It's possible that, too often, the focus of "Moneybox" is somewhat cynical. So this time, in the wake of another lousy trading session, I would like to point out something that I like--although I admit that I like it because it is somewhat cynical.
That something is a Web site called BubbleEconomy.com, which describes itself as "a one-stop resource for the big Bubble stories of the day--those mergers, or announcements, or exposés that exemplify and amplify the roar of the Twenty First Century economy." It's nothing fancy or elaborate, but essentially a souped-up collection of (sometimes opinionated) story summations and links to various other press sources--and just to head off charges of logrolling, I'll admit that a couple of the links have been to Moneybox columns--plus such recurring features as the "Worthless Press Release of the Day."
Like much of what is good on the Web, BubbleEconomy.com is not backed by millions in venture capital, but rather is the labor of love of one person, in this case a journalist named Thomas Goetz. Goetz is an editor for the Industry Standard, although his site is strictly a side project, not affiliated with the Standard in any way. I don't know Goetz, although I have a passing familiarity with his pre-Standard work as a writer for the Village Voice and then the Wall Street Journal. There is a possibility that we've met, but after careful reflection, neither of us is sure. Anyway, I think BubbleEconomy.com is a very fine thing, and I wanted to ask Goetz a few questions about it, which he helpfully answered via e-mail.
Q: When did BubbleEconomy.com debut?
A: The first installment was right about March 20, at the peak of the Nasdaq bubble. I could try to argue that I caused or at least predicted the pop, but considering I'm barely getting 100 hits a day, I doubt it.
The idea came from a conversation with another Wall Street Journal refugee about whether our new jobs were, in fact, symptoms of a bubble economy. After finding the "bubbleeconomy" domain free for the taking, I only had to find something to put there. Lacking any original ideas, I stole them: I yoke and link stories like Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, the color scheme is ripped off from TheStreet.com. Only the attitude is mine.
Q: What's been the high point in terms of the attention the site has received?
A: New York magazine e-mailed me, but then the markets crashed, and I guess I didn't look like such a wiseacre to them. Otherwise, like all Web novices, I'm obsessed with my site stats. For some reason, BubbleEconomy is a hit at Midwestern law firms and overseas military bases.
Q: Do you hope to use BubbleEconomy.com as a vehicle for actually participating in the bubble economy? What's your growth strategy? Have you sought financing? Do you have branding campaign in the works? How big do you think the site could get, in terms of valuation and overall influence on society? Might it, for example, change everything?
A: Here's the rub: Since the whole point of BubbleEconomy is to underline the notion that the new economy is overinflated--with the shining examples being excessive valuations and uninformed investments--it'd be hypocritical or at least heartily hubristic to seek financing myself. After all, BubbleEconomy has all the hallmarks of a bad business: It's a content site, it's got a small audience likely to be skeptical of capitalism, and its sole purpose is to emphasize this economy's short shelf life. In other words, once the economy tanks for real, there's no use for BubbleEconomy.com, because I'll have nothing to point a finger at.
So I'm stuck: I need a rosy economy in order for BubbleEconomy to exist, but if I'm right and the economy pops, then BubbleEconomy is obsolete. If I had time for existentialism, it'd be great material for 3 a.m. angst.
Still, I'm not giving up. I advertise on Jim Ledbetter's Newyorkpress.net (a fine guide to the New York media with no association whatsoever with a local alternative paper with a similar name), and I'm not going to turn down any financing, though interested investors are forewarned that their money will go toward, say, a weekend home in Bucks County and will be reported on BubbleEconomy as prime proof of how, yes indeed, the bubble is alive and well.
Q: One effect of the frenzy surrounding the bubble economy is that there are too many business reporters chasing too few truly interesting stories. Would you say this installment of Moneybox is a good example of that problem?
A: My take is different than that: There are too many business reporters chasing the same stories, while the truly interesting stories are left undone. Business journalism is more competitive than ever, but rather than try to break new ground, everyone's trying to get the next scrap of crap from Microsoft or the next "strategic partnership" or "marketing agreement" from Yahoo! or IBM or Cisco. I'm amazed at how little actual reporting there is out there, people willing to spurn PR departments and break news, investigate leads, piss off executive offices. Business journalism has gotten most boring at the very moment when it has the most opportunity.
Where are the Upton Sinclairs of the Internet Economy? Where is good old-fashioned yellow journalism? I'm being preachy and pious, but I'm really just selfish: I need these stories to stock BubbleEconomy.com.