The tally from yesterday's poll is in. The Nightly News is busy projecting winners. Here are the results as of 10:15 a.m. this morning.
Has the Rule Maker Portfolio been helpful to you?
71% (890 Votes) -- Thoroughly yep, and I've enjoyed it.
25% (316 Votes) -- Often enough that I check in on occasion.
4% (46 Votes) -- Not really, no -- but thanks for trying.
0% (6 Votes) -- Never -- you all are an obstacle to success.
More than 1,200 of you voted and 96% of you find our daily work here helpful and productive. I'm encouraged by that. But I'm not complacent. I'd rather have more than 90% of you in the first category (rather than just 71%).
We can be more relevant to the challenges you face as an investor. Are you wondering about the valuation of Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO)? Have you been struggling with when to sell? Is proper portfolio allocation tough to get a handle on? Are you looking for up-and-coming Rule Makers? We need to learn more about you; we need to provide knowledge that you need.
But we also need to learn from you. And that's the subject of today's report.
Over the next year, you'll encounter an increasing number of references -- here and in the popular press -- to our new service, Soapbox.com. Soapbox.com is a platform upon which you can be rewarded for sharing your knowledge and from which you can purchase insights from other Foolish investors.
You may be asking, "My knowledge is valuable?"
Here are a few examples.
Back in June of 1998, you may have advocated and voted for Cisco Systems to be added to this portfolio. You were then smarter than the founder of this portfolio -- me. Since then, Cisco is up 236%. It is the best-performing investment in our portfolio. We've made more than $5,800 on Cisco. And it's my money. I've made $5,800 from your contribution. Hey, thanks! Come on over for dinner!
That knowledge you shared was very valuable. It was worth buying.
And how about all of the Rule Maker Rankings you've completed? Since April of 1999, you've run over 230 ratings on more than 100 companies. You've helped distinguish the merits of Microsoft, Amgen, Oracle, Adobe, and Yahoo! (Rule Makers) from the demerits of Circuit City, Maytag, CompUSA, and 3Com (Rule Fakers). This is very valuable knowledge.
(Judging from the chance conversations I've had with investors struggling on margin and the market-underperforming traders of ticker symbols over the past month, I'd say Rule Maker thinking and research is very valuable to the market at large.)
In fact, I know of no better confirmation of your expertise than the story of the birth of The Motley Fool. When David and I started the company, we had no formal training in finance. We were English majors in college. And I'll speak for Dave (and me). We excelled at playing board games, computer games, and throwing a Nerf football more than we excelled at writing school reports on Beowulf (a third time -- ugh!) and memorizing dates (in 1066, William the Conqueror, blah blah blah).
So with no financial credentials, how could we have known then that we'd write four best-sellers, of which one was voted by the 700,000 club members of the National Association of Investors Corporation (NAIC) to be the most useful investment book available? The more than one million copies of our books in print have generated over $2 million in royalty payments. And that money has been the catalyst to hiring more than 350 employees today; it has provided some of the fuel that keeps the lights on at Fool.com.
I don't mean to sound self-aggrandizing. On the contrary, actually, I think the audience at Fool.com can do much better than we have. Our books were pretty good. Your work can be better, of broader reach, of far greater value.
In fact, that's already proving out today.
When Greg Carlin (ElricSeven) kicked off Soapbox.com last month, he sold more than 1,000 copies of a report evaluating the pipelines in the world of biotechnology (an industry that I think will drive unparalleled commercial success over the next quarter century). From that, he made more than $12,000 -- money which I suspect he is now investing for the long haul. Furthermore, I think he contributed far more than $12,000 of value to his audience.
And I think his early success is just a droplet in a bucket the size of Philadelphia.
Soapbox.com will lay the launching pad for best-selling authors and teachers of business, personal finance, and investing insights... and more.
I believe that what lies ahead is an opportunity for you to be rewarded for sharing your expertise with the world. What is relevant to the two million people visiting Fool.com and the two billion people not yet here? Everything from getting out of credit-card debt to setting monthly budgets, from getting kids to start investing to planning for retirement, from buying a car inexpensively to getting the right mortgage, from researching mechanical investment approaches to locating Rule Maker stocks, from understanding the commercial revolution in biotechnology to evaluating shake-ups in the world of telecommunication, from explaining Phone.com's business to detailing the future of JDS Uniphase... to helping people stay away from Donald Trump's public companies!
And, obviously, so much more.
You've put Cisco in this portfolio. You've raised questions about our allocation strategy. You've refined our methods of evaluation. I think most, if not all, of you have knowledge to share. You can learn about how to do that at Soapbox.com. You can apply to be an author there. And whether you want to be a buyer or seller of information, you can subscribe to the free newsletter on the service, Soap. Last week's issue includes an interview with FoolJay, a Soapbox.com author writing about streaming media.
I'll close again with a poll.
Do you think you have knowledge that others would pay for and that would provide them with value in excess of the cost?
- Yep, my ideas are valuable. I can help others.
- Nope, I'm just learning all this stuff.
- Not sure, I have to think about that.
Click here and let us know what you think.
Tom Gardner, Fool