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« Government Action and Economic Problems | Main | FAS 157 and Marking to Market »

February 14, 2008


Barry Ritholtz

Hey Jeff,

Please show me where I make the "frequent claim that anyone who disagrees with me "does not get it." That is not at all my point of view. If we all thought the same way, there wouldn't be anyone to take the opposite side of a trade.

As to factual corrections, Readers often gently correct me in the comments, and I make changes in both the text (see the paragraph about PPI at bottom of this and the comment.

As the # of comments has ticked up, its become impossible to read them all in real time. If anyone emails me a correction about a factual matter, it usually gets posted w/i 24 hours (-- or eventually, depending on my schedule).

For example, I thought the post about real retail sales that Steve mentioned in the 1st comment above was OBVIOUSLY about growth, and not about total sales. The Haver chart is as clear as can be about that. And it goes w/o saying that if consumer spending fell backwards 5 years, we'd be taking depression, not recession. But what's obvious to me wasn't to everyone, and after reading Steve's comments here, I inserted the word "Growth" in the title for clarification.

There is a a fine balance: I hate when anyone talks down to me, and I assume the blog readers feel the same way. So I try to balance making things clear and understandable, but at the same time, not "dumb it down" the way some sites do.

As to influential, I guess it relative. My monthly traffic is barely what the WSJ or NYT sells in a day.


Barry -

Once again, thanks for stopping to comment. I read all of your work, agreeing and citing some things, and disagreeing with others. You are never wasting time by clarifying or elaborating on your opinions.

But I am troubled by the frequent claim that anyone who disagrees with you "does not get it." I wish that you would engage specific arguments from the article. When you cherry-pick from an article to find certain points that support your viewpoint, it is open to challenge. If you do not like the challenge, then quit doing it.

The notion that you are a David fighting the Goliaths of the media is simply untrue. You influence the thinking of many investors. You often cite your media appearances and quotes in the big-time press. Why be so modest? You are a player.

And finally, your work on The Big Picture, hobby or not, has certainly helped you to gain prominence. My own thought is that you could engage in honest debate, make some corrections on occasion, and even see a bright spot or two in the data. I would expect you to gain more readers and respect, but what do I know? You are the marketing genius! Gonzo economics? OK, but it still should be accurate and responsive to alternative viewpoints.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


Bill aka NO DooDahs!

"6) Jeff -- I tend to push back against what I think is the dominant and misleading meme of the day. "

~ Oddly enough, one of the most-trafficked ("dominant?") sources of independent internet content is pushing back while using misleading memes itself.

Fighting fire with fire? Pot, meet kettle?

Barry Ritholtz


You guys don't get it.

At the risk of boring you, and wasting my time:

1) Jeff -- Its not a blogger's role to be unbiased, balanced, etc. Its to identify, analyze, opinionate, discuss, provoke. You want balance, there's plenty of outlets for that. You want no holds bar, below the headline, Hunter S. Thompson Gonzo-economics? Not alot of place to go for that, but I try at the Big Picture.

2) Steve -- thanks for the link, but what was misleading about my observation that inflation is impacting the reported sales of retailers?

3) I manage assets and run a quant software service for a living. Blogging is something I do on the side -- I started 5 years ago because it was fun and relaxing and gave me a productive outlet. So far, I have not monetized the blog. That will likely change eventually.

4) Ironically, the online software service we sell is quantitative in nature. No opinions, no subjectivity, no blah blah blah. Not exactly sure how the blog helps that -- there's not even a link to it on TBP -- but thanks for the suggestion, I'll fix that shortly.

5) Mike C. -- If the media did a better job reporting economic data, there's be no need -- or room -- for anyone else to critique and comment.

6) Jeff -- I tend to push back against what I think is the dominant and misleading meme of the day. Its not good or bad news, its misleading commentary and analysis.

Back in 2003, that was excessive bearishness. See this as an example:

Contrary Indicators 2000 – 2003 Bear Market

I'm probably wasting my breath here, but thats the way I see it. Your mileage may vary.


Thanks, Mike.

The problem is that, IMHO, most investors go to the standard sources and therefore lack any balance.

It is fine for you to talk about balance, but you are vastly more skilled than the average person who decides to manage his/her own money.

The key question -- even for someone as expert as you -- is what to do when the spillover from some complex situation affects the entire market.

As usual, you are focused on the key issue.



Mike C

"A good question is why the mainstream media and the new MSM blogs scoop up this stuff. They seem to be more interested in getting controversial opinions than getting facts.

What to do?"

I'm not sure there is anything that can be done. I realize that much of what is on the MSM and many blogs is "info-tainment" designed to attract eyeballs, not serious, balanced analysis. Most of the political shows on MSNBC, CNN, Fox follow the same formula.

I'm surprised that you have investors who spend alot of time on blog sites. My client base is very small presently, but all of them spend ZERO time reading and researching investments. They have NO interest in it. That's what they pay me for. I try to communicate to them proactively, and so far have delivered extremely strong results relative to the broad market.

Frankly, I'd be somewhat annoyed if they spent considerable time on "research" second-guessing my decisions. If that were the case, I'd encourage them to manage some portion of their money completely on their own, and if after a couple of years they've done better then me, they should take it all over, but I would STRESS that it takes away from my research and analysis to be continually responding to issues and concerns they develop from their own reading and "research".

I think the burden of "seeking balance" lies on the individual investor and not the blogger. The main reason I regularly read this blog is in the interest of getting a different perspective on issues regardless of whether I ultimately agree or disagree.


I am thinking of conducting a contest. The prize would go to the reader who could find the last time when Barry saw a government report that was more bullish than it appeared to be on the surface.

I usually do not read the comments, but occasionally drop by to offer a suggestion.

Barry does a good job, in general, of responding to comments and occasionally corrects something. He is a bulldog at holding to positions, however.

I have a problem on this site where he was completely mistaken in interpreting a table. I pointed it out, explaining quite carefully. So did some other readers. He informed me on RealMoney that I had misread the table. Indeed! I doubt it! Few bothered to look at it or really care whether he was right or not.

Frankly, I would prefer honest and forthright discussions, more like what the real economists do.

A good question is why the mainstream media and the new MSM blogs scoop up this stuff. They seem to be more interested in getting controversial opinions than getting facts.

What to do?

I appreciate your comment.



RB -

My view on Iraq and negativity was that business held back in the days before the launch of the war. Why take a chance? It was pretty obvious if you watched it. I do not think that the ongoing Iraq conflict is the cause of continuing negativity. It is a result of a multi-year (and mistaken) underestimate of the strength of the economy.

I don't think that Vietnam had a negative effect on the immediate economic prospects. The debt was paid later.

An interesting question.




Brig -

Barry is, quite obviously, a good businessman. It is very difficult to sell research services. Your clients use it at their discretion, take credit for what works, and blame you for failures! We have seen it many times.

Barry has found an audience for his message. In the current Internet climate, high traffic is interpreted as strength. He uses many techniques that build traffic.

This is all good business. He treats his audience well and monetizes the traffic.

I congratulate him on his business model and his success.

It just happens that some of my investors spend too much time on his site, without realizing what is going on. It is aggravated by the comments. It takes great strength to maintain conviction in the face of such social opposition.

Good point, Brig. And I get it.



How many page hits does Barry get? How many do you do? You can see what balanced reporting gets you.

Barry's got product to move and he knows how to draw people in.


In the past you have written that the Iraq war has led to a negativity bubble. I know Krugman is a polarizing chap, so without getting into his political views, I'd be interested to know your take on this post of his:


Did you catch Barry's misleading article on retail sales?

Didn't even bother to correct it despite being corrected several times in the comments.

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