Wednesday, June 07, 2006

what makes a personal finance blog worth reading?

This is a quick thought here, but something I've been brooding over.

What makes a pfblog worth reading?

It might be the following:
1. news
2. shared personal experience
3. analysis of news
4. discussion of personal economic strategy
5. sharing of bargains, opportunities
6. benchmarking
7. summary of interesting articles

#2-6 seem interesting to me. Most interesting are #2, shared personal experience, #4 discussion of strategy and #6 benchmarking. Obviously this is subjective.

#7, recycling of other's articles, may be interesting, but is often just a repeat mention of someone else's article -- for this type of content, perhaps very brief highlights and an overall assessment of the article are most important.

#1, news, is usually something put together better by an original source or experienced analyst. Granted some analysts have there own blogs, but few amatuers are ever able to find the time to create a truely detailed and in depth original analysis. News is usually the least interesting to me. Besides -- I usually read it at or or before it ends up in most blogs.

So what's the point? Ultimately, I guess, there's only a finite amount of personal finance advice that can be discussed without becoming repetitive or just plain vanilla. And frankly, there are quite a few excellent personal finance books that do a better job examining certain topics in depth than we do in short blog postings.

This leaves us with strategic discussions, personal experience and bench marking as the areas most likely to benefit from the blog format and most likely to provide original content.
However, original content does not come cheaply. The best content takes time, re-writing and careful thought. Ultimately it means we can only produce so much content each week and still be interesting.

$2M is one of the most interesting bloggers I read. In general he focusses on original, unique content that's directly related to his personal experience. I'd like to congratulate him for it.
He also painstakingly researches his benchmarking numbers and provides thorough add on analysis.

In general I find blogs that are more interested in attracting readers for click throughs, etc... fairly boring and repetitive.

At some point in time, we have to be honest with ourselves. Are we more interested in producing ideas and well created thoughts or cheapening them for a small amount of money? After all, how much money will we really make on a blog? Can we count on $200 or $300 each month? If we put the same amount of time into starting a home business, would we be sastisfied with only $200 - $300 per month - in most cases I doubt it.

I believe the greatest sin is writing scripted content for money. I've only heard mention of it a few times, but I suspect it happens more often than I know. For a small amount of money, maybe $75 or $150 a blogger is paid to write on a specific topic. Hmmm... what's wrong with that? Would you buy a dishwasher from consumer reports magazine if you learned that the review was subsidized by a company who had it's product reviewed in the article...probably not, you would assume the review was compromised.

There are a few blogs that do make money and create wonderful content, so I don't want to be mislabelled as condemning the commercialization of blogs, but I do want to emphasize that good content should trump good click throughs.

NYC Money is a great example of a blogger who often spends more time discussing ideas and letting people argue about them. I think she's particularly ingenious in that respect.
In my own circumstance, I'm far too verbose, but I aspire to the analytic thoroughness of $2M, while delving into the introspective ethical examinations of NYC Money. Perhaps the two of them are my role models.

What do you think about personal finance blogs? What should we aspire to as writers? What do the readers look for?

Have a wonderful day,


Tiredbuthappy said...

Good questions.

I also get annoyed with short posts that simply link to an article and comment briefly on it. I like posts that bring my attention to an article, but along with the commentary I want a summary so I don't have to go read the whole thing.

I'm not big on "check out this sale" posts either.

My favorites are thoughtful new takes on old topics. And I enjoy the personal stories as long as they're well written and not too rambling.

Fanuch said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Although I find myself posting summaries of actual news articles too often. Then you think to yourself, "readers could find this information elsewhere, why would they want to read it here instead?" The only way to effect this is to provide good summaries with your own opinions included as well. But I do agree that writing about personal experiences produces the best personal finance blog results. I'll have to take your suggestion and implement on my blog! Great blog......