Simply Stats - Interview with Felix Salmon, Blogging Editor for Reuters
Hello and welcome to Zing Talk, where Benzinga brings you the biggest names and brightest minds from Silicon Valley to New York City.
Today our guest is Felix Salmon, financial journalist and a blogging editor for Reuters. How ya doing today Felix?
Very good, thanks.
Great, glad to hear it. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your role at Reuters?
I'm a finance blogger, I've been doing this for four years now. I link to interesting stuff on the web and add my .02 when it's worth it. I have a lot of fun doing it. Calling me an editor is glorifying me far too much. Curator or aggregator is more accurate.
How did you get involved in the financial media?
Basically I was an unemployable art history graduate in this sort of mini-recession in the UK in the 90s, and the only person foolish enough to give me a job was Euromoney, which I rapidly fond out was involved in the bond market. What a bond was? I didn't know.
What brought you over from the UK?
I felt the center of the universe was in New York City.
And you got involved in a time when the financial media was just beginning to migrate online. That must have been an exciting time. Could you talk a little bit about your role in that?
I moved to NYC in 1997 for a little .com operation called intermoney.com, but the idea was that we would bring financial journalism online. So, yea, I've been writing web-formatted hyperlinked stories since 1997.
You received an award this year for Excellence in Statistical Reporting. Could you talk a little bit about the work you did to earn this award?
I'm not entirely sure what work I did to earn that award. The good people at Columbia University decided to give me this award. The Columbia people know that I've been banging on how a blog should be a blog. I provide a level of skepticism that a lot of journalism don't have the time to provide.
These are a lot of these weird sort of memes that the public believes and gets ahold of. One of them that I am looking into is stocks being good over the long run. Is there any sort of theoretical basis why that should be true? I think there probably is - but I think people are generally unfiscal when they think about these things.
A while ago you got into a fairly publicized debate with Henry Blodget on the nature of blogging about economics and finance. I wanted to talk to you a little about that debate. What exactly set it off?
It was originally set off by the Business Insider, which is his website. He had a story about AIG. It was very boring. And they illustrated it with two hot girls kissing. I was like - what does this have to do with anything?
This very quickly grew into a debate about sensationalism, link trolling, and doing anything for page views. This was a big debate that Henry and I had at the time.
Any lingering hard feelings?
No, no hard feelings at all. I think we both understand what we're doing.
Where do you think the future of financial media is heading? Are major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal going to be replaced with armies of bloggers?
Rupert Murdock is pouring a lot of money into the WSJ. I believe there are actually fewer finance bloggers than there were. You don't get as many independent bloggers as you used to. In short, I think most people will get their financial information from a variety of sources including social media.
Do you think that print is dead?
Print is really expensive. For the time being - it's still pretty lucrative. I think it's more of an example of media bias. They still pay large prices to get on the front page. Luxury goods, glossy magazines - I think they'll be around for a while. But they're finding it hard. And a lot of websites are getting smarter about learning how to sell inventory. I think over the long term, yes, print is dead. It's expensive. Lots of infrastructure, buying the paper, etc.
I have no idea where we're headed. I'm not a forecaster. Anyone who claims to know where we're heading in the long term is deluded. It's hard enough to even know where we're going in the short term.
Looking ahead to the mid-term elections, what are you looking for in a candidate from an economic perspective?
Intellectual honesty is the main thing. People who appreciate that you can't have fiscal tightening without tax hikes. People who appreciate that the way that you tax people is important. So people who will take a serious look at something like cap & trade or a carbon tax, and think that this makes sense from a fiscal perspective and in terms of achieving something globally that we need to achieve. People who are going to be constructive about how to help this very fragile economic recovery that we have to keep on going and gain a little more speed and turn into something more substantial.
The main thing is to be able to have a smart conversation about these things and to be able to vote for things that make sense instead of voting along party lines against whoever is in power.
Where do you get your news and information from? Are there any particular sources you frequent?
Twitter, my RSS reader, email, news comes to me - it's all various types of feed. It works well for me.
Alright, now that we've got the tough ones out of the way, here are a few fun ones. What was your first, and what was your worst job?
My first job was working as an assistant at a waterbeds company in London, which was a very cushy job in more ways than one. The worst job is a tough one, it's either a door to door salesman for mass produced art in New Zealand, or else it was as a freelance management consultant for a life reinsurance company in Missouri.
What do you like to do outside of your work with Reuters?
One of the great things about being a blogger is that it is fun, and I find myself toodling about on the internet and having a great time. I have a bike, I like to get out on the river sometimes – travel, as much as I can.
What is your favorite restaurant you've ever been to?
I would say a pincho bar called Gandarias in San Sebastian, in the Basque country of Spain.
Okay, this last one is Benzinga's trademark question: What was the best, and what was the worst investment decision you've ever made?
The best investment decision I ever made was probably my G4 Quicksilver Mac tower, which I bought over 10 years ago and got me up and running in terms of blogs and the like. The worst investment, there's been so many of those. Fortunately most of those were not financial. I don't know, I always feel like I learn something when I spend a lot of money on something useless.
Thanks Felix. That'll do it for this episode of Zing Talk. Remember to check out the latest market-moving information, commentary and trading ideas on www.benzinga.com.
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