Before there even was a financial web, there was

Before Yahoo Finance had 23 million users, before there were blogs, before there was any real online trading worth mentioning, before anyone was doing market-related stuff on the web (mainstream media included) – there was  November of 1996 to be exact, I became a reader in July 1997 when I began studying for my Series 7.

The remarkable thing about, however, is not that they were so early.  To me, the real story is about the sheer amount of talent that’s been through that site over the years.  When you think about today’s market punditry, so many of the top voices are alums of it’s mind-blowing.

An obvious comparison from the music business comes to mind: is the Motown Records of the financial web.

James Cramer, the Berry Gordy figure in my analogy, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Like Gordy’s Motown Records, the power was in the roster, not in any one star.  The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, The Supremes, The Temptations and the Jackson 5 were all stars, but they were also extremely fortunate enough to share the production, songwriting and accompaniment that only Hitsville, USA could provide them with.  What made TheStreet so vital was the idea that you could read so much intelligent commentary from so many columnists in one place.

Over the last 14 years, some of the best financial writers and market comentators ever have written for TheStreet.  What was cool and original about TheStreet’s roster was that they had practioners mixed in with real journalists.  Traders, analysts and hedge fund managers were mixed in with hard-hitting reporters, no one was doing anything like it.  The concept was way before its time and when combined with the real-time aspect, market participants like myself fell in love, preferring it to newspapers and magazines.

Below is a list of some of these TSC writers off the top of my head.  It is by no means comprehensive but it should give you a good idea of how ridiculously great their roster has been over the years…

James Cramer – The first financial blogger.  No matter what anyone says about him, they can’t take that.  Cramer’s greatest strengths as a commentator are his openness and his honesty.  They are also his greatest weakness as he leaves himself vulnerable to the second-guessing and nastiness that are in such large supply on the web.

Herb Greenberg – Was the first to be doing the type of investigative market journalism online that thousands are now imitating.  You can see him now on CNBC and on the Net Net blog.  Greenberg has been listening to the epithet “tool of the short-sellers” forever, meanwhile the list of bad apple companies whose shenanigans he uncovered is endless.

Paul Kedrosky – Those economic and financial linkfests everyone is doing these days?  Kedrosky owned it and did it for TSC better than most.  Paul brought an eclecticism and an eye for off-the-beaten path stories that kept things interesting, even in monotonous markets.  He can now be found at his site Infectious Greed.

James Altucher – I met him for the first time last week, it was like being at Disney World and seeing Mickey Mouse.  I’ve been reading Altucher’s stuff for almost 10 years, he’s one of the most clever and ubiquitous financial writers in the game and a pioneer of online punditry.  I’d tell you where you could read his work now but the list would go on forever.  For an up-and-comer like myself, Altucher is the model.

Barry Ritholtz – The biggest and best financial blogger in the world, hands down. Barry did some incredible work at TheStreet writing his Apprenticed Investor column there.  Those of us who were young in the business when he began writing it learned so many of the great market lessons and truisms from his stuff.  Barry left TheStreet and ramped up his own site The Big Picture and the rest is history.

Doug Kass – Doug was always my favorite writer at TheStreet and when RealMoney Silver launched, he was the only reason I shelled out the big bucks for a yearly subscription.  His column, The Edge, is one of the most insightful and interesting market journals out there, day in and day out.

Gary B. Smith – The internet’s original Chart Man, Gary was doing technical analysis in a mainstream, entertaining way before most of today’s bloggers were out of middle school.  He can be seen on Fox News’ Bulls and Bears program, which used to be about stocks but has now become about tax reform and labor unions, unfortunately.

And there are so many more current and former TSC contributors who warrant mention here…

  • Cody Willard (telecom & technology, now at MarketWatch)
  • Eric Jackson (activism, writes Breakout Performance blog)
  • Daniel Dicker (energy, oil stocks, MLPs)
  • Todd Harrison (trading, founded Minyanville)
  • Tony Crescenzi (bond market/econ commentary, now at Miller Tabak)
  • Howard Simons (futures and derivatives)
  • Bill Luby (options, now writes Vix and More blog)
  • David Merkel (bonds and stocks, now writes the Aleph Blog)
  • Lauren LaCapra (banks, financial services, regulation)
  • Aaron Task (editor-at-large, now hosts Yahoo Tech Ticker)
  • John Markman (swing trading, now at MSN Money)
  • Helene Meisler (technical analyst based in Asia)
  • James “Rev Shark” DePorre (swing trading, small caps)
  • Roger Nusbaum (investing, now writes Random Roger blog)
  • Eric Oberg (Goldman alum, leveraged ETF debunker)
  • Michelle Leder (filings, founded
  • Whitney Tilson (value stocks, now manager T2 hedge fund)
  • Dave Kansas (former editor, now at WSJ)
  • Lenny Dykstra (just kidding)
  • Don Luskin (also just kidding)
  • Marek Fuchs (financial media, humor)
  • Jeff Matthews (markets, now a Buffett stalker and eponymous blogger)
  • Dagen McDowell (mutual funds, now on Fox Business)
  • Tim Connolly (stocks, now at Sconset Capital)
  • Vincent Farrell (stocks and strategy)
  • Jim Jubak (stockpicking, now at MSN Money)
  • Jason Raznick (now at Benzinga)
  • Adam Feuerstein (biotechs, healthcare)
  • Adam Lashinsky (technology, now at Fortune)
  • Don Dion (ETFs)
  • Dave Peltier (small caps)

The list goes on and on, I’m sure I’ve missed some great writers who have contributed there along the way.

Many of Motown’s great recording artists ultimately branched out and did their own thing.  In like fashion, many of TheStreet’s writers have moved on to blogging on their own and mainstream media gigs.

It’s almost impossible to go through a day in the market without coming across the opinion of at least one alum of  That is a testament to how much amazing talent that site has spawned since its beginnings.

Category: Financial Press, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

13 Responses to “ Motown Records of the Financial Web”

  1. Chief Tomahawk says:

    “An obvious comparison from the music business comes to mind: is the Motown Records of the financial web.

    James Cramer, the Berry Gordy figure in my analogy, is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Like Gordy’s Motown Records, the power was in the roster, not in any one star. The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, The Supremes, The Temptations and the Jackson 5 were all stars, but they were also extremely fortunate enough to share the production, songwriting and accompaniment that only Hitsville, USA could provide them with. What made TheStreet so vital was the idea that you could read so much intelligent commentary from so many columnists in one place.”

    Where to begin? Well, I’ve been to the Hitsville USA locale and had the official tour. It was not long after Michael Jackson had died and the front of the Hitsville USA home had been turned into a make-shift memorial with fans leaving teddy bears and signs etc. in memorium. I’d recommend it to anyone, but beware it’s in a very bad area of Detroit. In fact two Police cars tailed me out of there for awhile as I was leaving…

    I forget who the first big hit hit/act was, but after winning like 3 Grammy’s at that year’s award show, Berry asked his parents for a $5k loan to grow the effort. The parents held a family meeting and everyone had a say and vote. Berry’s sister objected (“He only won 3 little statues and hardly any money”) and the loan amount was reduced by $1k accordingly. Berry used the money to buy the Hitsville USA house and setup shop.

    The recording studio was the garage in the back of the Hitsville house, and it had a dirt floor for it’s first four years of use (recordings took place from ’57 to ’71 I believe.) It is furnished today as it was last left in ’71.

    Initially Berry feared racial prejudice would prevent his artists from being played by white-owned radio stations. Accordingly, there are no pictures of Motown artists on the early albums. Also, Berry hired white curriers to drop the albums at radio stations so suspicion would not be aroused. Though Jim Cramer has delivered many an agitating ear-splitting rant, I am unaware of him having to worry about the color of his hindside when it came to launching…

    To achieve the Motown sound, an effort was made to duplicate the effects one hear’s in a bathroom. An enterprising craftsmen walled in a portion of the attic ceiling and all songs were mixed there. The hole or entry for the place still exists today. Quite simple but VERY effective.

    Berry brought his assemblyline work experience to his recording business. All employees had to punch in. V.P. Smokey Robinson arrived late one day and Berry made him sit on the steps outside for a couple of hours until the meeting was finished (Berry wouldn’t unlock the door to let him in.) Also, The Commodores owe their breakthrough song due to the tardiness of The Temptations. Berry waited a couple of hours in the recording studio for The Temptations to show. With a young singing group called The Commodores waiting to audition, Berry brought The Commodores in and had them sing the song he had lined up for The Temptations. Berry liked it, recorded them, and The Commodores had their first hit.

    Initially, booking places to perform live was also a challenge. This was combatted by having many big names ride the same charter bus (for long rides) so they could appear on the same bill at a cheap ticket price.

    Last, ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech? The aduio you hear was actually recorded at a theater in downtown Detroit the day before it was delivered on The National Mall. It is the only Motown recording ever made outside the Hitsville USA house/studio.

  2. Joe says:

    I’d had a fabulous 17 year run with a great value mutual fund manager in the 80′s and ’90′s. I’d tried investing in the 80′s based on phoning in orders for round lots in ideas from the monthly Forbes subscription that I had and holding for the long run. I’d gotten no place with it. So finding this great mutual fund manager had been a godsend. Hell, he was up 23% in ’87!!!!! Now though, in the late 90′s, the mutual fund that had gotten traction and kept traction for me had just lost six years worth of gains in 9 months. I rolled over to the hot fund of the day, made it all back in 6 months and saw it start to melt away again in the dotcom crash. I was lost. Then on the way home from work past SFO, I saw this tiny billboard up high and away off the freeway showing a pocketknife with the on its side.

    It introduced me to the roster above. I’m incapable of explaining how important that was to me. Think of learning to read and finding years later that there are other books besides reading texts. The days of TSC being my sole source are long gone…. but if you weren’t there back inna day, ya got no idea of the universe that TSC opened up for so many people….

  3. SINGER says:

    I can only attest to this:

    Barry Ritholtz:The biggest and best financial blogger in the world, hands down.

  4. fred2 says:

    I don’t know where else to post this so I’ll do it here. BR and all the community, you’re a real asset, you lighten all my days. Best wishes to you all for a great 2011.

  5. David Merkel says:

    I’m quoting from my stuff the last time you wrote this, Josh, and adding a little more. I am very glad you wrote this. I remember in my early days at RM receiving a holiday card picturing TSCM as the bulldog on Wall Street. There was an internal optimism about TSCM being the truth-speaker at the carnival that is Wall Street.

    You touched on many names here, but equally important are all of the financial journalists that are TSCM alums. Many did not always get bylines, but are now working at WSJ, Business Week, Fortune, etc. Most of my media contacts spring from that source, who call up Uncle/Professor Dave to explain a tough concept.

    So I would add Colin Barr, Ian McDonald, Liz Rappaport, Aaron Pressman, Peter Eavis, Matthew Goldstein, etc. Financial journalism is much richer for the creation of TSCM, because it employed a lot of bright young people who learned finance on the fly in finance-friendly but skeptical environment.

    And. quoting Herb Greenberg, “Also… Jesse Eisinger (propublica and all-around great muckraker) , Alex Berenson (NYT and fiction best-seller), Dan Colarusso (runs B-berg TV), Erin Arvedlund (warned on Madoff) and more and more and more. I can honestly say I worked with some of the very best who went on to do really great things. ”

    And as others mentioned, don’t forget the self-effacing Bill Meehan, and Andy Kessler. There were others too, that provided color and richness, including the pros that contributed on the side, whether for RealMoney Silver or Street Insight. As part of the team, David Brail, the risk arb and I covered a complex takeover in depth, whereas I worked with a variety of others at Street Insight to highlight the accounting fraud at Fannie Mae, and I still have the “Fannie Fraud Patrol” T-shirt to prove it.

    It was a great place to write. Maybe one day I will return.

  6. [...] In case you missed my comparison of to Motown Records, Barry re-ran it yesterday.  (TBP) [...]

  7. jj2me says:

    James Altucher? Really? Have you ever charted his strongly-worded recommendations vs. results? Sure, he may get a lot of hits and clicks, but I didn’t realize that’s what you meant by “talent.”

    A could-care-less charlatan.

  8. jaltucher says:

    @jj2me, i guess you dont like my PIP, GNW, VVTV, DNDN, TGB, picks among others (all up between 100-1000%)

  9. jj2me says:

    I apologize for my careless, anonymous, unfair slur. Cheap shots from afar and from ignorance (I haven’t actually charted your picks). Though I’ve lost a bit (and by happenstance, always) listening to you.

  10. Joe says:

    “I apologize for my careless, anonymous, unfair slur. ”

    Someone stands up and settles an obligation like a gentleman. On the Internet!!! How can you not look forward to a year that starts out that way. Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men, May The New Year Exceed Every Ones Wildest Hopes And Dreams….

    See Ya At The Track…

  11. Tim says:

    Hard to believe Bill Fleckenstein gets no mention here.

  12. common-sense says:

    Barry Ritholtz does Motown – Volume 1! Hear his covers of:

    The Stock You Save (may be your own)
    BP Was A Rolling Stone
    (trailing) Stop! (in the name of love)
    Ain’t No Fusion (like the one I got)

    Yes. That’s right! You can hear them all on one CD, but WAIT! There’s more! If you’re one of the first 100 to order, we’ll throw in absolutely free!…an autographed Big picture of Barry at the Apollo theater! Call 1-800-BUY-DEBT and one of our agents will gladly take your order! Call now!

    Sorry Barry, I couldn’t resist. ;-)