at America Online told a recent conference "We're not affected in any meaningful way." And Dr. Koop crashed a long time ago.

My place (and several friends in the broadcast industry) saw a drop off last summer as well, but some of our properties were entirely unaffected, and some were hit hard. It was quite situational - until it wasn't.


Just to state the obvious--fewer quality places to advertise was good news, not bad, for some top tier sites, so they didn't feel the crunch immediately. "It was quite situational" on the web too, because money that suddenly wasn't going to Dr. Koop's site was going somewhere else. It should continue to be quite situational for a long time, at least as long as the shakeout continues. All the more hope for the bellies to cannibalize from the accounts formerly at the belly-ups.

jeanpaulsartre

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<<Perhaps TMF should cross the line and become financial advisors to individuals subject to SEC regulations? They could still have a University responsible for courses (or seminars if you will) and community boards. This "wise-ification" would of course break TMF's business model but maybe that's needed.>>


And put them in competition with others far more qualified to handle the task. I go to lunch with my A.G. Edwards broker for advice and information. I go to lunch with TMFs for entertainment.
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<<Your scenario is entirely possible. So is mine, and because the internet is such a new phenomenon we probably won't know "how this works" until it's over. I can tell you how radio and television have historically worked during a downturn. Neither you nor I can tell how it is likely to play out on the net.>>


I agree with both of you on several points. But like they say, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

The media business is as tough as any. It is right up there with restaurants, construction companies and airlines. There is NO room for fat.

TomDaveBogey got comfortable spending other people's money. Time to sell one of the two foosball tables and lose that cheap ass pool table fast.
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TomDaveBogey got comfortable spending other people's money. Time to sell one of the two foosball tables and lose that cheap ass pool table fast.

Start watching eBay for jester's hats.
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Time to sell one of the two foosball tables and lose that cheap ass pool table fast.

Scuba,

Have you noticed that you're the only one acting like a jackass? I sure wish I had the ability to kick you out of this board and delete your posts.

....Hey....

...wait a minute...

;)
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<<Have you noticed that you're the only one acting like a jackass? I sure wish I had the ability to kick you out of this board and delete your posts.>>


Not the only Bogey, just trying to keep up with the pros.

Kick me out? Go ahead. Just one more out the door.

You want the list of my doppels?
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This "wise-ification" would of course break TMF's business model but maybe that's needed.

Snoop,

I may be in the minority, but I don't consider the financial services business to be "wise." I consider the compensation structure on Wall Street to be wise and replete with problems, but that's a different thread.

I was talking to my brother tonight (don't worry, this is related) about his money and how he handles it. He's your regular guy who knows he has to take care of his money, but doesn't want to have to spend a ton of time doing so. He told me that the Fool as some sort of "advisor" would be somethign he'd pay for. If he could make an appointment to come in and review his "situations" (much like what you said, Snoop) then he'd happily pay an hourly or flat fee for it.

What do people think of the RIA (registered investment advisor) route where you get paid a flat fee based on your advice and not any transactions? Despite Scuba's protestations, there are one or two Fools that can hold their own with the folks at AG Edwards. Heck, I was a broker once. Want my advice? :)

Bogey
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<<Despite Scuba's protestations, there are one or two Fools that can hold their own with the folks at AG Edwards. Heck, I was a broker once. Want my advice? :)>>

That explains a few things.

No thanks. I was a finance major once. Now I'm an accountant. Boy I love that title.

I know what I know and I know what I don't.
How about you?
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Bogey, I for one don't want anybody's advice. Anytime I ever listen to anybody else's advice, even if they are usually right, I end up losing my shirt. I think one maxim often quoted by our fellow Fools applies here: Do your own DD.
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Datasnooper wrote:

Perhaps TMF should cross the line and become financial advisors to individuals subject to SEC regulations?

TMFBogey asked:

What do people think of the RIA (registered investment advisor) route where you get paid a flat fee based on your advice and not any transactions?

Well, I've never posted to this board, but I'm a "people", as Bogey referred to in his post :), so I hope it's okay to chime in.

[By the way, I like martinis straight up with a twist. The best martinis I ever had were at the Oak Bar (Copley Plaza hotel).]

I think Foolish investment advisors or personal financial planners (I don't know all the "official names" or the regulatory details) are a great idea.

A large number of people who post to the site ask personal finance questions. From debt reduction, to home financing, taxes, paying for college, retirement etc. people want help with making financial decisions.

It's true that due diligence is your best financial defense, but often people don't know where to get the information they need or even which questions they should be asking. If we all learned how to manage our finances in school, we probably wouldn't need advisors, but in reality there is a lack of financial education right now.

Also, as Datasnooper pointed out, it's very time-consuming to educate yourself about different financial topics. It takes time to keep up-to-date on the rapidly changing options in the financial world. Roth IRAs, 529 plans, and using home mortgages to pay off consumer debt (not an equity, line, but a new mortgage) are all new financial "products".

I don't think an advisory service has to be "wise". If advisors don't sell or recommend specific products, if they get paid a flat fee for their advice, and if their main role is one of education and guidance, I think they would be a wonderful resource. There should also be accountability for advisors.

In addition, a lot of people aren't in the sort of income brackets where financial planning services are readily accessible to them. Most people with "average" amounts of money don't want to pay for financial planners, though it could be argued that they are the ones who need planning most, especially in terms of planning for retirement.

In some sort of flat-fee based advisory capacity the Fool could reach and help a lot of people with financial questions. I don't think it runs contrary to the integrity of the Fool and I'd be willing to pay for the service.

Best,

Lydia
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I don't want to pretend to know everything about Fool operations. But I do know an organization does not shrink to greatness, and that one that lays off a third of its staff is one that perceives it has a big problem.

Now, what do orgs in such a situation usually do to reassure the investors? Merely lay people off? No. When they need to take the drastic measure, such as laying off a third of the workforce, they say, "We had a problem--here was the problem--here's how we fixed it." They ordinarily say this loud and clear and publically, to instill confidence in the company.

TomDave have gone precisely half way. They have said, "Here was the problem"--we didn't meet our ad marks. "FirstFederal". (I don't give a damn about how tight the market is, that's always a loser's argument anyway ("What could we have done? The market tightened.")) The biggest question that remains is, what did they do to fix the problem? It seems like they didn't. It seems like they're still fishing for ideas, even now. Unfortunately, you can't fix the problem of missing your marks in ad sales by taking another stab at some other kind of revenue scheme. I think you have no choice, you need to fix ad sales. Either that, or sack the people who made the wild-a$sed projections.

Bogey, if you're still looking for ideas and affirmation and recommendations at all, to me that's a bad sign. The decision, whatever it is, should have already been made, the course should have been set. If you're looking for ideas right now, instead of piloting towards a fixed star, how do you even know that the talent you laid off were the appropriate parties? You'd better get a fixed compass point, and soon, like in a week. I think it's on ads. The Fool needs to sell ads.

jeanpaulsartre

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TMFBogey:

Let me give an example regarding a question that we all should ask. Am I saving enough and investing in a proper portfolio so that I can comfortably retire at the age X? If not, what would it take? The answer depends on a list of inputs including income, savings, and a variety of other factors. The analysis of the inputs is fairly straightforward and easily executed with the help of Monte Carlo simulations. However, few people will ever learn how to do it. The website: http://www.financialengines.com/ is a great product in my mind and you clearly don't need to win the Nobel price in economics to set it up. The Fools own TMFPixy has performed several analyses doing exactly what that website sells. With some assistance from a programmer it won't take him long to cook some Java that will automatically analyze the inputs. The Fool could sell access to its retirement calculator or even individual person-to-person interaction where the TMF advisor would help using the utility. I bet many people would pay for that and I know they should. Going to the proper boards they can read all TMFPixy's posts and learn what's inside the box but the vast majority of individuals just want the yes or no and what it would take. Seminars are great but people want an answer in 15 minutes. As has been pointed out the Fool has millions of readers to promote this service to, a distinct advantage over that other site. Moreover TMFPixy already is on the payroll so all needed expertise is in the house already being paid for waiting for the opportunity to generate a revenue stream. I know that the Fool already has some retirement calculators available but I think you want a clean professional all-inclusive tool that gives fast personal investment advice with operators standing ready to assist.

Datasnooper.
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Bogey, if you're still looking for ideas and affirmation and recommendations at all, to me that's a bad sign.

JPS,

I wouldn't read too much into things. I've very much enjoyed the thread thus far and have gotten confirmation on a lot of things.

Bogey
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JPS,//I wouldn't read too much into things.

OK. Then I won't read anything into you posting at 1:53 am Sunday night, either.

jps
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What do people think of the RIA (registered investment advisor) route where you get paid a flat fee based on your advice and not any transactions?

From a company that pushed the Rulebreaker and Foolish Four strategies ? I don't think so.

rad
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So - how 'bout a collection bucket at the front entrance?

Albaby,

Bogey replied: We've even discussed this one too, and the shareware model as well. One bit of data to look at, that may or may not be a good indication of the success of something like this, is the amount of money raised from Foolanthropy, which was in the $750K range.

You've got to be joking. You actually discussed asking the community for donations? You're a business ferchrisake! What would an investor and/or a customer think if he walked into a Starbucks to be met with a plea for a handout?

Offer to sell us product. Couch it in whatever terms you guys like. We'll either buy it or not. If the majority "we" don't like it, TMF as we know it now goes under perhaps. But at least the headlines will read, "Another Dotcom Fails," instead of "Financial Site The Motley Fool Begs For Charity." Have some pride.

Not that it matters to anybody else but I'm done following this thread.
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No. of Recommendations: 16
I wouldn't read too much into things. I've very much enjoyed the thread thus far and have gotten confirmation on a lot of things.

Bogey


I can only guess what you had confirmed, but I bet it has to do with cherished viewpoints.

It is not unusual for a company to shrink in the process of growth, but in this case the PR was butchered. If this layoff came as a surprise to the organization then I suggest that you run like hell. Most of the regualars saw it coming, we even had a poll about it over on Heretics.

I just find it difficult to believe that there was no offical response ready to be posted once the majority of people were sent home. This entire operation is in the business of sales, you are trying to get people to buy your products and visit this site so that you can sell the page counts. Now you get rid of 1/3 of the workforce, including many that interacted on an almost daily basis with the customer base, and no one had the foresight to see that this may cause an uproar?

Good Lord, a first year business student should have seen to it that there was something ready to go. And the the statement that was issued was pretty much "Sorry, but it is the fault of the advertisers, not us."

I read your posts and some of the other surviving Fool and I can't help but see the bunker mentality setting in. Rally 'round the jester's cap and to hell with all who can't see the truth and beauty of what we do.

Anytime there is an information void people will fill it with rumor. You guys booted it and left the void, leaving people to go to sites like f**kedcompany to find out what happened and reading it in the Washington Post. Whoever leaked the story, someone at the Fool should have been ready with a response in less than 36 hours.

When I first saw the lag, I put it down to inexperience. Now, after reading your post, including the one where you threaten Scuba, I see that it is not inexperience, just more Fool arrogance. To hell with those who want answers, we'll tell them what we want when we want, and that had better be good enough for them.
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Bogey:

I wasn't suggesting spam, really, and not even suggesting that you associate an email or snail mail address with the information you'd share. What I am talking about is letting us know what interests you so we can show you ads or offers that might be of interest and actually help you in some way. Spam is unsolicited email and we'd only send you something if we had your permission to do so. When you give permission, it's not spam.


To me snail mail advertisements are junk mail. e-mail advertisements are spam. Perhaps you disagree with that, but that's just me.


But, given your belief that everything we've done on the revenue side is a "gimmick" I'll ask you how you think the Fool SHOULD make money. Or, should we not make money?

Perhaps "gimmick" was the wrong word to use. Still, the original intent of this site was to "inform, educate and amuse, as well as make fun of the "Wise Financial types". Since then the MF is also selling financial advice (through seminars, books, etc.)

Should you make money? By all means yes, after all you are a dot com enterprise and we would all hate to lose you.

But selling financial advise based on the sucess of two stocks (AOL and AMZN) when they were at their all time highs is not for me. The rising market masked a lot of the failures (Remember ATCT (now known as AGIS)?).

I wish the best of luck to TMF as well as financial sucess. But I now view it as a community that specializes in stock talk, although the top boards these days are the non stock ones.

As for paying for financial advice, there are many more qualified sources out there.




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Snoop, a welcome sight back from the antipodes, wrote:

As usual I defer to my favorite Florida legal expert (Albaby1) but I see a problem with your proposal. It would be very difficult for Bernard to avoid giving personal investment advice. Because both Bernard and TMF derive revenue from such an arrangement they would then be subject to SEC regulations. This would significantly change TMF's business model so I'm not sure they want to go there. To avoid such problems TMF would need to micro-monitor the premium boards (and the hosts to void TokyoJoe type issues) which is costly.

Hmmmm....I'm not a securities lawyer, and I can't claim any particular expertise in the field. However, my guess is that TMF could probably structure private boards for resale in such a way as to insulate themselves from liability for content, presumably in the same manner as the vanity press that once was Soapbox. There was some discussion on the matter on the Soapbox board back in May in the thread starting here:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?id=1010035000072000&sort=id

TMF would claim that a content enabler (like a message board hoster, even for resale) isn't directly responsible for the content itself, but is more akin to a telecommunications common carrier. That seems a reasonable claim. It's not my field, but one thing's for sure - either way, the lawyers will make money. Cha-ching!

As for the prospect of TMF crossing that line in the sand and actually registering as an investment advisor, I think there is a real danger of potential damage to the brand.

After all, what is the TMF brand? The underlying message used to be one of empowering the individual investor, liberating them from the dubious financial products of the "Wise" ("No, not the Wise!"). The Brothers Gardner actually embraced their alleged lack of formal financial training and expertise, claiming that if an English major can effectively invest his own money, so can anyone. TMF was a self-help site, teaching investors how to invest on their own, with some sage advice on how to do so. Those notions of early and regular savings, reducing investment expenses, and eliminating consumer debt were important and valuable.

But there are no riches in consumer advocacy. Teach a seminar on how to avoid unnecessary expenses, and you're not likely to sell many T-shirts at the door.

Having spent five years warning investors not to diminish their returns by paying for the dubious investment services offered by the Wise, it's going to be very hard to reconcile TMF's message of individual empowerment with the notion that TMF has investment expertise. TMF has spent too long arguing that investment expertise is unnecessary, that any individual investor can do just as well as the professionals with just a little elbow grease. In fact, TMF has branded itself as the ultimate example of that philosophy - investors writing for investors. It's going to be really hard to change that brand identity.

Albaby
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No. of Recommendations: 1
lacow said:
[By the way, I like martinis straight up with a twist. The best martinis I ever had were at the Oak Bar (Copley Plaza hotel).]

I'm sure now, you drink nothing but iced potato vodka?

Rick
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No. of Recommendations: 3
. On 100 percent hindsight TMF should have whittled staff down across the past half year. They didn't. So it came as an avalanche not a slow slide. A short big hit rather than a long smaller swoosh.

100 percent hindsight and they wouldn't have hired so many expendable people in the first place, or launched soapbox.

But hell, if they'd listened to us, they would have dumped soapbox before the first plagiary was marketed, and we could have provided a list of the superflous.
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No. of Recommendations: 16

The best martinis I ever had were at the Oak Bar (Copley Plaza hotel)....

The best martini you've ever had is not in a bar but after one history and preceding another. The best martini you've ever had is after you've bought your vacation home in Mammoth and have built a wildly warm fire in front of a lone fur throwrug in the mostly bare space. Your would-be mistress, along for purposes of exploring the new terrain, drops her full-length winter coat to the floor and reveals a red, entirely slight and tight tube dress, red as the fire, brief as an afterthought--and now she has disappeared, but now she runs in from the freezing cold with a shaker she has stowed in the ice chest in the trunk of the Saab, and she has thoughtfully put some ice cubes in it. She takes the christening bottle of Sapphire from the mantle and pours the gin over the rocks and into the shaker. She shakes the shaker seven times while you go to the cupboard to pull the two lone cocktail glasses you've had there all through escrow. You open the kitchen window and sweep both glasses into the pure snowdrift piled up against the window outside to chill and rinse them them while she runs into the kitchen and pours the frozen gin through a coil into the glasses. Then the two of you return to the hearth, and there you clink your glasses in a suggestive way, rubbing the rims against each other just a bit, brushing them, parting, and she laughs, and your two sets of legs become interlocking braids and you feel her pressing for a hard spot as you take your initial sip in front of of the crackling fire and for the first time you note that her panties are somewhere a little distant from the lone rug on the bare wood floor.

jeanpaulsartre
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No. of Recommendations: 1
The best martini you've ever had is not in a bar but after one history and preceding another

Isn't that true of all things in life? The best [fill in the blank] isn't the item itself, it's the event and the context that surrounds it. The item is just the material manifestation that acts as a summation, a pivotal moment of transformation in one's existence.

Or maybe it just feels that way after a really good martini.

BTW- always liked Copley Plaza; stole some ashtrays from the hotel there.

Abraxas
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No. of Recommendations: 5
The best martini you've ever had is after you've bought your vacation home in Mammoth and have built a wildly warm fire in front of a lone fur throwrug in the mostly bare space. Your would-be mistress, along for purposes of exploring the new terrain, drops her full-length winter coat to the floor and reveals a red, entirely slight and tight tube dress, red as the fire, brief as an afterthought...


It's even better if she has a bag of pork rinds with her.

Cheeze
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No. of Recommendations: 3
It's even better if she has a bag of pork rinds with her.

Lke yoou've ever had onwe, cheez.

talkin abuot the hot girlie in tha red toob dress

TC
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Lke yoou've ever had onwe, cheez.


All I'm sayin' is, when she gets here, she'd better have the pork rinds with her or she can hit the road.

Cheeze
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No. of Recommendations: 3
All I'm sayin' is, when she gets here, she'd better have the pork rinds with her or she can hit the road

Keep thinkin likke that, and yoo'll die a vergin, too.

TC
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Keep thinkin likke that, and yoo'll die a vergin, too.


'Fraid you'll be the only one, Tony?

;-)

Cheeze
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No. of Recommendations: 6
<<It's even better if she has a bag of pork rinds with her.>>


Martinis in hand and panties over there. All Cheeze can think about is pork rinds. TMF is sunk.
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No. of Recommendations: 7
Albaby,

Thanks for your comments and if you are not an expert then what am I? A couple of points. Let me present exhibit #1, S.E.C. v. Yun Soo Oh Park a/k/a Tokyo Joe

Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Park, a resident of New York, New York and the sole shareholder of Societe Anonyme, provides investment advice over the Internet, including stock picks, to his clients, largely members of an Internet day trading community who pay $100 to $200 per month to Societe Anonyme for the privilege of receiving his advice.
http://www.sec.gov/enforce/litigrel/lr16399.htm

As far as I can understand TokyoJoe provided investment advice over the internet in a way substantially similar to what could take place on Trick's proposed private subscription based boards. Then Bernard, or anybody else hosting the private boards of similar type, would also be subject to the Securities Exchange Act of 1933 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. As the SEC write at the end of the above referenced document:

Based on the foregoing, the SEC filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Park and Societe Anonyme charging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Sections 206(1)and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

Exhibit #2: Well there is no exhibit #2 only my own speculation and moral. Without promotion from TMF the idea of private boards will never be a success. Thus TMF must actively promote and will benefit financially from any TokyoJoe type person that occupy one of their private boards. At the same time TMF itself is borderline financial adviser (sometimes crossing the border on the boards) with the reputation of saying that everybody is full of .... and only they can be trusted. Therefore I would find TMF at least morally liable (if I can't convince you about the legal aspect) for the content of its private boards.

I also happen to personally think that TMF should be subject to regulation even in its present form in an ideal world (which we don't have of course). This would have taken care of the problem with the (lack of) disclosure policy in the first place. Moreover it would ensure the obvious conflict of interest when a certain TMF staffer sells his Nokia stake by forcing him to disclose an intent to sell ahead of time. In the most ideal of worlds a certain rule-breaker manager would need to disclose his personal sales of his stake in Amazon.com before the official portfolio sell announcement. Ideally also the author of the TMF research report on Amazon.com who neglected to mention the company's problematic debt load and unstable financial situation about a year ago when he wrote his first report while he held a personal stake in the company should have been forced to disclose an intent to sell before he rid himself of his position. Sorry but I got carried away in dreaming about an ideal world that goes beyond SEC.

In fact, TMF has branded itself as the ultimate example of that philosophy - investors writing for investors.

I consider investors writing for investors the ultimate stupidity in business model. If you want to maximize the number of possible conflicts of interest (read the above examples regarding Amazon.com) then fine. However, if you want to make sure that you provide unbiased information then please don't write about your own stocks, please!

Datasnooper.

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No. of Recommendations: 5
Snoop,

[I]f you are not an expert then what am I?

We're in a world without experts, doncha know. It's been a trying year for me, being a lawyer in Florida, and having to disclaim familiarity in so many different fields, especially immigration and election law. Admitting that I have no expertise in securities law is easy by now.

Let me present exhibit #1, S.E.C. v. Yun Soo Oh Park a/k/a Tokyo Joe

Ah, poor Tokyo Joe. You raise an excellent point that I ignored in my earlier post - while TMF can insulate itself from liability (civil and criminal), an individual who operates his/her own private message board can get into a whole heap of trouble. Since securities law doesn't go with a martini nearly as well as does a red tube dress, I'll point anyone who's interested in a small taste of federal securities regulation to this post on Soapbox:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=12605841&sort=username

However, the predations of greedy miscreants within the for-hire message boards might not, in and of itself, pose a problem for TMF. What you need is a well-crafted Terms of Service prohibiting illegal and other undesirable behavior by board owners, a decent acknowledgment and waiver for your users to click on, and diligent investigation of any specific notification that the boards are being used for illegal behavior. That might be enough to bring them into the common carrier defense, unless you end up with X% of the site being used for unlawful investment advice (where X is a high number, but one unknown to me). At that point, you start getting into Napster-like constructive notice issues.

Exhibit #2: Well there is no exhibit #2 only my own speculation and moral. Without promotion from TMF the idea of private boards will never be a success. Thus TMF must actively promote and will benefit financially from any TokyoJoe type person that occupy one of their private boards.

True enough, based on the Soapbox promotional experience. But I doubt they would be foolish enough to promote the TokyoJoes of the world. They'd pick some harmless extrovert posting interminable explications of his favorite investing guru to a rapt audience of fawning supplicants. You're correct in pointing out that this could be a trouble spot for TMF, but if they didn't have enough sense to avoid stepping in that one, then no business plan in the world would save them.

As for whether the current format of TMF offends moral, if not legal, sensibilities...well, I for one was quite surprised that they were offering the Rule Maker seminar again this year. I was more surprised to find that they had raised the price.

Albaby
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Would you pay, say, $19.99 a year to be a fully accredited Fool? Full access to all the site has to offer plus the right to have your own site within TMF? To read some of the best of the best writing on the Internet in the various boards? Simple fact is that TMF is one of the most visited sites on the Internet and, let's be frank here, some of the best informed views available anywhere.

I would have to wholeheartedly agree with many of the comments above. The content on the Fool is excellent. It has always been very informative and yet interesting and easy to read. I would hate to lose a resource of this quality simply because the Fool was not able to develop a business model that would pay the bills and then some. I would definitely pay twenty dollars a year for full access, now that I enjoy the site so much. However, initially I may never have investigated the Fool at all if I was required to pay to do so. And in reading other posts, I think others would agree. I'm sure those at the Fool have considered a million different options, I simply hope they are able to balance all the pros and cons so that they become as profitable as they need to be so that all of us who have become accustomed to having their site accessible will never have to suffer a painful withdrawal.

Pablo
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And put them in competition with others far more qualified to handle the task. I go to lunch with my A.G. Edwards broker for advice and information. I go to lunch with TMFs for entertainment.


I do it the other way around (though the broker is from another place, not Edwards).

Time will tell, I guess, which strategy is best.

Depends strongly on who the lunchmates are :-).

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