We do provide some free sample content on EricTyson.com (in addition to selected articles, sign-up for our bi-monthly newsletter in the box at the top of the right-hand side of this page). If you're looking for all of EricTyson.com to be "free," please read on.
Few people realize the enormous conflicts of interest that exist when a small
publishing enterprise (website, local newspapers and magazines) gives away its
content for free and generates its revenue from advertising. This association corrupts and compromises the content and the
objectivity of the content, especially in the consumer and financial advice arena.
Here's an example from a venue most folks might
not think of as corrupted by advertisers - PBS and their publications. While based in California, I was approached by a local PBS affiliate soon after the publication and success of my first book, Personal
Finance For Dummies. They had visions of my doing many things for them in
various mediums but first they wanted me to write for their magazine.
As we discussed topic ideas for articles, it became clear that
they were ultra-sensitive to advertisers. For example, articles critical of auto
leasing were off limits as many large car dealerships took out full page ads in
the magazine promoting leasing deals. (In one issue, they had a generalist staff writer author a glowing piece
about the benefits of leasing and that "article" ran right next to a full-page
glossy ad for leasing high end cars from a local dealer.) I found myself
quite constrained about what I could and could not write.
After a brief
time and disillusioned, I parted company. This was supposedly non-profit PBS and yet they were rife with conflicts. There was
no wall between content and advertising. I more often than not found that to be
the case among "free" newspapers and magazines.
For sure, competition from the online world has brought us
important new outlets and kicked stodgy and inflexible media outfits in the
posterior. However, many folks don't realize how conflicts of interest are
multiplied online, especially at smaller sites where the same personnel oversee content and advertising.
Consider websites devoted to investing. The vast majority of
them develop content about stock picking. Not surprisingly, this creates
the perfect environment for the ubiquitous ads from online brokerage firms. So,
don't expect to see articles explaining the virtues of conservative mutual
funds or index funds and why stock picking is a fool's errand on these
Free financial websites are also generally structured around
content that is rapidly changing and therefore, highly
addictive in nature. Popular financial websites find their heaviest users
coming back numerous times each day - all these user visits produces website ad revenue. And, beware that too closely following and
over monitoring of one's investments leads to bad habits - overtrading, making
emotional decisions based on short-term events, etc.
Advertising creates other conflicts for websites. There are insufficient separations between those who develop
content and oversee advertising on a website. Having the same people overseeing
both often leads to corruption. Even if different people are responsible for
each area, communication, cooperation and influence between the two areas can prove
problematic. Websites are loathe to post negative articles about advertisers and more likely to praise companies posting ads.
Another problem is the merging of editorial and advertising
content into advertorials whereby a company or person pays a fee to a website
for placement of their provided content which is an ad in disguise. This
practice is unethical, especially when it is not clearly and boldly
Now, this doesn't mean that all free websites are bad or lacking in some redeeming content and that
those which ban advertising and work on a subscription basis are the best. But, when it comes to
financial content and advice, you should be generally wary of free sites built
on the advertising model. That's why I constructed EricTyson.com to be an ad
free zone. I wanted readers to know that I have no vested interest whenever I
make a recommendation for a financial product, service or strategy.
Whenever I go to a "free" website, I spend some time
thinking about what the agenda of the site is. I also go to the "about" links on
the site as well as review any disclosures of advertising and affiliates. Affiliates
are companies that provide referral fees and income for business that is
directed their way and create conflicts of interest for websites. A website shouldn't receive affiliate fees when recommending a financial product or service because
accepting such payments creates a major conflict of interest.
So, if you don't accept ads or referral fees - guess what - you must
charge for your content as all publishers do. Our annual fee is modest $18 and we allow a free-look period for folks to make sure that
getting expert personal finance insights and information is for them.
The bottom line is this: Buyer beware surfing the web. There
is no such thing as a free lunch. Over the years, about 99 percent of what I
have learned that has been most useful to me in the financial realm has been
from resources that cost money - books, newsletters, financial publications,
etc. Be attracted to and focus upon "free" stuff at your own peril.
Copyright Eric Tyson, 2008 - 2013 all rights reserved.
Eric Tyson is the only best-selling personal finance author who has an extensive background as an hourly-based financial advisor and who does not accept speaking fees, endorsement deals or fees of any type from companies in the financial services industry or product or service providers recommended in his articles, books and his publications.