Blogging Tips – Breaking Down The Big Picture Blog

The Wall Street Journal calls it “The Economics Blog Insiders Read to Stay Current.” Stock Trader’s Almanac calls its author “One of the brightest minds and irreverent voices on Wall Street today.” Barry Ritholtz has been doing a lot right since he launched The Big Picture blog in 2003. 20,000+ blog posts, 343,000 comments and 89 million page views later, what is Barry doing right? I take a look at the specifics of how Barry has attracted almost 60,000 subscribers and pass on some important blogging tips that anyone can use in their own blog.

Blogging Tip 1 – Publish Regularly

Barry typically publishes 4-6 times a day on weekdays, 2-3 times a day on weekends. He begins the day with a longer, thoughtful piece about whatever is on his mind, followed by an article mid-morning about something he’s read in the media, followed by a chart mid-day, an infographic or link to a web site he finds interesting in the afternoon, and then something humorous towards the end of the day. Barry also has a number of regular features: a summary of the week’s events on Friday of each week, Daily Reads, a gift ideas post in December of every year.

Blogging Tip 2 – Speak Human

Barry writes like he’s speaking to a friend – and not a friend who’s an economist, works on Wall Street or spends 8 hours a day buying and selling obscure derivatives. As he says, he writes to make economics “understandable to my right brain art teacher wife and my 74 year old retired real estate agent mom.” He’s not afraid to use the occasional expletive, and if you don’t like it, he’ll tell you to go away. Barry very much values his privacy, but if you follow his blog over time, he reveals much about his personality. He doesn’t suffer fools (“Asshats”, in his colorful phrase), he loves music (70’s rock and roll, jazz, female vocals) and cuban cigars and he’s a dog guy.

Blogging Tip 3 – Take A Stand

If you listen to Fox News or to mainstream Republican talking points, you’d think that the housing bubble and subsequent collapse was due to the Community Re-investment Act (CRA) and government policies encouraging home ownership, but Barry will have none of that. He takes an unequivocal stand, citing facts, marshaling his arguments, and making a very convincing case that this is all nonsense. The housing bubble/collapse was caused by a number of factors (mostly greed and a failure to heed basic mortgage lending laws and guidelines), but CRA was not one of them.

Blogging Tip 4 – Interact With Your Readers

Barry frequently asks his readers for advice or for their opinions, and they respond. Mostly, he just lets the comments fly, but occasionally he jumps in to comment on a comment. He has no problem with someone disagreeing with him, as long as they’re not “demonstrating their own ignorance.”

Blogging Tip 5 – Produce Quality Content (And Lots of It)

Almost every day Barry produces something that is original, interesting and of high quality. Think about doing this when you’re posting 4-6 times per day, day in and day out, while continuing to run the firm you founded. This is hard work. He’s earned those accolades from the Wall Street Journal and Stock Trader’s Almanac.

None of these blogging tips are new, but all of them are important, and the manner in which Barry implements them is unique. It’s that unique combination of voice, personality, deep commitment to the facts and hard work that keep me coming back to The Big Picture Blog every day.

America’s National Pastime – Blogging (Kvetching)

According to the latest Time – CNN poll as reported by Wolf Blitzer in the situation room, Kvetching and Internet Poker have replaced Baseball as America’s favorite pastime. Kvetching has spawned a huge industry in the United States of America now that the manufacturing jobs have been relocated to China. “Kvetch”: “to complain, blame, harangue, scapegoat, get freaked out about, drive crazy, whine about, gossip, spin, twist the truth, lie and tell the truth about but do nothing about it except kvetch.”

Kvetching is the fuel of the internet, a multi billion dollar industry. The internet has turned the Earth into a worldwide Kvetchfest. Every blog is a series of daily kvetches by literally hundreds of millions of people world wide. Blogging is now replacing psychiatry as a way for people to vent their fear, frustration, anger, and sense of worthlessness. Soon blogging will render psychiatry obsolete. Instead of lying on a couch for 45 minutes complaining about what your father said to you when you were 5 years old, as your Doctor sits silently thinking about what to buy his mistress for her birthday, and then saying, “I’m sorry our time’s up for this week I’ll see you next Wednesday”, for $100 per session, people can now sit down at their computer and kvetch for free for as long as they like to the entire world.

Not only this, but the search engines’ super computers index every single word of every single person’s kvetch, so that if you search “Bush” you will come up with 228 million search results. Unfortunately the search engines do not yet display all 228 million results for each word, but they do display a thousand, and getting your kvetch into the top thousand has spawned an entire industry of snake oil salesmen called SEO experts. For a modest fee these people will tell you which words to use in your kvetch, submit your kvetch to millions of search engines, and promise to get your kvetch into the top ten kvetches for your keyword, the big time, where millions of people can read about your problem and feel sorry for you and send you comments, emails, and invite you to join their group of people with similar complaints. The NSA is now recording every telephone conversation that you make, writing down the name and number of the person you called, and recording every word of every blog that you write. It is as though they are recording on super computers every thought that comes into your mind. Even George Orwell could not have imagined this. It is like we are robots gone mad and our brains are mini computers and the government is the main computer trying to reign us all in, to defragment the system before we blow up the earth once and for all.

Kvetching is the fuel of the media, newspaper commentators and television commentators. You can now watch the talking heads in high definition. They have divided up into groups, Democrats and Republicans. Now the Republicans are kvetching about the other Republicans, as well as the Democrats. The Shiites are kvetching about the Sunnis and the Kurds and the Muslims are kvetching about the Hindus. The Americans are kvetching about the Iranians and the Iranians are kvetching about the Jews and the Americans. The psychiatrists only exist now because the search engines are not permitted to hand out medications, although that is changing. Drug companies are buying up our email addresses and spamming our mail boxes with invitations to purchase anti depressants over the internet without the intervention of any doctors. They are not concerned that many of these anti depressants cause even worse depression and cause the bloggers to commit suicide. The doctors are getting their revenge on patients who left them for their keyboards.

There is a deeply spiritual reason why computers are so popular. We know from countless people who have had near death experiences that after death many of us go back into a tunnel of brilliant white light. We experience a sense of complete relief and ecstasy, not a care in the world, all of our troubles left behind. Looking into the white light of our computer screens for hours on end we become one with the white light that is our holy spirit. We feel as though we are back in the womb, back in heaven from where we came, free from all worldly cares, like nuclear world war 3, global warming, Armageddon, pollution, crumbling economies, which worries are shouted at us constantly by the newspapers, televisions, and computer screens, sending us reeling to psychiatrists, drugstores, and SEO experts.

More American soldiers have committed suicide in Iraq than have been killed in combat. Imagine the stress they are under. They are in a country where they are universally hated, protecting people who hate their guts, watching their best friends get killed and their legs and arms blown off every single day, frightened to death that this will be their fate as they round the next turn, all for a country which was tricked into going to war and no longer believes in the war. Instead of sending more troops, the United States needs to send over more SEO experts. Don’t worry. Soon it will all be over. Jesus is coming on a flying white horse to save us all again, and to meet George Bush in Jerusalem, to congratulate him on his successful crusade, reclaiming the Holy Land for Christianity as the Pope did with his Christian Army 1,000 years ago. As Albert Einstein said to his lover of 20 years, “If you didn’t kvetch you’d have nothing to say at all. So keep on kvetching, you kvetch.”

Attack of the Bloggers

There was a time in America when the most effective way for the average Joe to make his voice heard in the political process was in the confines of the voting booth. Once in a while–if he were lucky–he might even get a letter to the editor published in the local newspaper. But, other than that, it was unlikely that politicians would pay much attention to what he had to say–especially if he lived somewhere between the liberal Coasts–the great American fly-over zone.

But the Internet has changed everything. Joe Six-Pack can now hook up his computer and his DSL account and blog away his nights. And the entire world can see his thoughts and e-mail comments back to him.

As a result, political nobodies from nowhere are now emerging on the national Cyberspace stage, opining on everything from the war in Iraq to, well, the strength of other blogs.

Blogs represent the voice of the people–often against the most powerful elements in our society–so they do represent a kind of high-tech democracy in action.

Some political pundits now say the readership for some of the more popular blogs can rival the hits received on major newspaper websites. Still, I have to wonder, why do media commentators devote so much attention to radically left-wing blogs–especially when these blogs hardly represent the views of SUV-driving, church-going, baseball-loving moms and dads?

We hear, for instance, that incessant Democratic bloggers are trying hard to move their party further to the left, championing Russ Feingold for President. While Hillary and company seem to be promoting a big tent approach, soft-pedaling their appalling support for abortion on demand and other traditionally liberal issues, here are the diehard bloggers, trying to take the tent and move it to Berkeley.

The fact of the matter is that Democrats simply cannot control their left flank for very long–hence the ascendancy of the conservative movement. No matter how much the Democratic Party chieftains claim that abortion is a tragic choice…no matter how much they talk about personal responsibility and getting able-bodied men and women off the public dole…their liberal colors eventually show.

This is why, despite claims that the Democrats are going to enjoy an electoral blow-out this fall, it would be wrong to count the party of Reagan out. While the Democrats can attempt to capitalize on a wave of voter discontent for this election cycle, an initial infatuation with the Dems will pass quickly, once voters realize that this is still the same party that brought us sky-high interest rates, federal binge spending, the replacement of prayer in school with the gospel of gay pride, and endless womanizing in the Oval Office.

In fact, twenty years down the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if our much-maligned President George W. Bush is regarded as one of our finest Presidents. Why? Because–when we faced an unprecedented attack on domestic soil on 9/11, the President responded with courage, strength and, yes, even restraint. He showed himself to be a voice of reason in an age dominated by those who would rather cow-tow to international thugs than to offend the ACLU.

In short, George W. showed himself to be a true leader–something the Democratic Party is still trying to find.

So, let the left-wing bloggers “attack” the Democratic Party bigwigs all they want. I have full faith that the American people will be able to recognize what the party really stands for–values that are way out of line from what the typical patriotic American holds dear.

In other words, the Democrats are blogging their way to eventual defeat.