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SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
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I am Seeking Alpha's VP Content and Editor in Chief. Working closely with CEO David Jackson, I oversee all SA Content initiatives. I designed Seeking Alpha's Wall Street Breakfast and Market Currents news products, and contribute to them from time to time. I have followed the stock markets for... More
  • Very Excited About "Investment Views" 26 comments
    Jun 14, 2010 4:43 PM

    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.

    Themes: SA News
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Comments (26)
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  • harringd
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
     
    It woul be very helpful if you could adapt the technology of your platform to provide a more user friendly mobile device experience (iPhone,Blackberry, etc.)

     

    thanks for great content
    14 Jun 2010, 05:27 PM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Something we hope to address in the near future. Thanks.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:43 AM Reply Like
  • Kamil Kolacek
    , contributor
    Comments (973) | Send Message
     
    Yes, I second the notion by harringd. An free iPhone app would very useful.

     

    Thanks guys, keep up the good work. I get a lot of great investment ideas and overall macro themes from SA, it is my most trusted source for market info on the web. Thanks again.
    14 Jun 2010, 06:17 PM Reply Like
  • Derek A. Barrett
    , contributor
    Comments (3534) | Send Message
     
    For those of you looking for a good Blackberry way to read Seeking Alpha, try Viigo. It's actually how I discovered Seeking Alpha and is a really good reader for Blackberry.
    14 Jun 2010, 07:34 PM Reply Like
  • Paul Zimbardo
    , contributor
    Comments (576) | Send Message
     
    I agree about the iPhone app. These changes sound great but mobile sites need to be a priority.
    14 Jun 2010, 11:25 PM Reply Like
  • Dan Plettner
    , contributor
    Comments (316) | Send Message
     
    Excellent Idea, SA. Intensive Research requires not only talent but an extraordinary time commitment. Intensive contributions deserve to be classified accordingly.
    15 Jun 2010, 12:19 AM Reply Like
  • Hillsfar
    , contributor
    Comments (205) | Send Message
     
    Thank you. I like both macro and micro (srock ETF, bond, sector) coverage so this is great. I agree and look forward to more Investment Views!
    15 Jun 2010, 02:56 AM Reply Like
  • Old Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (5726) | Send Message
     
    A great idea that I'm certain will be met with a favorable response by the readership.
    15 Jun 2010, 03:03 AM Reply Like
  • Paul Hanly
    , contributor
    Comments (840) | Send Message
     
    I would greatly appreciate links from the Global Markets page to more individual countries, particularly those with English as the main commercial language.

     

    As an example there is no link for articles on Australia. Australia is a major commodity exporter, has one of the most traded currencies and is in the G20. Even if links can't be done to most countries, links to the G20 countries would seem worthwhile.

     

    I eventually found:
    seekingalpha.com/tag/a...
    and
    seekingalpha.com/insta...
    but it was months before I found them.

     

    I think your new idea is a good one. Sorry about taking this opportunity to promote the country/G20 links idea but I had no response to my email about it.
    15 Jun 2010, 05:42 AM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Not at all Explorer. I'm sorry you didn't receive a response to your email - to whom was it sent? (Probably me.)

     

    I agree that we need to come up with a better system for surfacing content on global investment opportunities.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:45 AM Reply Like
  • ray b
    , contributor
    Comments (205) | Send Message
     
    I think the subscribers would be better served if you relaxed your new found higher standards for articles on companies that are not covered much. Peter Lynch is not going to write an article on City Telecom (CTEL).
    15 Jun 2010, 07:16 AM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Very interesting thought, ray b. It's not something I had considered, but I can really see the case for relaxing the standard to flesh out the "long tail" of stocks it's almost impossible to find good articles about anywhere else.

     

    OTOH, it's also fair to assume that our overall content stream on CTEL to use your example is fairly thin, which make finding any new articles about it relatively easy to find.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:31 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Plettner
    , contributor
    Comments (316) | Send Message
     
    No doubt there is a need for merited contributions on under-followed securities where markets display enormouse inefficiencies in the short term. However, there would also be great hazzards to reduced standards. Take a peak at what happened in Orient Paper (ONP) around July 1 when a portrayal (certainly not of our desirable Seeking Alpha standards) was, to be kind, quite unobjective.

     

    It would appear the security recovered based on a lack of merit in the portrayal. But if your name was associated with prolifigating such content, it would not.

     

    As a Seeking Alpha contributor, the ongoing nature of SA's high standards are needed to attract me. Those of us who do the work, and maintain objectivity while contributing merited observations do not want the platform to purport contributions of a lessor standard.

     

    Its the same principle as "Bad Money drives away good Money". A platform such as Seeking Alpha maintains only the standards of its lowest common denominator. Let's keep those standards very high.

     

    Respectfully Yours
    Dan Plettner
    5 Jul 2010, 11:48 AM Reply Like
  • Paul Hanly
    , contributor
    Comments (840) | Send Message
     
    CTEL page shows instablog posts on CTEL which I assume are not subject to the "quality" guidelines and so it appears to me that the CTEL page will pick up any properly tagged instablog post on CTEL.
    15 Jun 2010, 08:53 AM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » That's correct Explorer - while "Articles" are editorially chosen, monitored and tagged, Instablogs are not. Any article tagged X will appear on that stock's Quote Page in the Instablog module.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:33 AM Reply Like
  • William L. Florida, CFA
    , contributor
    Comments (33) | Send Message
     
    You guys do a great job. There is nothing like Seeking Alpha, as far as I am aware. This effort you are making looks like a further improvement. Keep going!
    15 Jun 2010, 09:23 AM Reply Like
  • kaik2
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
     
    Investment Views is a solid improvement to your already great business model. Keep up the good work looking for ways to improve your service.
    15 Jun 2010, 09:40 AM Reply Like
  • WIJG
    , contributor
    Comments (11) | Send Message
     
    Great idea & good timing...
    16 Jun 2010, 01:59 AM Reply Like
  • tripleblack
    , contributor
    Comments (13589) | Send Message
     
    Investment Views! Perfect, excellent priority-thinking, and reflecting the high calibre of work we have all become accustomed to seeing here.

     

    Perhaps there is a way to use this concept organically, creating a layered experience via aging of the work and the grading process?

     

    Awesome concept, cudos to those who conceived it and made it happen.
    28 Jun 2010, 06:11 PM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » "Perhaps there is a way to use this concept organically, creating a layered experience via aging of the work and the grading process?"

     

    Could you explain what you mean?
    2 Jul 2010, 05:01 AM Reply Like
  • tripleblack
    , contributor
    Comments (13589) | Send Message
     
    As time goes on and a library of Investment View articles accumulates, perhaps their visibility to those executing searches (perhaps a unique qualifier limiting the search to ONLY the Investment Views?) would be tailored to some scoring system (whatever methodology is used to initially identify them, for instance, might generate a numeric value of the relative strength of their "investment" content). I suppose what I am (very poorly) trying to propose would be a return to the original concept of the various search engines, ie, that they evolve to become more and more responsive to the clear (or even inchoate) queries of the user, rather than the highest bidder results we now see from the likes of Google.

     

    It would be great if a search would not only turn up the usual great information we find on SA, but that its internal methodology would use the hard work which went into determining the "investmentness" of the article to determine where if falls on the response page list. Most recent is a valid factor, but that elusive qualitative determination would set the process apart.

     

    I'm sure this has occurred to you folks, but Investment View is "IV" for short. The visual links to what happens in a hospital emergency room with IV (intraveinous) lines is one of the first things that popped into my mind. We may be able to use this new IV to mainline essential data right into our research!
    4 Jul 2010, 06:36 PM Reply Like
  • Derek A. Barrett
    , contributor
    Comments (3534) | Send Message
     
    I think the Fool CAPS systems works like that. They take the price of the stock at the time of the pitch, and if the comment is bullish or bearish. Then they track the price of the stock since the comment was made. For example, if Chipotle was 100, and you made a bullish pitch for it, and it climbs to 150, you get 50 points. If it goes down, then you are scored with negative points on your call.

     

    Not sure if that is the direction Seeking Alpha wants to take, but it is one very basic scoring system. The one thing I have noticed with articles, such as "Just One Stock," is that they don't take into account holding period of the stock, so not sure how that could get factored into such a scoring system.

     

    I actually started tracking the Just One Stock holdings in a Folio watch account to rate their performance over time, but have been too lazy to update the latest holdings.
    4 Jul 2010, 06:56 PM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks tripleblack - very thought provoking.

     

    I think you're right - we need to incorporate easy locating of IV articles into our search results. As I write in the Instablog post, we've just begun getting our heads around what we can do with this now that we've begun separating out IV articles. One possibility I've thought of is that while an undifferentiated stream of all our articles on the home page (a throwback to SA circa 2007) is unwieldy, a stream of all IV articles might be very interesting, and would help us to highlight what we believe is core to our mission of helping sophisticated investors to make educated decisions.

     

    I also hope that as Contributors realize the placement and longevity of IV articles vs. regular content, those who are inclined to intensive stock research will find writing such articles a more satisfying experience, and will perhaps ramp up articles geared specifically to this audience.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:27 AM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I'd love to hear more from SA regulars on this. One of the things we stopped short of saying in crafting the requirements for an IV article is that it needs to make a bottom-line recommendation. Unlike some communities which grade articles solely on the outcome of a given pick, I think the SA community is more sophisticated.

     

    To wit, what would SA readers rather read: i) A short guru pick with little underlying explanation - and he gets it right. ii) A strongly researched, well articulated, thought provoking investment thesis - and he gets it wrong.

     

    I know where I stand. Definitely the latter. A single stock pick is at worst coin flip at any time, while an investor who shares his research and thought processes helps me to make more thorough investment decisions.

     

    Hence the complexity in coming up with a useful per-article grading system -- what do you base it on? (I'm also somewhat wary of peer grading, because it often turns into a vote as to whether you agree (i.e. are long the same stock) or disagree (are short the stock), and not if you felt the article was well-articulated and thoroughly researched.
    5 Jul 2010, 01:42 AM Reply Like
  • Paul Hanly
    , contributor
    Comments (840) | Send Message
     
    It would be great if the search box could be told to sort results by date
    28 Jun 2010, 09:42 PM Reply Like
  • SA Editor Eli Hoffmann
    , contributor
    Comments (833) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Explorer,

     

    Totally agree. In the pipeline we have a much-improved search experience which includes the ability to sort by date; see articles only; a separate tab for Market Currents (always sorted by date) and Transcripts; etc.

     

    BTW, has anyone tried the new Market Currents search functionality?
    2 Jul 2010, 05:03 AM Reply Like
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