MEDIA ANALYSIS: The Motley Fool - time to cash in

Personal-finance website The Motley Fool has just installed a new editor. Kate Magee asks him how PROs should target the site, and what he has planned.

Rarely do personal finance websites fall into the ‘quirky’ bracket, but The Motley Fool – now under the stewardship of new editor Ed Bowsher – has been entertaining its readers for more than a decade. Its motto is ‘educate, amuse and enrich’.

The brainchild of Americans Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool has been a successful brand since its inception in the early 1990s. It launched in the UK in 1997 and fool.co.uk is now one of the most popular financial websites, with more than 2.5 million members and 500,000 visitors a month. Its articles are used for the Money section of Sky News’s website, and appear on Yahoo! Finance. It has also published a range of books, including three editions of The Motley Fool UK Investment Guide.

While the site was initially focused on investment tips, it has broadened to cover all aspects of personal finance.

From credit to shares
Based in London’s Soho, the UK edit­orial team comprises six permanent staff and an army of freelancers . They write about a range of subjects, including credit cards, loans, mortgages, savings, insurance and utilities, as well as share-dealing and online brokers.

The Motley Fool champions the consumer over institutions. But despite the site being widely praised for demystifying finance and providing accessible, entertaining and engaging information, PRWeek research suggests that relatively few PROs engage with it productively.

Leone Lewis, associate director in Penrose’s consumer finance team, says: ‘Unless we are campaigning specifically on behalf of the consumer, our press releases may not make as much impact as they would with other outlets.’

Meanwhile, WebIT PR senior account manager Holly Young says: ‘The Motley Fool is a good independent and professional site that would be beneficial for our clients, but we haven’t received much coverage on it yet.’

Bowsher, who was promoted from investment writer to his current role, points out that generic press releases about product launches would be unlikely to make an impact, but adds: ‘We are happy to hear about new products, but they need to be innovative. We don’t just report news stories – we want to provide advice and comment.’

The Motley Fool sends out two email circulars: Inside Money – sent to members three times a week, focusing on personal finance – and The Investor, a bi-weekly look at the stock market. The deadlines for Inside Money are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning; and for The Investor are Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

The site also has a subscriber-only (normal membership is free) monthly share-tip sheet called Champion Shares.

There is also a weekly podcast, Money Talk, in which issues such as debt and investment strategies are discussed.

Sonia Redhill, PR manager for the site, advises: ‘We often have expert commentators and industry figures as interview guests. We are always looking for access to key industry figures.’

According to the latest six-monthly Forrester survey, The Motley Fool is the fifth most popular financial site in the UK, which puts it behind thisismoney.com, moneysupermarket.com, confused.com and uSwitch.com – but ahead of Guardian Unlimited Money and FT Your Money.

Bowsher says: ‘I believe there’s no one quite like us, but if you had to twist my arm, thisismoney would be our main competitor for personal finance.’

Andrew Oxlade, editor of thisismoney, responds: ‘There has always been room for the two of us. I wouldn’t say the Fool is expanding rapidly, but it does have a good following.’

Collective knowledge
Bowsher believes it is the website’s vibrant community of ‘Fools’ that sets it apart from rivals. He says: ‘Our community is the main thing that makes us different. It started out as a way for people to discuss their favourite shares and now deals with a range of subjects.’

The boards certainly host an eclectic mix of discussion topics, ranging from worries about being overinsured to ideas on how to cook ginger root.

Mark Hanson, associate director at Lansons Communications, says: ‘The best lesson for PROs is to use the forum to generate opinions. The Motley Fool’s forums are a great way to read and test people’s attitudes, which is a valuable exercise.’

He adds: ‘The best way to work with websites is to create content that helps both parties. Websites definitely provide more “bang for your buck” than a newspaper or magazine. Not only are the results more measurable, but you know how many people have accessed certain pages and your links.’

So, what do the Fool’s journalists want? Bowsher says: ‘I want ideas that haven’t already been done to death, and access to people with interesting personal finance stories. I’m happy to speak to mortgage lenders if they have a new angle on personal finance.’

As to future plans, he reveals: ‘We are looking at producing more podcasts and expanding our property section. Everything is quite fluid at the moment, so PROs should get in touch. I’m open to new contacts.’

The Motley Fool: how to get in touch



Ed BOWSHER
, editor E ebowsher@fool.co.uk T +44 (0) 20 7297 8141

David KUO, head of personal finance, produces podcasts, appears on BBC Radio London breakfast show E davidk@fool.co.uk

Neil FAULKNER, personal finance writer E neilf@fool.co.uk

Alison HUNT, personal finance writer E alisonh@fool.co.uk

Maynard PATON, writer of Champion Shares E maynardp@fool.co.uk

Jane MACK, personal finance writer E janem@fool.co.uk

T
he best approach is to use the general email address, uknews@fool.co.uk, which all the writers have access to, or email/call the editor directly.

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