Monday, January 26, 2009

Unhappy Medium



A number of blogs have quit the scene or are scaling back in some way. While I respect their decisions, this blog has no plans to follow them into the abyss just yet.

The Bubblesphere's first challenge was to give a voice to the other half of the housing debate, and the challenge was met with gusto. What we lacked in credibility we made up for with data, logic, and common sense. Now proven correct, we are looked upon as much more than an alternative to the mainstream.

Ironically, a self-reinforcing byproduct of the housing/credit bubble was a boom in newspaper publishing. One suspected, but never directly proven, reason for all the glowing real estate news articles published during the boom was the tsunami of ad dollars that flowed in. (Often in 2005, I remember the Sacramento Bee Sunday real estate section being thicker than the news sections!) Now the MSM is in deep trouble, and blogs are finding themselves at the vanguard, especially those of us that provide primary content. The Fifth Estate suddenly finds itself filling the vacuum left by the collapse of the Fourth.

It remains to be seen if quality news gathering can take place without the organizing force of editors and the credibility of the masthead. It will certainly be much more chaotic, and priorities will shift accordingly. The national debate will shift based on the whims of anonymous experts.

I want to encourage the Bubble Bloggers to keep at it. While it may not feel like it yet, we've inherited an important burden. The nation was founded by the pamphleteer and the newsman, and we are their legacy going forward. The torch is being passed. Can we carry it?

Blog Links

Bakersfield Bubble: Final Post
Bubble Markets Inventory Tracking: What happened to Bubble Market Inventory Tracker?
Sacramento Landing: 3 Years of Sacramento Land(ing) (Not dead yet!)

MSM Links

Tribune Co. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
Seattle P-I workers notified of possible layoffs
Future Bee employee layoffs hinge on economy
Newpaper Death Watch

27 comments :

Rich said...

Thanks!

We out here in blog-reading-land appreciate it.

What bugs me most about BMIT is that there's nothing on the actual blog. You have to find it somewhere else. If OCRenter wants to quit, that's one thing. But at least give us an explanation.

Max said...

He had his reasons, and I respect him a great deal for all the work he's done. Kind of an ignoble end to a great blog, however.

His case is one reason why I remain anonymous. I'm not a rich guy, and I don't work for an organization that has lawyers on staff. There are still a ton of people out there who think free speech is litigable.

patient renter said...

There are still a ton of people out there who think free speech is litigable

Yep. Free speech combined with shedding sometimes unwanted light on freely available/public information is target for litigation. I don't blame OCRenter at all.

Husmanen said...
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Husmanen said...

Thomas Paine is number one on my list, after reading the 'Rights of Man' I was sold.

He was a true visionary and way ahead of his time, his ideas and arguments ring true today.

His life was very difficult after the Revolutionary War though and he died in obscurity.

Maybe it is good to be anonymous.

PS... Ben is on my list too but Thomas is still number one.

Lander said...

Max, thanks for the pep talk.

this blog has no plans to follow them into the abyss just yet.

Glad to hear that. As for my blog, I'm thinking more along the lines of bubble blogger "emeritus" (think Marin RE Bubble blog).

RE: Bakersfield Bubble -- It may have been his last post, but Crispy's absence from CR didn't last very long. Long live Crispy!

RE: BMIT -- It's a shame that the site is inaccessible. There are ways in Blogger to disallow new comments while preserving old ones. I agree with you on the importance of leaving a historical record, even if what was said will be a mere footnote to a footnote.

His case is one reason why I remain anonymous.

No doubt. A lot of angry people out there.

Bryan said...

a mere footnote to a footnote

So like...a 'toenote'?

Max said...

a mere footnote to a footnote

Yeah, it's impossible to know how history will treat this period. I'm sure some writer in the future will do a retrospective.

I'm just thinking that if the crisis is really just beginning, we need to stay on the case. The MSM isn't going to be dependable for the next few years, maybe ever again.

Max said...

"emeritus"

Has a good ring to it. :)

Nooge said...

Max - the reason for BMIT demise was mostly of OC renters making. He had a tendency to be vitriolic in his posting - thus attracting the most "disaffected" blog readers out there - like moths to a flame. A sizeable minority of readers there never had any intention (or perhaps the means) to buy anything anywhere, unless prices fell to some absurd level (i.e. 90% off in beach communities)...

Blogs are filled with permabears, permabulls, and contrarians. OC looked and wrote like a permabull (oh belive me - this thing is NO WHERE NEAR OVER!!!) when in fact he was a contrarian. He decided there was enough fear and desparation in the selling public such that it was time to buy.

The permabears on his site could not accept this. They felt betrayed - almost as if their leader into the land of 90% off in beach communities had abandoned them. It was at that point that the snarking started - the permabears realized their emperor had no clothes.

I dont see this happening to you. You are quite moderate in your posting - you dont lock yourself into an untenable position (beach communities will fall to XYZ levels). You are willing to admit your mistakes (i.e. looking back on 2008 predictions, and being very honest on what you got right and what you didnt).

You attract a much more moderate audience. As such, your blog has the staying power to go the distance - you can dictate your own terms on when to stay or go. In any event, keep up the good work. I may not always agree with you, but I certainly respect your reasoned, thoughtful opinions.

Nooge said...

Incidentally, want to know who I think will also suffer a very unglorious demise? Mr. Mortgage.

Guy got famous with his implode o meter a long time ago, plenty of eyes brings in plenty of dollars - and he was giving his audience exactly what it wanted to hear.

I was a true believer in him til say mid this year. Suddenly, single data points of good news would come out, yet somehow, he always turned this into a sign of even further and deeper doom. Thats when I realized the guy is a true partisan. I think he knows if he posts on POSSIBLE signs of improvement, he may lose readers - gotta keep those ad dollars rolling in ya know!

The other big problem he has is that while his posts may be accurate for CA, FL, AZ, etc. they have little bearing on the rest of the US. He really doesnt distinguish between the "bubble markets" and the "recession markets". I am sure there are readers in far flung places like Wichita Kansas who are convinced there is an apocalyptic tsunami of ALT A loans just waiting to be unleashed on prized Wichita neighborhoods, driving them down to prices not seen since the dust bowl. When that doesnt happen, you can expect to see his audience turn on him. I dont see this ending well for him either.

Max said...

Thanks for the props, Nooge. I come from a scientific background, and unlike Taleb, I believe you can never have enough data. :) Opinions are a dime a dozen, but data is everything.

That being said, there was so much spin being thrown at us in 2005, you needed Housing Panic and BMIT-level snark for an antidote. Now the Bubblesphere has come full circle, and nobody really doubts us anymore. Like Iraq, it might be time to declare victory (in the spin/snark war) and move on.

That's why the demise of the media at this time is so tragic. The aftermath of this mess will go undocumented to a great extent, and if the recession lasts another 12 months, there won't be a regional newspaper left in the whole country. Luckily, the bloggers are here to fill the void, and the Bubble Bloggers have the credibility and prominence to have a real impact.

Max said...

unglorious demise? Mr. Mortgage.

Yeah, both he and Mish are talking their book a lot these days. Mr. Mortgage never really appealed to me (too gimmicky), but I still read Mish daily since he seems to be willing to adjust his opinion based on available facts. His anti-Schiff post was pretty harsh, and it would have been more credible if he hadn't used it as a vehicle to promote his own firm.

patient renter said...

His anti-Schiff post was pretty harsh, and it would have been more credible if he hadn't used it as a vehicle to promote his own firm.

Yea he does that from time to time, but it was somewhat fair game given the context of the post (the performance of Schiff's portfolio).

Nooge said...

"Max said.

That being said, there was so much spin being thrown at us in 2005, you needed Housing Panic and BMIT-level snark for an antidote."

Very true. The thing I like about HP was the way he went out. Saying, the blog was here to warn but now that thats done, we can say mission accomplished and move on.

Love too how he basicly said FU to all the permabears when he opened his new site - soot and ashes - a true contrarian.

Im probably not as harsh on Mish as you are Max. I saw that anti shiff piece too. It was very good, but a bit too much "talking points" like you said.

The other one I have a beef with is Patrick (its always a terrible time to buy) dot net. He has great articles, but have you ever seen his "myths about buying"?

MYTH - my wife will divorce me if I do not buy a house

FACT - WRONG your wife will divorce you if you do buy and go bankrupt.

Come on, what is that? I can see it, years from now, when the downturn is clearly over and prices are inching back up. I can almost assure you he will be there screaming knifecatcher and dead cat bounce for the rest of eternity!

Rant off now...

Buying Time said...

I have to admit, I have been feeling increasingly uncomfortable on the housing blogs. In the comments people seem almost gleeful that folks are losing their jobs and that our economy is collapsing under its own weight.

I imagine that many of the moderates (like myself), slowly bow out of the discussion as they finally find a home they can afford. For better or for wosre this natrually leaves those who are most bearish.

Max said...

In the comments people seem almost gleeful that folks are losing their jobs and that our economy is collapsing under its own weight.

Not sharing the glee, but I understand the frustration. It's no fun being outbid for a house by people willing to take on crazier debt loads than you, then watch the government try and bail them out when things go bad. The sense of entitlement just blows me away sometimes.

That being said, I'm optimistic about my family's future. We've always been able to get by, and I do believe there will be a reckoning for those that took part. That's all I need to sustain me most days. That, and a nice cup of coffee. :)

Anonymous said...

where is permabear defamatory jane to chime in with some sarcastic comment?

Max said...

dj is over on cr complaining about bs. Duh!

patient renter said...
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patient renter said...

In the comments people seem almost gleeful that folks are losing their jobs and that our economy is collapsing under its own weight.

I'm not seeing that. There's no reason why anyone would be happy about job losses since not too many people are truly safe.

But as for the economy collapsing, or whatever you want to call it, there's an aspect to this that we should be happy about. Even though it's painful, it's better to liquidate bad debt and bad investments now rather than later. Unfortunately that means job losses and collateral damage, but again, better now than later.

Deflationary Jane said...

BS Max really? Bear Sterns?

Permabear? Not really. I think things will get better, just not for a while. The next 2 to 3 years will be bad and we won't come back to the 2003-2005 excesses but it had to happen. Distopian futures? nahhhh. The sun continues to come up, people get married and have children, and life goes on.

And I never cheer job losses, except maybe for folks like Thain. I did hear that Bush's U.S. attorneys appointees have been replaced and they, in turn, are having a hard time finding new positions. That I find interesting.

Max said...

BS = Being Special. :)

Deflationary Jane said...

LOLOLOL nice save!
You will do well being married >; )

Max said...

She knows all my tricks by now, yet I still keep putting my foot in my mouth. Maybe I should invest in flowers and chocolates....

Deflationary Jane said...

Lilies. rose are passe'.

That said, i just watched the itulip video on the national debt. That after reading the Jim Rogers article on stealth wealth, and David A. Rosenberg (North American Economis for ML) on being in a depression **gulp**

Anonymous said...

"eflationary Jane said...

That said, i just watched the itulip video on the national debt. That after reading the Jim Rogers article on stealth wealth, and David A. Rosenberg (North American Economis for ML) on being in a depression **gulp**"

Just remember this, I heard that after WWII, brittian emerged in hock to the tune of 150% of their GDP. A trully staggering amount, which we wont even come close to sniffing - ever.

We do need to be worried about the debt, but Brittian is still here - they worked it off - we can too.