Thursday, June 28, 2007

8 Reasons You Don't Like Yahoo Finance

From reading various comments, I've decided that it is time to put together a list of reasons that Yahoo! Finance is somewhat annoying to many pf bloggers and other readers out there. With any luck, this will help to improve the finance writing that is being produced. I find it quite annoying actually that many of the ideas and comments go ignored and unanswered by the people in charge over at Yahoo Finance and the authors. These are not all my opinions, they are pretty much gathered from the various comments for the articles.

1. There's nothing new. -- This is by far the complaint that seems to top the comments list. I see some variation of this complaint on almost every single article that is written. This is something that I absolutely have to agree with. What is most interesting about this complaint is that very few of the writers really make an effort to develop original advice content. Most of the writers who are developing new content are using their personal experiences to "spice up" the same old advice.

2. Everyone's in bed together. -- This is another common theme that pops up on the comment section. Often, people are talking about careers, or about money, or relationships and the article becomes a sales pitch for their latest client or some new product that is being offered. This really offends lots of people, myself included. Your clients should not be mentioned by name in the article, in my opinion. The information can be made just as valuable without selling the client. The problem with mentioning by name is that people don't know whether or not the authors are doing it to be "shmoozy" or to genuinely feed information to users.

3. Oversaturated -- Theres too many career columns. There's too many columns that deal with investing. Its really that simple. There just isn't that much to write about that you need 3+ columnists in each of these categories, especially when you take point one into account.

4. Non-Expert Experts -- The problem with most of the "experts" on yahoo finance is that they are not all really experts, per se. This is a major theme in many of the comments. These people have become successful finance writers. That is certainly true for most, if not all of them. And perhaps that is why Yahoo! Finance wants to talk to them. However, when it comes to being interesting and providing clear content, it makes sense to get financial gurus who have *made* it before. One person who is notably absent is Jim Cramer; this is likely because he has non compete deals with his other organizations, but it makes sense when you think about it. He is someone who has made large sums of money by investing. Certainly one or two of the others may have made significant sums by investing as well, but largely they are making money by writing. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but they are not what some of the people are looking for -- financial gurus who can talk to them about investing etc.

5. Great Expectations -- Regardless of whether readers admit it or not, we expected Yahoo! Finance to be different. Not different from other services out there, different from what it is. I think there is this expectation that we are going to get content like Jim Jubak et al. from MSN Money or The Fool writers etc. These types articles talk about investing and understanding the market, all with the assumption that you know how to manage your money at this point for the most part. The tough part is that most of those types of investing articles come with a subscription to a service that you have to pay for.

In the meantime, perhaps people that want real personal finance types of advice should be looking at quality blogs like The Simple Dollar and Free Money Finance rather than Yahoo! Finance. And if they want investing information, they can read Jubak and a few others over at MSN Money. I've liked their stuff so far, and it's free. There's also several good blogs that deal with this content as well; although the overwhelming trend from the PF Community seems to be leaning to passive investing and no-load index funds and index etfs.

6. Concrete v.s. Concept -- Many of the articles are written in a boiler plate format. When writing to a large audience, it is quite tempting to provide these kinds of boiler plate articles. The article is generally setup with a simple amount of information and then follows with a series of themes on how to change your thinking, each backed up by some prevailing wisdom or explanation from the author or link to some resource where you go to learn more. Many of these articles assume that people have everything that they need in order to be successful, but instead, it is often the case that people need concrete steps that they can take to improve their situation, not simple advice to change their thinking. Readers yearn to learn new concrete things they can do in their life to save money or earn more or become more productive. Most of the articles just don't offer that.

7. Bait and Switch -- Often a title is catchy and the content of the article doesn't even come close to meeting the content implied by the article. Granted, this is not a problem that is specific to Yahoo! Finance, it is simply something that seems to be an obvious complaint that pops up in their messages.

8. Out of Touch -- The problem that seems to creep in for many comments on these articles is somewhat difficult for others to appreciate, but for those that write it, it's the cold, hard truth. That won't work for me. The reasons and descriptions and litany of explanations differ, but the end result is simple. The comments describe a person who doesn't make enough or who is in a place in their life where that advice just doesn't work. I will grant that some people are just making excuses. Others are genuinely in the wrong place to take the advice and the articles don't connect with the readers who leave the comments.

One classic example follows: "Try being a single parent of three, making almost minimum wage, and SHOW me how to save a penny. Some people have more bills than they have money. Even with government help." --Ms Playful

I think that is a great example. The issue here is that this person is already underwater. Telling someone to start saving 10% of their money when they are already underwater is a great way to seem out of touch. Ms Playful probably needs more substantive, personal advice and help than this. It is quite possible that she is in serious debt and feels totally overwhelmed, having to support 3 children and herself on meager wages.

So that's it: my list of why you don't like Yahoo! finance. If you think these reasons are not valid, please leave your comments. I'm really interested to know why you don't like Yahoo! finance or perhaps even why you do!

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