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SA Eli Hoffmann
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I am Seeking Alpha's CEO and Editor-in-Chief. My love for the stock markets goes back to when I was a kid. Who else remembers combing through the stock quotes at the back of the business section of your local paper? I joined Seeking Alpha in 2006 and launched Wall Street Breakfast and Market... More
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  • That's half-way to one million!

    Wow! Half-a-million registered users. Quite a milestone. Having been with Seeking Alpha since when we were just a tiny site (my employee number is 10, and my user ID is 6383, and here's my first article), it feels like quite an accomplishment.

    In management meetings we often find ourselves oscillating between a sense of accomplishment at having built what may be the premier online community for sophisticated U.S. investors, and a sense of urgency at how much we believe still needs to be done.

    Our recent tweak to identify extreme stock and ETF research (Investment Views) feels almost like a return to our roots. Feedback, which has been very positive, has helped us understand that while separating out extensive investment research from our broader content is welcomed by the SA community, it's only the first step. We still need to do a much better job of surfacing Investment Views on places other than Quote Pages. We also hope that by highlighting our most valuable content, and giving it longer exposure (Investment Views cycle off the page much slower than the broader stream), that contributors will be motivated to share their best investment research and analysis with our community. We're also thinking about what else we can do to make sure investors trying to conduct intensive stock market research will find on SA a broad range of opinions on a variety of stocks that outflanks the "50 most popular" approach taken on many investment sites.

    One thing I'd appreciate some help thinking about is how to encourage more vibrant comment streams on our Investment Views and Just One Stock articles. We already know that controversial articles, and articles about highly-controversial stocks, generate healthy debate. But we'd love to see more ongoing discussion of solid investment themes, such as this comment stream on this recent article. And more organic community interaction such as optionsgirl's highly-informative post-market quick-chats, like this one. Any ideas?

    Once again, huge kudos to David, the entire SA staff, our contributors, and the half-a-million-strong SA clan!

    Jul 06 11:17 AM | Link | 7 Comments
  • Very Excited About "Investment Views"

    This week on Seeking Alpha we rolled out a simple yet elegant change to the way we package and stream our Content - one that I believe will significantly improve users' experience.

    We spend a lot of time thinking about how we group and tag articles. I believe deeply that navigation should be self-explanatory and drop-dead simple - so that users intuitively know where to go to find what they're looking for, and can instantly spot when something's out of place.

    As a long-time user of internet message boards, one of the things I've always loved is the boards' tendency to distill into a few topic groupings everything board users like to talk about. Somehow, as soon as you come to a board - even as a newbie - you just know where you should go to find what you're looking for.

    I think that, broadly speaking, people who come to read articles on Seeking Alpha fall into two categories:

    1) Those who come to discover new investment ideas or research a stock or ETF in order to make an investment decision.

    2) Those who come to read about the markets and find out what's doing with the stocks in their portfolio.

    Category 2) naturally accounts for the bulk of our content. It also accounts for a fairly high percentage of our traffic.

    That presented us with a conundrum with which we've struggled for quite a while.

    Our name, Seeking Alpha, underscores our core mission: To help investors make smarter investment decisions and realize alpha - high risk-adjusted returns on their portfolio. This has always been our core strength, and to this day is what many users first think of when they think of Seeking Alpha.

    But as our contributor base grew, the number of articles we publish increased, and markets became more macro-driven as a result of the financial turmoil of 2008-09, it became harder for those who came to Seeking Alpha in search of alpha to zero in on the actionable, investment-specific articles they were looking for.

    Still, we don't want to sharply cut the number of articles we publish for a few reasons.

    First, we struggle every day to select articles for publication from among hundreds more that are very good, but not suited for our readership. We try our best to make the right decisions, and I think that mostly we do. But it's a tricky business, and despite our best intentions, there are times when subpar articles make it through our editorial filters, and when superb articles that should have made it through don't. But I'm wary of become overly aggressive with our editorial oversight, which introduces greater potential for errors and could easily result in less overall high-quality content for our readers, which would make no one happy.

    Another reason is that one of the key strengths of our contributor-publishing model is that it gives Seeking Alpha the ability to flesh out the "long tail"; we publish articles every day on stocks and themes that can't be found anywhere else.

    Further, while it's true that our core strength and raison d'etre may be investment-centric articles, serious investors don't only want to read investment ideas. They also enjoy and look forward to reading market news, speculating about the economy, and getting into heated discussions with their online friends.

    Our solution to the conundrum of helping readers find great investment opinion without changing the overall flavor of Seeking Alpha is Investment Views.

    As they sift through hundreds of articles each day, our editors have begun identifying articles that provide rigorous analysis of a stock, ETF or asset class, and are truly helpful for investors looking to make educated, longer-term investment decisions. Those articles are classified "Investment Views," and are separated out from the broader stream of content that appears on our quote pages.

    Here's an example:

    Just today, we published 11 articles about or related to BP plc (NYSE:BP) - a stock that's very much in the news. Of those, all were informative, well-written and interesting. But only one was clearly written with the intent of helping investors make the decision, "Should I invest in BP?" - and only it received the Investment Views tag.

    Our editors have just begun using this new classification. We had a team meeting last week to discuss it, and we're very excited about it - because it feels like a natural way to separate our content into two logical streams. But it's a new process for us too, so please bear with us if we make a few mistakes along the way.

    Surfacing Investment Views separately on quote pages is just the first step toward highlighting this highly-valuable subsection of our content. Over time, I believe we'll come up with many other creative ways to showcase Investment Views.

    I'm very interested to hear your thoughts.

    Tags: SA News
    Jun 14 4:43 PM | Link | 26 Comments
  • China to U.S.: We still need you
    China to trim US treasury holdings, diversify Forex reserves

    China sold off 25.1 billion US dollars worth of U.S. treasury bills in June to bring its holdings to 776.4 billion dollars, according to data released by the U.S. treasury Department Monday. This has gratified people in China, whereas the United States keeps a close eye on the move.

    Judging from the perspective of its people, however, China is in an urgent need to alter its structure imbalance with its Forex reserves, so that the value of reserve assets could be preserved and increased.

    U.S. treasury bonds seem to have the good safety and strong fluidity with a higher interest rate than that of same-term bank deposits, and it is exempt from interest tax. Against this rising mist, the devaluation trend of the US dollar will result in an intangible devaluation of its treasury bonds. Under such circumstances, China’s first large-scale reduction of US treasury debt is, beyond any doubt, within the bounds of reason.

    The reduction of US treasury bonds also shows that China "is seeking to diversity its Forex reserves." Such diversification is, nevertheless, poses a complex topic. To date, the main problem China has been facing has two aspects:

    One aspect is to make a scientific value assessment of Forex structure, so as to maximize the return and minimize the risk and, the other aspect is to train the competent personnel well versed in the international game rules, who have rich managerial experience.

    Behind the reserve diversification, there is a diversification choice on excess value. First, China has to retain a certain proportion of US dollar reserves since the nation should have the basic means to ensure emergency or contingency international payments. Second, China must have a certain amount of gold reserves, a strategic national asset to serve as a strong prop or backing at the critical moment and, third, China must keep a certain proportion of other stable currencies, such as the euro, British pound and Swiss franc, to offer a useful hedge against dollar devaluation.

    Besides, the use of Forex reserve should take the substantial form in kind. Since Forex reserves are not money of fiscal resource, the use of the reserves should be made mainly in external investment and international trade, or to purchase large-scale machinery and electrical equipment and sophisticated technologies and to make strategic asset investment or to join investment holding companies, focusing on high-growth investment opportunities where potential returns will exceed the cost of capital. Such an endeavor, however, has already been foiled repeatedly due to trade barriers and "fire walls" put up by a few Western countries.

    Furthermore, granting loans to other countries, or directly buying real estates and housing and purchasing large-scale commodities. The issue on the table now is to acquire a correct appraisal of diversified channels for foreign exchange reserves and define the Forex mix in a scientific way. To diversify foreign exchange reserves and define their scientific, rational structure is the procedure China has to accomplish, and some new areas for investment need badly to be explored.

    China has had "no ability to make other option" before but to shrink U.S. treasury holdings. Today, it must be recognized that China is still unfamiliar with the international game rules and the nation is only a pupil with regard to the performance of capital. People in China could be entirely unaware of "manipulation" by banking tycoons or financiers. So, China is in an urgent need of ace professionals in the banking sector good at strategic investment and management.

    Forex reserves belong to the national wealth, and it is natural and inevitable that the general public pays high heed to their safety. Therefore, while explaining some suspicions to the public to win their trust, confidence and understanding, the relevant departments should also consider it an issue to pander how to conceal their strategic intention to the maximum.
    Aug 20 7:54 AM | Link | 1 Comment
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