Josh Brown is a financial professional and author of the The Reformed Broker blog -- a must read for those "in the know." He is also the co-author, along with Jeff Macke, of the new book Clash of the Financial Pundits.
Tell us a little bit about your background, why you decided to write this book, and who you feel would benefit from reading it.
Thanks Brian. I'm the co-founder and CEO of the New York City-based investment advisory firm Ritholtz Wealth Management. We run money and do financial planning work for high net worth families. I'm also a financial blogger and on-air contributor to CNBC. The idea behind doing the book was to humanize the financial commentators and point out both the value they bring to the table along with the drawbacks.
I'm sure that the irony of writing a book about financial pundits now that your are one yourself wasn't lost on you. How do you view your own role and responsibilities in that capacity?
My co-author Jeff Macke and I each have a bird's eye view in terms of all the ways in which the media can be either helpful or poisonous to investors. Clash of the Financial Pundits contextualizes the barrage of information we're receiving each day so that people can make better choices about what to listen to and how (if at all) to use it.
In this book you interview a number of well know pundits including Jim Rogers, Ben Stein, Herb Greenberg, and Henry Blodget. What was the most insightful thing(s) you gleaned from them about the world of financial media?
I think the overarching theme running through these discussions is that people need to learn the difference between information that's interesting and information that's actionable. Just because someone is saying something that is poignant or resonating with the reader or viewer, that should in no way prompt a transaction. People need to consider the fact that everyone appearing before them has an agenda and a whole host of biases that cause them to think and speak the way they do. And I'm not exempt from that. In the book, we explore all of these issues and the reader comes away as a more informed consumer of financial news and opinions.
With so much competition these days for the end consumer's attention, what does a pundit need to do in order to differentiate themselves from the crowd?
I think the key to having people care about your commentary and to have it be read widely these days is spontaneity and soul. In the old days, it was good enough to have your name on the business card of a well-known investment bank, now very few people care about that sort of thing. The web has democratized the process by which opinions can be heard in the mainstream. You don't need a PR firm, you don't need a mass-mailing list, all you need is a way of saying something meaningful. If it's good, it will get heard.
If you're real about the way you communicate, people will pick up on that authenticity and be attracted to it. If you're paying a consultant to tweet links to the Wall Street Journal for you and to edit your every utterance into a bowl of vanilla ice cream, no one will care or listen. Those days are over. Time to be yourself, sure hope you have a personality.
Your book covers the history of financial punditry as well as its modern incarnation. What will the financial pundit of 10 or 20 years from now look like in comparison?
I would imagine the financial pundit of the future will have gills of some sort.
Brian here -- Do yourself a favor and check out Josh's first book Backstage Wall Street: An Insider's Guide to Knowing Who to Trust, Who to Run From, and How to Maximize Your Investments.