Letter.ly: perfect tool for financial bloggers to begin monetizing ideas

Letter.ly is a newcomer on the newsletter scene launched a couple of months ago by drop.io founder, Sam Lessin.  An industry blogger, Lessin had grown tired of the free newsletter scene citing a variety of concerns that lead him to take his newsletter offline and begin charging for it.

I am done with blogging personally. A little over two years later, It no longer serves the purposes outlined above, and even beyond that I find writing for an open audience is actually exceedingly disingenuous if not straight hypocritical given my strong belief in the value of “information”.

a. Understanding the medium: ‘blogging’ as a medium is quickly being out-moted by passive and active data-streams.  I understood what I needed to understand, I don’t need to understand more about it.  I am not turning off facebook in the least (though I will not be putting ‘high value’ content through it specifically because the value of information is inversely related to how public it is), but the highest value thoughts need not be public for the sake of exploration anymore.

b.  An audit-able trail on the web for defense and offense: I have what I feel I need for now.  I will occasionally need a mouthpiece, but I believe I can generate that when needed through other channels

c.  Personal intellectual rigor: Still critical, but sharing ideas at a high velocity with a set of people I respect through other written means will serve the purpose just as well…  I do think that forcing yourself to write down and refine is critical

d.  Communicative margin: It is gone. There is no margin left in blogging (nor is there margin left in twitter/fb status potentially)…  the flight pattern is too full, you don’t get any prizes anymore for showing up, and the people I really respect/want to share ideas with have mostly stopped reading blogs.

Financial bloggers looking to begin charging for all or some of their content will find that letter.ly is absolutely the easiest way to build a premium newsletter product.

Here’s how it works:

  1. sign up
  2. letter.ly provides you with a URL to send subscribers to
  3. publishers also receive a unique email address — this is how you publish.  Create the newsletter in word/email client and just send off.

There are some basic tools to manage your list or to comp some free subscriptions.  By clicking on ‘cash out’, you can get paid.

Yeah, this gets into the whole openness/closed discussion surrounding the web and for that, check out Is it time to stop blogging (GigaOM) and Let’s take this online (Joel Spolsky on Inc.).

Clearly, some newsletter publishers are going to want a lot more functionality in their subscription product.  That’s fine and letter.ly is probably not for them.  But if you’ve already built an audience and you’re looking to upsell them to an more intimate, more in-depth product, letter.ly is perfect.

Let me know what you think.

Buffett, Algorithms, and Technical Analysis: The Evolution of the Investment Newsletter

The evolution of investment newsletters

Investment newsletters have been around as long as investments have. Never mind that they used to be delivered snail mail. Then fax. Then email. Given the lag time between publishing and delivery, these old-school newsletters, like the Motley Fool’s Hidden Gems or Al Frank’s Prudent Speculator, mostly gave paid subscribers a pick or two or provided them with a list of stocks — typically, the output of a stock screen.

From static to real-time

But that’s the old model. Given the real-time nature of the web, investment newsletters are morphing into full-blown investment systems. The difference between the old model and new comes in both shape and form:

  • Amount of information: With short-form Twitter content and the 24/7 model of financial news, subscription services have to stay relevant. So, instead of delivering a static recommendation, new subscription services have to continue delivering a lot of commentary and analysis to help their subs decipher the news that envelops them and their portfolios.
  • Frequency of publication: Publishing 1x/month no longer suffices. Newsletters have become quasi-trading desks of info, providing ongoing analysis of markets and their stock picks.
  • Quality of analysis: With high quality analyst-bloggers producing real-time content, I believe we’ve seen the bar raised in terms of the quality of content being produced. There is certainly more of it — I believe it’s getting better as well.
  • Diversity of content products: We’re no longer looking at a two dimensional financial content market made up of the bloods (fundamental analysis) and crips (technical analysis) — new subscription products are becoming really valuable, like the portfolio cloning tools at AlphaClone and the ability to bring history’s best investors back to life via algorithms like Validea has done. Come to think of it — expert networks like Covestor and kaChing are also investing systems as investors subscribe to track and mimic newly-found gurus.

Couple o’ examples

Given their strategies, technical traders and day traders have had systems at their disposal. But it’s only recent that fundamental investors have. We know what investment newsletters look like but what about investing systems? Here are a couple that stand out as interesting examples:

  • StockTwits premium blog network is a good showcase of the types of services available to subscribers. They’re expensive but in return, subscribers get ongoing, daily commentary from the publisher as well as a variety of different types of media (I’m thinking about TV here) to consume.
  • Validea: I’ve written about John Reese’s firm before but I like the way their proprietary stock screener that recreates the investment strategies of history’s top investors is evolving. The Validea Pro product pings subscribers when a certain trigger has fired. Combined with graded reports on numerous stocks, Validea has become a trading system by combining the real-time aspects of trading alerts (buy and sell) as well as the fundamental rigor exemplified by its screening algorithm.
  • Davian Letter: Emerged from seemingly nowhere to provide a variety of real-time trading services — from black box type algorithms to more detailed analysis on tech stocks to earnings recaps.

Of course, some newsletters get it. Others are still playing by yesterday’s rules. What are you using? Let me know if the comments.

**Also, if you manage/contribute/publish an investment newsletter, make sure to download my free ebook, How to Build a Profitable Investment Newsletter.

Investment newsletters REALLY bearish — time to buy?

Wow! Expectations that U.S. stocks will drop at least 10% has risen to the highest levels since April 1984.

In a recent survey of investment newsletters by Investors Intelligence, Bloomberg reports that:

The following are results from Investors Intelligence’s
analysis of investment newsletters for Jan. 27 through
yesterday. The company determines the proportion of writers who
are bullish and bearish on U.S. stocks, as well as the
percentage who anticipate a correction, or 10 percent decline,
in the market.

           This Week   Prior Week    Comments
Bullish      38.9%        40.0%      Lowest since July 21
Bearish      22.2%        23.3%      Lowest in two weeks
Correction   38.9%        36.7%      Highest since April 1984

Time to buy?