JUPITER, FL (Nov. 10, 1999) -- When you stop to think about it, do you sometimes get as disenchanted as I do with the way that columns are typically written? Think about it now. What I mean is, the way that a column is almost always written in an "author/audience" tone. The writer of the column is the "author," and he or she knows it. The writer also knows that he or she has an audience that is separate from who they are. So, he or she writes for them in a certain way and with a tone that is meant to encompass essentially everyone. "Here I am. This is my column. Here is my wit. These are my thoughts. Read my thoughts."
However, as soon as the author jumps on a message board to discuss topics, that "author/audience" tone typically all but vanishes. The tone on the message board is usually more personal and less "fabricated" -- less polished, but more real.
When the Fool began in 1994, the portfolio columns were typically far from polished. They were often just quick thoughts shared with whomever would listen. Many times, they were as little as (but as real as) this: "No time for a column today. On the road. Been busy. The portfolio's numbers are below. Looks like we had a good day. We'll try to be here tomorrow. Fool on!"
More than a few times, that was the extent of the column.
As the Fool audience grew, the tone and polish of the Fool columns expanded to serve a larger group of people. Although unspoken, the general belief is that the columns should be more polished now, more presentable, and more "professional." I, however, disagree.
If you write with the intention of serving a large audience, you may write safely polished columns, but you often write without complete candor. Instead, because you have a large audience in mind, you too often try to please or help a majority, so you write generally. If you write with no audience in mind, however, and you simply present your one-sided beliefs, you write selfishly. So, you best write for only one person when you write. If you write for one person (no one person in particular, but one imagined person) you can write most truthfully -- as when answering an e-mail.
Therefore, in the future I hope to write grossly unpolished columns. Columns that don't sound like an author writing to a vast audience, but columns that are written as if writing to a single person. If I can't do this, I'll try something else. Why? Because I have no interest in writing to an audience in a format that somehow implies that I'm on a pedestal and they're out there, listening. The very notion of that will become ludicrous as the Internet becomes more and more interactive.
Columns such as this one will increasingly serve as facilitators. This column will lead you to intelligent posts from a community that shares a knowledge base at least three million times greater than any individual's base of knowledge. This single column alone will look silly against a backdrop of millions of Fools who are sharing thoughts that are then ranked, in manner of importance and relevance, by the community. The Fool's new "recommend this post" feature on its message boards will help you wade through reams of knowledge in order to find the new knowledge, or new thinking, on the boards. With this power at your fingertips, this column will necessarily diminish in importance.
The Fool columns will always serve to share beliefs and theories and philosophy and news (and hopefully, typically, in a new light and with an original slant), but the importance of a single person's thoughts here should always be taken only as that: one person's thoughts. Just as if they were posted on the message board. Now, the more that we can get these columns to sound like interactive message board posts rather than one-way avenues for one person's spotlighted thoughts, the better.
With that, the rest of this column is news, two plugs, an important clarification, and a link to Drip Port. I hope that the plugs (and the link) help you to continue to invest and live Foolishly. That is the only reason they're offered.
Internet Report and eBay
Sound the gong. The most recent issue of the The Motley Fool's Internet Report was issued last night. This edition analyzes the emerging online auction industry and the focus company is eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). This 42-page report begins with 7 pages that cover the largest news in the online world the past two months, with a timeline provided, and then moves to 7 pages that cover the online auction industry. That is followed by a 17 page report on eBay, in which I conclude that this $18 billion company has a good potential to be the Internet's next $100 billion+ company, and I lay out numbers for the next ten years. (Remember, this is just one person's opinion!)
The report then offers 10 pages of analysis and updates on the past two months of news at priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN), Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM), and drugstore.com (Nasdaq: DSCM). These three companies were focus companies in prior issues, and being such, the Fool offers a full update on the companies in every subsequent issue, as it will with eBay now. An annual subscription to this product is a giant, mind-blowing $75.00. (Yes, it is far underpriced compared to Wise research reports, yet of higher quality.) Individual issues are $20. The latest issue on eBay isn't available independently yet, but it will be soon. Here's a link for more information about the product: Internet Report. There is a money back guarantee if you hate it.
Today eBay launched several local auction websites to complement its eBayLA site. The company plans to host 52 local auction sites covering North America.
Amazon Clarification and Credit Cards
On Monday, I quoted outside sources when I wrote that the pending news from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) would "...forever change the competitive landscape of e-commerce." Although I wrote that, Amazon itself had only issued this statement: "Amazon.com to Make Significant Announcement Regarding Its Product Line."
So, I unintentionally committed a disservice to you and to Amazon by quoting the "hyped up" claims of outside sources. Amazon's director of Investor Relations, Russ Grandinetti, wrote me to clarify that Amazon did not state that its news would forever change e-commerce. Although Amazon hopes that all of its initiatives will change e-commerce, Amazon wouldn't be so tactless as to hype itself by saying so. Our company, of course, did make a significant announcement the next day as it added several new product lines. Amazon's site has changed -- looks impressive!
Today the company announced a significant credit card partnership, tacking another revenue stream onto its business model.
The Fool Radio Show
Every weekend David and Tom host the most Foolish radio show on the air. Guests have included Ed McMahon, Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Donald Trump, Elvira, and many more (including Excite@Home's CEO, and drugstore.com's CEO). This weekend's guests include two more Rule Breakers: Harry Beckwith, the author of the Jester-Award-winning Selling the Invisible, and Craig Venter, CEO of the fascinating (and potential Rule Breaking) Celera Genomics (NYSE: CRA). Try to tune in on Saturday!
Today we snubbed Philip Morris (NYSE: MO) yet again. Even with a 7.4% dividend yield, you cannot persuade Drip Port.
What do you think?
Please post your thoughts about tonight's report on our Rule Breaker Strategy board. Alternatively, if you have ideas, analysis, or questions about a particular Rule Breaker company, pull up a chair at the roundtable discussion on our Rule Breaker Companies board.