Yahoo vs Seeking Alpha & Why I Don’t Get It

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen two seemingly subtle changes in the landscape of financial media:

1) Yahoo Finance is now utilizing Tumblr to “re-blog” posts from a handful of financial bloggers.

2) Yahoo Finance will no longer be syndicating Seeking Alpha’s content, which had contributed to a significant amount of Seeking Alpha’s page views.

After reading a number of different interested perspectives, I gathered the thoughts of uninterested parties in the investment management world. There is no doubt that Yahoo Finance and Seeking Alpha are battling for supremacy in the landscape of page view driven financial media. And while both are looking to capitalize on the buzzword of “crowd-sourced” content, the two have content acquisition processes that are diametrically opposed.

1) SeekingAlpha compensates its content providers by page view, essentially earning the spread between their CPM and what they pay contributors. Following the Yahoo announcement, Seeking Alpha announced a flat $35/article as well as some “awards” for “top ideas.” These are in the $500 — $2,500 range.

2) Yahoo Finance/Tumblr doesn’t see the need to compensate for “crowd-sourced” content. Rather, Tumblr provides “free” syndication to Yahoo Finance for its selected contributors. In other words, it’s fire hose content marketing for a handful of blogs and services.

So who’s right, if either? Do the top financial minds really care about a check for a couple hundred bucks? And if that’s the motivation for sharing investment perspective, is that something that one should really want to read? On the other hand, if the motivation is free content marketing, is Tumblr approaching this the right way? Yes, content is syndicated through Yahoo Finance, but how? The noise is still there, and with the focus still on page views and ad revs, Yahoo cares about curation of WHAT, and not the author’s objectives. By definition, the reader is interested in the subject matter, not the credentials of the author, and likely not any products or services that the author offers.

From either side, the contradiction is puzzling to me. No one would ever invest with an advisor, mutual fund, or hedge fund because of a specific stock they were in. You invest because of the INDIVIDUAL(S) actively managing the assets. Investing is about people, and expertise. It’s about quality. It’s about WHO, and the WHAT is secondary. So that said, why is the promotion of the “who” consistently secondary to the promotion, and curation, of the “what”?

I believe that both Yahoo and SeekingAlpha have good intentions, but intentions based on a belief system. We built Harvest Exchange (www.hvst.com) because we have a different belief system. Correspondingly, we have a different vision for the future of investment management. In my view, in order to create true lasting value for a company, that organization must provide true lasting value to its customers/members/users. Yes, a cash payment is value. And yes, broad syndication can have value. But what’s the end game? What’s the goal to improve the life and business of the individual/organization providing you with content?

While I can’t answer that for others, I can share Harvest’s desired end game. Financial Professionals are going to need, and already deserve, a high quality, scalable marketplace for them to share their expertise. Correspondingly, consumers of financial knowledge deserve, and need, the ability to transparently, and efficiently, discover the right investment professionals, products, and services. In other words, a next generation marketplace for the investment management industry is needed. As wealth is transferred to the next generation of investors, that need grows exponentially.

These are just my opinions. Yahoo Finance and SeekingAlpha aren’t perfect, and Harvest certainly isn’t either. That said, I’ve never been more confident in our vision and goals of promoting quality, discovery, and of putting our members first.

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