Guest Post: Are Financial Blogs Trustworthy?

By George Washington of Washington’s Blog.

The talking heads say that financial blogs aren’t trustworthy.

But the whole debate about blogs versus mainstream media is nonsense.

In fact, many of the world’s top PhD economics professors and financial advisors have their own blogs. For example (in no particular order):

And the conclusions of economists who don’t have their own blogs are collected by other bloggers and on YouTube videos. For example, this blog rounds up everything Marc Faber says.

And you’ve got blogs like Zero Hedge that break stories about Goldman and high-frequency trading months before the mainstream media. And insightful commentators like Barry Ritholtz and Mish and many others.

So what is “news”? What the talking heads choose to cover? Or what various leading experts are saying – and oftentimes heatedly debating one against the other – on their blogs?

I would argue that mainstream newspapers haven’t just lost readers because of the Internet as an abstract new medium, but that they lost readers because they became – with some exceptions – nothing but official stenographers for the powers-that-be.  No wonder people have lost all faith in them.

Indeed, as of February, only 5% of the pundits discussing various government bailout plans on cable news shows are real economists. Why not hear what real economists and financial experts say?

To the extent that blogs offer actual news and the mainstream media does not, the latter will continue to lose eyeballs and ad revenues to the former.

Of course, many financial blogs are not very good.  The trick is to learn which are trustworthy and accurate.

And this is not to imply that all mainstream commentators are short on facts. Some are really good.  Once again, the trick is find the good ones.

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  1. chad

    With the Internet and the wealth of information and people it provides access to it’s not hard to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction. An economic blog that’s not trustworthy is quickly outed and ignored. The ones that provide accurate analysis and reporting thrive. QED

  2. DownSouth

    George Washington said: “To the extent that blogs offer actual news and the mainstream media does not, the latter will continue to lose eyeballs and ad revenues to the former.”

    If history serves as any example, there’s more to it than that. Many people also like to participate, to exercise their public freedom.

    After the French Revolution, a great number of clubs and societies–the Sociétés populaires–grew up alongside the municipal bodies of the sections of the Parisian Commune. Hannah Arendt points out that the Revolution “taught the people a first lesson in ‘the notion and taste of public liberty.’ An enormous appetite for debate, for instruction, for mutual enlightenment and exchange of opinion, even if all these were to remain without immediate consequence on those in power, developed in the sections.”

    However, the revolutionary government perceived these as a threat. “Only a few words need to be said about the sad end of these first organs of a republic,” Arendt continues. “They were crushed by the central and centralized government, not because they actually menaced it but because they were indeed, by virtue of their existence, competitors for public power.”

    “The methods employed for their liquidation were…simple and ingenious,” Arendt explains. The ruling party “was to infiltrate and eventually take over the popular societies, to declare that only one parliamentary faction, the Jacobins, was truly revolutionary, that only societies affiliated with them were trustworthy, and that all other societies were ‘bastard societies’.”

    “[W]hen, by fiat from above, the people in the sections were made only to listen to party speeches and to obey,” Arendt concludes, “they simply ceased to show up.”

  3. Aki_Izayoi

    These blogs do provide information…

    However, look at the blog rolls of these blogs make it seem they are a keiretsu.

    Most popular:
    Zero Hedge
    Naked Capitalism
    Credit Writedowns
    The Big Picture
    The Oil Drum (not a finance sight)
    Pragmatic Capitalist
    FT Alphaville

    Less popular:
    Decline and Fall of Western Civilization
    John Quiggin
    Sovereign Specualtor
    Market Folly

    Do most people read these blogs? If so, I suppose if one gets their information from those blogs, it is hard to be contrarian. I suppose most people get their information from those blogs instead of CNBC.

    I do not think the financial blogosphere has much biodiversity.

  4. donna

    I always trust PK to tell us the truth as he sees it and Mankiw to be an idiot, but that’s just my opinion… and I dropped my newspapers because they pissed me off with partisan idiocy, since they are mainly owned by Republicans.

    Give me back the liberal media, at least the actually printed and broadcast news most of the time instead of garbage.

  5. Peter T

    Two rules for reading blogs.
    – Read multiple blogs to avoid following a guru: while reading multiple blogs completely takes obviously too much time, scan headlines and then
    – read careful and follow the argumentation: while I lack information I can detect faulty logic easily – I won’t trust them.
    + if time available, scan the comments and look for individual experience.

  6. Marc

    As with the ascent of anything, it is way too early to tell whether financial blogs are here to stay. Maybe they are just the first stage of a whole new thing. Maybe when the financial crisis fades and their blog traffic slumps the model they are based on will fade away. You can definitely say that a lot of investment is currently going into these sites (ZeroHedge springs to mind) and that does call into question the sustainability.

    But are they a useful complement to the mainstream media? You betcha! I’m sick & tired of reading reuters statements in the newspapers. Without so much as a comma changed, no background, no context. Typewriting monkeys would do a better job at making a decent newspaper, at least there you have a theoretical chance they will randomly type something intelligent.

    Ok, I’m going a bit overboard now, but you get my drift.

  7. Aki_Izayoi

    “Two rules for reading blogs.
    – Read multiple blogs to avoid following a guru: while reading multiple blogs completely takes obviously too much time, scan headlines and then
    – read careful and follow the argumentation: while I lack information I can detect faulty logic easily – I won’t trust them.
    + if time available, scan the comments and look for individual experience.”

    It seems like most people read the same blogs…

  8. Dave Raithel

    Which talking heads? I pinged over to George Washington’s place and did not find the answer. Not that I disagree, generally, with his assessment that the MSM “lost readers because they became – with some exceptions – nothing but official stenographers for the powers-that-be”, but I guess I missed this part of what passes for argument in the MSM. The list presented is limited to what bourgeois thought allows, but hey, I take what I can use from whomever offers, and they are obviously not in agreement on all relevant matters. What the listed all share (and I don’t mean to be smug in saying I check in on about 8 of the list fairly regularly, though here is where I start) is the willingness to lay out the situation and then the implications of various choices, or better yet, the reasons for believing what the implications of various choices would be. To be fair, MSM might not always have the time do that, but again to be fair, MSM wastes a lot of time on drivel and the confabulation of news. We could use more Joe Friday, and less Monty Hall (or whoever today’s analogues might be …). Finance/econ blogs serve that purpose or at least the ones I look at. I don’t bother with much I get from the SeekingAlpha drop, but even there, I find things worth the read.

    Wait, is this all about Ali Velshi?

  9. Moopheus

    “In fact, many of the world’s top PhD economics professors and financial advisors have their own blogs”

    Why should that make them any more trustworthy? One thing that the whole bubble/collapse has made clear (if it hadn’t been already) is that many professional economists and professional financial people have their heads firmly shoved up their own asses.

  10. TraderMark

    I trust my blog

    But then again, I’m biased

    Ironically Zerohedge guest blogged on my site in February 2009. If only I knew what I would spawn ;)

    Mainstream media is very threatened – they still control the tubes, but not the information like before. The problem with blogs is that for every good one there are 10 bad ones, in every field, not just finance. But reading 5 good blogs is generally far more thought provoking than 95% of what you see on the Boooob Tube, or much of print.

  11. Peter T

    > It seems like most people read the same blogs…

    True, and most people read the same national media websites (, or smaller newspapers, which get many of their information from the same few news agencies (Reuters, AP). Blogs helped me to put economic news in perspective, a job that many other media seem to have abandoned in favor of a he-said-she-said mode of quoting the most opposite and easy to get voices.

  12. Hugh

    We have been having an ongoing conversation about blogs vs the MSM in other parts of the blogosphere for some time. A few observations:

    The MSM is a passive experience where a product is delivered to you. In blogreading, you both create and tailor your news product. It is a much more active process. You can both respond to and interact with the different parts of that product and change its makeup as either some blogs change over time or your interests and needs do.

    Blogreading entails critical thinking. It is not a substitute for it. Some blogs are good on certain issues but not others. Among financial blogs, I have noticed that some, like Mish and Denninger, are excellent in certain kinds of economic and financial analysis but go off the rails when it comes to say, free trade and unions. The same could be said about the Oil Drum mentioned above, wonderful on the physical side of energy, kind of clueless when it comes to the market side. Some blogs have communities of commenters whose insights are often better, or add to, those of the original posters. Of course posts often have links which can take you the reader in many directions.

    Nor does reading blogs preclude one from visiting MSM sites. Sometimes I do this to look for breaking news. More often I might check an online source like the New York Times or the Washington Post, not for the facts of a story, but to see what the Conventional Wisdom is and how the politics of it are being spun by the papers themselves.

    And then there are the primary sources themselves: speeches, statements, reports, hearings, court opinions, legal briefs, market prices, and current and historical databases.

    Mixing all these together, you can get and stay informed not just on economic issues but any which interest you. Perhaps this was all an inevitable outgrowth of the internet. Certainly it was accelerated by the MSM which simply failed to keep up with or even to pay attention to the information needs of its reader and viewerships. Cable news chose a bread and circuses, propaganda and infotainment model which has made it mostly useless as an information tool. Corporatization of the media into media conglomerates or where the media outlet is only one division of the larger company has led to a moving away from local, investigative, and indepth reporting. The goals both financial and political of the parent company predominate over those of news consumers. The blogosphere grew up in reaction to this and is increasingly challenging the MSM both in news analysis but also breaking and reporting news. At the same time because of relentless downsizing, the MSM has become dependent on wire services and so no longer does that much original reporting, a criticism it has often leveled at the blogs. Blogs and the MSM do have this in common though: both are searching for a business model that will make it worth their while to do what they are doing.

  13. charcad

    >However, look at the blog rolls of these blogs make it >seem they are a keiretsu…

    Yes, they are. That was very perceptive.

    >I do not think the financial blogosphere has much >biodiversity.

    Certainly not much intellectual diversity within the major Keiretsus. This particular little circle has managed to establish its own blinkered orthodoxies just as rapidly as the declining mass media did decades ago. To take one example, judging from the Group’s average blogroll one would think the American political system is composed exclusively of Democrats and Libertarians.

    Out here in the Real World Libertarians are a decidedly fringe group with almost no political influence. (I’m a registered political independent so save it anyone).

    The syncretistic Peak Oil/Anthropogenic Global Warming cult story is another shibboleth on its way to becoming an article of faith in The Group.

    A third example of GroupThink is the pretense that trade with a state ruled by a one-party dictatorship that manipulates its currency according to Best Mercantilist Practice is somehow “free”. With accompanying panic attacks at the slightest indication of “protectionism” by the victims – ‘scuse me I meant to say trading partners.

    The Free Trade sloganeering is almost unworthy of reply. Just a small crowd busy talking their book, or talking what they copied and pasted from Elsewhere, or talking what they know the following connection wants.

    Nor is this New Media Keiretsu nearly as independent of the Old Media as they’d like you to believe. Many of them spend most of their days trying to get face time with CNBC, MSNBC, the New York Times and other outlets. This Old Media is well-known to be dominated by a small oligarchy with very strict rules on what can and can’t be said. So we can reasonably assume the New Media Blogging Heads will avoid anything that might lead to Ultimate Unperson sanctions from the Old Media oligarchs.

    1. DownSouth


      I don’t strongly disagree with any of the specific examples you enumerate in your criticism of the blogsphere. There’s certainly an element of truth in every one of them. But I don’t see your observation that the human intellect is imperialist as being any great or novel insight. Montaigne was at pains to make the same point over four and a half centuries ago, which Cromwell later phrased so superbly: “By the bowels of Christ, bethink ye that ye may be mistaken.”

      So I hardly share your alarm or your blanket condemnation of the blogsphere. But there again, I’m not on a mission to find some “one true orthodoxy” either.

      The blogsphere is without any doubt more democratic and more ideologically diverse than the MSM. And it in many instances it serves as an important counterweight to the MSM.

      I subscribe more to the philosophies of Montesquieu. His famous insight that even virtue stands in need of limitation and that even an excess of reason is undesirable are conclusions he arrives at in his discussion concerning the nature of power in Espirit des lois.

      Montesquieu’s thinking held great sway over our Founding Fathers and their formulations concerning free speech and separation of powers. We see it, for instance, manifested in “The Statute for Virginia for Religious Freedom” which, after citing the “impious presumption of legislators and rulers” to set up “their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible” and then endeavor “to impose them on others,” concludes

      that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

      The spirit of “The Statute for Virginia for Religious Freedom” was to find its way into our Constitution in the First Admendment:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      So I really don’t see what your beef is, unless it is that you have a problem with free speech, argument and debate.

  14. Skippy


    Yes, profit like water follows the least path of resistance to combine in larger rivers, pools, oceans, relentless in its objective.

    As long as profit is the only way to accomplish deeds, it shall be so.

    Skippy…staying free range.

  15. Morgan

    George W,
    I have never commented on this blog before because strangely enough I rarely read it.
    Ironically, of all the Naked Cap blog roll, you are the one I read most often.
    I’m having big doubts about the wisdom of this after reading your comments.
    I particularly disagree with your assumption implying your list of economists either

    a. predicted
    b. have solutions
    c are conducting a reasonable dialogue

    about any part of this economic mess.
    This leads me to the unhappy conclusion that you believe there can be no other possible valid conversation about these issues. The universities of this country are full of free thinkers who can’t conceive of anyone who disagrees with them. If the mainstream blogs proceed on that assumption they will revert to obscurity before they know it.

    1. George Washington


      Thanks for your comment. I am NOT necessary endorsing the list of economists. Indeed, I intentionally cite economists from across the spectrum. For example, Paul Krugman is a Keynesian. Frank Shostak is an Austrian school economist. Michael Hudson and Michel Chossudovsky don’t really fall into any category, and focus on fairness, equality and against imperialism.

      1. George Washington


        Indeed, some of the economists on the list HATE other economists on the list!

        My whole point is that you can often more directly hear what different types of economists and financial experts are saying by reading what they write on their blogs than getting it all filtered through the mainstream financial media.

  16. Ina Pickle

    I have not watched US television in years. I don’t like it, and don’t have time. I watch Deutsche Welle and the BBC on the computer — they still ACTUALLY have news. I listen to NPR in the car. Some Univision for Latin America, because DW is more African oriented and BBC likes Asian news on the international reports.

    I read FT and the Economist (we take the local daily, which is a national paper, but I mainly flip through it to the sudoku, coupons, and public announcements). The rest of it, if they accidentally say something worth reading or hearing, it will be aggregated for me somewhere.

    I do read a wide variety of blogs, with some of which I vociferously disagree. Good arguments for all viewpoints are useful to me. The key is to keep it broad and keep your brain engaged.

  17. Rhea

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  18. charcad

    I have not watched US television in years. I don’t like it, and don’t have time. I watch Deutsche Welle and the BBC on the computer — they still ACTUALLY have news.

    I don’t watch US origin tv news either. The exception is when I want to find out what a tiny cabal centered in NYC wants the American public to think.

    The American “news” media, broadcast and print, is a laughing stock outside the Anglosphere. It has all the diversity of generic vanilla ice cream. The homogeneity is at least as great as mid 1980s Soviet period “news”, and it is at least as rigidly censored.

    And this includes the so-called New Media of the heavily promoted American blogs. If the blog or blogger’s url is regularly cited on the Old Media you can trust that their content doesn’t go against the general line. Ditto for high Google placement.

    Proof? Whenever the Old Media covers something with an internet presence that the editorial controllers really oppose, they refuse to provide a URL.

    Try spending serious time overseas. Or better yet, learn a foreign language.

    As someone else noted, the penultimate clown boy in this little blogosphere circus is an entertaining writer named Mish Shedlock. Here we have a newly minted RFA hiding behind an SEC series 65 exam and US copyright laws (while copy pasting 85% of his content) and braying “tough shit free trade” at any manufacturing workers losing jobs, homes and families due to the Chinese dictatorship’s mercantilist trade policies.

    We can also note that Mish’s stance on trade with Beijing is identical to Henry Paulson’s and the rest of the Federal Reserve.

    This is Hypocrisy with a capital “H”.

    Mish is a superb posterchild for the true nature of the New Media Blogosphere. It only looks boldly refreshing and radical when compared to the statist Tass character of American Old Media.

    1. DownSouth


      I’m certainly in agreement with the spirit of your arguments, and I’d love to see someone light a fire under a grossly apathetic US population. But I nevertheless believe you overstate your case, and thus lose credibility. Your assertions just fall too far short of factual reality.

      George Orwell in “Inside the Whale” gave some insights as to how intellectuals arrive at their unfounded views:

      With all its injustices, England is still the land of habeas corpus, and the overwhelming majority of English people have no experience of violence or illegality. If you have grown up in that sort of atmosphere it is not at all easy to imagine what a despotic regime is like. Nearly all the dominant writers of the ‘thirties belonged to the soft-boiled emancipated middle class and were too young to have effective memories of the Great War. To people of that kind such things as purges, secret police, summary executions, imprisonment without trial, etc., etc., etc., are too remote to be terrifying.

      He further elaborates on this theme in “England Your England:”

      An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is “just the same as” or “just as bad as” totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty, and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a certain point. The English electoral system, for instance, is an all but open fraud. In a dozen obvious ways it is gerrymandered in the interest of the monied class. But until some deep change has occurred in the public mind, it cannot become completely corrupt. You do not arrive at the polling booth to find men with revolvers telling you which way to vote, nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery. Even hypocrisy is powerful safeguard. The hanging judge, that evil old man in scarlet robe and horsehair wig, whom nothing short of dynamite will ever teach what century he is living in, but who will at any rate interpret the law according to the books and will in no circumstances take a money bribe, is one of the symbolic figures of England. He is a symbol of the strange mixture of reality and illusion, democracy and privilege, humbug and decency, the subtle network of compromises, by which the nation keeps itself in its familiar shape.

      So I just don’t get it. Where are the censors? Where are the Thought Police? Do you know of anyone in the US who has been disappeared for a Thoughtcrime?

      I live in Mexico, which is certainly not the worst place in the world when it comes to civil rights. But if you think Mexico provides its people with the same sort of protections—right to bail, innocence until proven guilty, the burden of proof being placed on the accuser, right to trial by jury, humane imprisonment, etc.—you’ve got your head screwed on backwards. There are many political prisoners in Mexico being held on trumped-up charges. It is so easy to do here. And there are still a small number of quite believable allegations of people being disappeared.

      Hannah Arendt, in her blunt appraisal of the US political system and all its myriad problems in Crises of the Republic, never makes the kind of accusations you do.

      We should of course all strive for a better polity in the US. And none of what I say should be construed as a belief that the US could not slide into totalitarianism. Constant vigilance by the public is necessary. But for goodness sakes, we’re not there yet, and to act as if we are just robs you of your credibility.

      And despite my incessant and rather heated ideological quarrels with the libertarians, who is it that is now leading the fight to reign in the Fed and trying to save us from this?

      Napolean, with the dogs following him, now mounted on to the raised portion of the floor where Major had previously stood to deliver his speech. He announced that from now on the Sunday-morning Meetings would come to an end. They were unnecessary, he said, and wasted time. In future all questions relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of pigs, presided over by himself. These would meet in private and afterwards communicate their decisions to the others. The animals would still assemble on Sunday mornings to salute the flag, sing “Beasts of England,” and receive their orders for the week; but there would be no more debates.
      –George Orwell, Animal Farm

      So again, where are the dogs?

  19. charcad


    any doubt more democratic

    Of this I have no doubt.

    The last time I was physically in a branch of Sberbank in Russia (this past July) it was possible to open an account denominated in rubles, euros or dollars. Assuming you have the proper documentation, which is no more onerous than that required by the US PATRIOT Act.

    Gold and silver bullion coin displays stood at every teller’s window. Many more brands of Traveler’s Checks were available than just Warren’s AMEX franchise.

    Now go into any BoA or Citibank branch here in the Bastion of Freedom and see what services are offered. Then ask yourself honestly which one is closer operationally to a Soviet period bank.

    So I really don’t see what your beef is, unless it is that you have a problem with free speech, argument and debate.

    If believing this is what you have in the Anglosphere makes you happy, keep on believing. As for myself, I’ve lived for years in Asia and Eastern Europe. No sale. It’s true that sufficiently independent “journalists” can encounter rough sledding in Russia.

    otoh the US, Canada, the UK and Germany all – this minute – hold many prisoners who were taken solely because of what they wrote or said. Period. No physical act.

    Alexis de Toqueville showed more profound insight in his understanding of “democracy” in “Democracy In America”. He never once confused it with “liberty”, “freedom” or “the rule of law”. Tryanny was fully compatible with “democracy” in his view. By his definition the old Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites were fully “democratic”, even though completely totalitarian.

  20. charcad

    Do you know of anyone in the US who has been disappeared for a Thoughtcrime?

    Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf, Bill White, Hal Turner, Simon Shepperd and Stephen Whittle for starters.

    Not one of them was even alleged to have committed a physical act or conspired with anyone to commit a physical act. But according to the State Prosecutors their words were an imminent threat to public safety, even though not a single crime can be traced to what they were jailed for writing.

    Thus justifying being held without bail and even deported without the due process routinely accorded illegal alien capital felons.

    otoh it’s easily shown that many thousands of capital felons committed their crimes after reading the New York Times, the Washington Post or watching ABC/NBC/CBS/MSNBC network news.

    The Goodthinkers among us will claim the first group deserved to be jailed because of the evil character of their thoughts. I won’t engage this, other than to thank you for proving my point. No regime anywhere has ever jailed writers for other than evil thoughts.

  21. Skippy

    Have you studied your misticizam(Croatian)/mysticism of late. I find it, a truly amazing part in the lead up to WWII, just to think that the Tibetan book of the dead would cause so much trouble upon translation…buggers the mind.

    Skippy…Meth + Buddhism + Christianity = Dearth

  22. Skippy

    Hyperborea – Hyperboreans in Nazi Mysticism

    Hyperboreans consistently play a large role in Nazi, neo-Nazi, and proto-Nazi mysticism.

    Miguel Serrano was a Chilean diplomat and major proponent of Esoteric Hitlerism. He believed that Hitler fled to Shambhala, an underground center in Antarctica after World War II (formerly at the North Pole and Tibet), where he was in contact with the Hyperborean gods and from whence he would someday emerge with a fleet of UFOs to lead the forces of light (the Hyperboreans, sometimes associated with Vril) over the forces of darkness (inevitably including, for Serrano, the Jews) in a last battle and inaugurating a Fourth Reich. He also connected the Aryans and their Hyperborean gods to the Sun and the Allies and the Jews to the Moon.

    Julius Evola believed Hyperboreans were Nordic supermen, originating in the north pole. He felt they had a crucial hand in the founding of Atlantis.

    Portions of this article were excerpted from the public domain Lempriere’s Dictionary of 1848.

    Skippy…good grief.

    1. Richard Smith

      Hey Skippy,

      Do you reckon the Antipodeans could take the Hyperboreans in a fight? I think it would be close.

  23. Skippy

    LOL…Meth wars. Well I think the *Brotherhood* / Catch the Fire Ministries, could give them a run for their money.

    Skippy…thanks for the belly slapper, Richard Smith.

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