MEDIA: Motley Fool on the dial: invested with humor - The Motley Fool shows that radio investing programs don’t have to be analyst-laden bores

In little over a year, the Motley Fool Radio Show has garnered a million-strong audience that has catapulted it among the nationally syndicated ranks of Dr. Laura and Howard Stern.

In little over a year, the Motley Fool Radio Show has garnered a million-strong audience that has catapulted it among the nationally syndicated ranks of Dr. Laura and Howard Stern.

In little over a year, the Motley Fool Radio Show has garnered a

million-strong audience that has catapulted it among the nationally

syndicated ranks of Dr. Laura and Howard Stern.

But the hosts, brothers Tom and David Gardner, don’t discuss

relationship dilemmas or sexual predilections. They focus on something

far more controversial: money. The Motley Fool began life as a

newsletter in 1993, with Kinko’s copy shop acting as its printing press.

Now the company has a Web site at its heart and a range of spin-off

media, including a newspaper column and a book unit.

The radio show airs on around 125 stations and is as different from any

financial program as you could imagine. The Motley Fool name comes from

Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in which only the court jester is allowed

to speak the truth. The company’s ethos is highly critical of the Wall

Street set-up and often takes aim at conventional investing wisdom.

It is more of a popular culture show steeped in the increasingly sexy

world of finance. Guests have included celebrities, such as Elvira,

Weird Al Yankovic and screenwriter Ben Younger, who penned the Ben

Affleck movie Boiler Room. Younger became the first guest to swear on

air (it went out live on some stations and got bleeped on others). All

guests are invited to talk about their smartest and dumbest investments,

whether that be buying a Porsche or a portfolio. Getting celebrities to

talk about their financial lives is something Texas-born producer Mac

Greer is trying hard to expand.

’I’m always focused on bringing in celebrities, but it isn’t always easy

to book these people,’ says Greer, who puts the show together. ’Talking

about money is still more of a taboo than sex.’

The three-hour show, broadcast on Saturdays beginning noon eastern time,

also has its fair share of hot CEOs. Recent guests have included

Yahoo!’s Tim Koogle and eBay’s Margaret Whitman. ’They have an audience

we want to reach,’ says Jennifer Chu, eBay’s PR manager, explaining why

the company agreed to let the team interview Whitman earlier this month.

’They had a long-standing request but we had never managed to get their

schedules in sync until recently.’

But Internet gurus don’t hog all the bandwidth. The show has also

featured segments on biotechnology stocks and more traditional

companies. Greer is currently looking at a piece on how previously safe

investments such as Procter & Gamble have become something of a gamble.

At the same time, the previously risky hi-tech arena is showing high


One recent edition of the Motley Fool Radio Show featured two


Mark Dempsey wrote Robbing You Blind, which asks whether full-service

brokers are serving the investor or themselves. Genome, by Matt Ridley,

looks at the potential benefits of genome research and which companies

are poised to profit. The Web synopses of each week’s show illustrate

the Fool’s trademark sarcasm. ’How much longer before we see a Tom

Gardner mini-me?’ reads the promotional blurb for the genome


Greer has tried hard to produce a completely alternative kind of

business program that marries inside knowledge with outside perspective.

Greer’s background is in TV, which means he brings a fresh outlook to

radio, but he admits to some mistakes along the way. During last year’s

Star Wars frenzy, he booked the actor who played R2D2, but the guest was

not briefed about the subject matter. He went on air sounding confused

about the kind of questions posed.

Greer says the flip side to such experimentation is that the show is

very different. For example, the program has a phone-in element where

callers are told to start by answering the question: ’I’d have more

money if ...’ (’I never played the lottery,’ ’I stopped listening to my


According to Greer, the audience loves the confessional nature of the

show much in the same way they like hearing about other people’s

problems on Dr. Laura.

Greer says the show tends to steer clear of analysts, whom he describes

as mere salesmen. ’They are not held accountable,’ he says. ’We don’t

buy into that. We have millions of experts among our (Web) community.’

There have been exceptions, though. Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget

appeared on the show to explain why he thought Amazon shares would hit

the roof. Greer also doesn’t like giving airtime to guests pushing penny

stocks or giving hot stock tips.

The radio show shares its office space with the Web site, which is

located in Alexandria, VA’s Old Town section. The office is just the

kind of Webified environment you’d expect: a jeans-and-T-shirts dress

code, ping- pong and foosball. But behind the casual work environment -

the staff can take as many sick days or vacation days as it feels

appropriate - is a strong work ethic and some serious money.

The Motley Fool raised dollars 26.5 million in a financing round led by

Maveron, an investment company backed by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz,

who’s been a guest on the show. AOL is also an investor through its

Greenhouse Program.

Despite its criticism of Wall Street customs, the firm looks like it is

readying for an IPO. Its communications team was ramped up in March with

the addition of The Gap’s Jonathan Mudd and PBS’ Carole Feld.

Since the co-founders have become semi-famous themselves, they are often

on the road - and the radio show follows them. The show broadcast from

Silicon Valley in March and, in April, will go on the air from


Greer is already looking for local business angles and may do a piece on

NFL star John Elway’s new Web business.

Greer has done most of the guest booking himself, but now he has help

from associate producer Steve Broido. Both like to be approached by

e-mail. The show’s content is largely set by the week’s business news,

though guests are booked a few weeks in advance. Greer is happy to

record phone interviews so there is no need to trek out to Alexandria.

Suggestions should usually be made before Friday at the latest.

The company motto is ’educate, amuse and enrich.’ Keep that in mind and

your pitches will be well received.


Motley Fool Radio Show

123 North Pitt Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

Tel: (703) 838 3665

Fax: (703) 838 5337


Executive producer: Greg Moceri

Producer: Mac Greer (

Associate producer: Steve Broido (

Hosts: Tom and David Gardner.

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