OMAHA, NE: When a man who has amassed the world's second- largest personal fortune by stubbornly sticking to his principles breaks with tradition, people take notice.This was the case last week, when folksy billionaire Warren Buffett (his net worth was recently estimated at $30.5 billion) allowed excerpts from his annual missive to his company's shareholders to be published on Fortune magazine's website. Fortune.com simply stated that a Fortune editor had "suggested to Buffett that he publish" the excerpts in the magazine. Neither Fortune nor Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, offered more details. In years past, the letter had been posted directly to the Berkshire Hathaway website. The unexpected emergence of the letter became instant news throughout the financial press. Indeed, the break with tradition became a news story in its own right. And while Buffett's annual letter always receives coverage, the fact that Fortune had large parts of it on its website seemed to force many in the business press to play catch-up. The added coverage seemed to serve two purposes. First, it allowed Buffett's opinion - especially his diatribe about the dangers of complex financial instruments called derivatives - to be heard by a wide audience. Second, the coverage itself was a testament to the fact that Buffett is still viewed as the preeminent investor in the world. Indeed, as stocks fell on Tuesday, some commentators cited Buffett's negative assessment of the current market as a reason for the sell-off. It was a further demonstration of how Buffett's Wall Street persona has headed in the opposite direction of the markets in recent years. Buffett was never a believer in the "new economy" paradigm, which he dismissed as a mania from the outset. That unpopular stance led some to label him as a guy who didn't get it. Now, he's back to being the so-called "Oracle of Omaha." The frenzy to dissect his every word last week would seem to prove that.