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
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 (email@example.com)
Associate producer: Steve Broido (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hosts: Tom and David Gardner.