Friday, September 14, 2007

The Millionth Visitor--You

(and: Stock Market Hat Trick)

I am honored and humbled to note that this small outpost on the World Wide Web received its millionth visitor yesterday.
I don't know which of you was the millionth, but in a real sense each of you has that distinction, for without you there would be no millionth visitor.

Of Two Minds is truly a product of two minds: yours and mine.

As you can see from this chart of monthly visits, OTM slouched along for 10 months without many readers. Some noble person submitted some of my entries on the housing bubble to (thank you, Patrick, for your support and encouragement) and readership began climbing.

This site's growth is entirely due to you: it is your recommendations, contributions (financial and informational) and commentaries which keep this small corner lively.

There aren't any perfect metrics of value on the Web; some rely on the number of other sites linking to a site, others use hits or visitor counts. (On Technorati, this site is ranked 128,000 or so.) On any metric, OTM is no great shakes on the Web; Chinese actresses and sites on Harry Potter draw millions of visitors each month.

Nonetheless, a million visits is nothing to sneeze at, either, given that I am a complete unknown with zero connections, credentials and marketing. For any writer, the greatest success is having readers; and in this sense I consider this site a major success. No, it will never pull down $10,000 a month in ad revenue, or win any prizes or top any "Top Whatever" list, or receive any recognition--but it is a success because you're here reading this.

Would I rather have a brilliant blog no one read, or this flawed one with lots of smart, experienced, curious, well-informed and fun readers? This one, baby, all the way.

This chart drives me to speculate on why this little effort has attracted so many erudite readers. I have come up with a short list of possibilities:

1. The Mainstream Media has failed to do its job. It is reactive and therefore behind events and reality. We're all disgusted with the MSM for good reason; all through the insanity of the housing bubble, there was rarely a peep from a media slavishly cheerleading the realty and lending industry's hype (not because they bought hundreds of millions of dollars in advertisements, of course). Is "propaganda" too strong a word? I think not.

And now, as the wheels fall off everything at once--Iraq, the economy, the global debt/risk bubble, the housing bust, our health, our deficit spending, our institutions, global oil supply--the media is behind the curve on every issue. As a result, people turn to blogs for proactive skepticism and some attempt to make sense of our world instead of parroting the various Party Lines.

2. Skepticism has been overwhelmed by denial, complacency and/or dogmatism. As a free-lance journalist for the past 20 years, bringing a bit of skepticism to the story is an ingrained habit, as is taking a non-partisan stance, sourcing data and collecting reports from the field. There is precious little skepticism in either the MSM or the blogosphere; the Party Line is trumpeted ad nauseum. The hit on blogs is there's rarely any reporting (pontificating is not reporting); thanks to your input, there is on-the-ground reporting here--from readers.

3. The blogosphere lacks editing and as a result it's a messy time-sink. Many of you ask why I don't allow comments or threads; the reason is that I loathe the content-free, attack-mode foul-mouthed default-setting of anonymous posting, and I also don't have enough time to read dozens or hundreds of mostly parroted/worthless comments, either here or on any other blog. My goal is to provide you with a wide variety of reader opinion, analysis and experience without having to slog through thousands of words of pap.

And another thing; we don't just post links and snippets from other sites. You get original content here, and creative extras like reader Haiku.

4. Most blogs don't actually develop a relationship with readers / contributors. Most "popular" blogs have maintained the pretenses of the MSM: the writer sits in splendid isolation on top the heap and visitors passively read what is laid before them; their only input is the equivalent of "letters to the editor" (post a comment).

Here at OTM, readers are integral to topics and content; many entries are written entirely by readers. When one of you says something better than I can, then I print what you wrote. When your experience far exceeds my own, I share it with everyone else--not as comment 149, but as Paragraph One.

5. Readers here post substantive, important well-thought out essays. On other "big" blogs, the commentators are all credentialed in some way; here, any reader can submit a thoughtful commentary and get it published in Readers Journal. I don't edit to conform to my views; as long as you present a thoughtful case substantiated by data or personal experience, your view is presented as you have written it. (I do modify cuss words out of respect for readers who see no need for them.)

6. We try for a diversity of topics as broad as life itself. Yes, I tend to focus on "big issues" like Medicare, the global economy, etc. because trying to understand our complex, ever-changing world is a most engrossing puzzle, but I have always written about everything which interests me--even when it is old foreign movies no one watches, the height of trees and buildings in Paris, or dumb ad parodies.

I think this "unexpected" quality might be of value--but that's a guess. Maybe the truth is you merely humor all the off-beat stuff here. Sometimes I get tired of the "heavy" issues and just want to write something off the beaten path. So far you've forgiven me. Kroika!

7. We small-fry need every advantage if we are to survive and prosper financially. I am not qualified or interested in offering investment advice, but I do try to offer up charts and commentary which might help you analyze things which you have read elsewhere. Some of you get bored with stock market stuff, which I understand; but the market (in stocks, commodities, futures, options, housing, etc.) is one of the very few avenues open to small-fry. This truth keeps me coming back to investment-related topics. If we understand underlying trends, we can perhaps benefit. Running off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings is always an option, but you would rather not; that's why you're here reading this.

8. This site is free, original content untainted by marketing and advertising. Yes, I offer up my novel here in the sidebar, and if you buy a book here through the Amazon links I get a small referral fee. But you pay no more for the book or DVD than you would otherwise. I receive no money from anyone for content or links here.

Instead, I ask for what I think is far more honest than shoving endless ads in front of you (ads which don't even work, in my view). If you find some value here, then please donate cash. If you're between jobs or a student or strapped for money right now, then it's OK; there is no "premium content" reserved for subscribers. I reject that model because not every reader is able to kick in a few bucks. Your readership is the most valuable asset here, for that leads to reports and commentary which add value for all of us.

The financial contributions from generous readers are important to me. Some 175 of you have donated about $3,800 to the site since March (many have made multiple donations). This works out to about 15% of my annual income--quite a difference, believe me. It takes about 4 hours a day to respond to email, do research, maintain Readers Journal and write the thing; if I were to receive minimum wage from you, the readers and contributors, (1,000 hours a year X $7.65/hour = $7,600) for the maintenance of the site, I would be delighted. If this doesn't materialize, well, no big deal; we all do what we must, and so far this has been very rewarding. I have learned so much from you, readers, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Whatever the myriad reasons for your readership--I am grateful that you include Of Two Minds your list of blogs and sites to scan.

OK, content time. More stock market charts, yikes! The reason I am posting these charts is that they suggest a critical juncture is upon us: the markets will either jump back to their highs and continue the debt-fueled frenzy, or they will plummet to recent lows and beyond--if reality is allowed to poke its beaten head from under the carpet where it has been stuffed for seven long years.

Here is a weekly (long-term) chart of the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average. Notice the giant wedge which has formed, and the declining MACD and ADX lines. Wedges almost always break sharply up or down; the declining indicators suggest the break won't be to the upside, but that depends on how massive the intervention/manipulation is next week.

And here is the daily (short-term) chart. Note the same wedge is visible here.

As I write this Thursday, the DJIA is up 145 points on the news that McDonalds has sold so much junk food around the globe that it can now enrich its stockholders with a 50% dividend increase. Whoopie, yea for Capitalism with a Capital C! In other news, Citicorp says "BUY GM!" because the flailing automaker might get a break from the UAW on healthcare costs.

Regardless of this astonishingly wonderful good news on the Corporate America front, the wedge formation noted above is still in place. And the Fed meeting early next week will probably provide the excuse for a return to Euphorestra-induced complacency or a shattering drop into the sour depths of actual fiscal reality.

Year after year, the Fed and its troop of cheerleaders in the Treasury, Wall Street and the media has pulled another rabbit out of the hat to amaze and distract the world from the realities of American profligacy and debt chicanery. Can they repeat the performance one more time? They are doing their darndest, that's for sure; the only question is whether the audience is finally tired of the same old tricks.

Contributor James Chaderis: my attempts to thank you via email were returned by your ISP, so allow me to thank you here for your gracious and generous donation. It is much appreciated.

Thank you, Eric R., ($20) for your generous donation to this humble site. I am greatly honored by your encouragement and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

Thank you, readers, for your readership and for your financial support.

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