The strategy remains the same - growth by good articles

August 17, 2011 — 4:01 AM UTC by Brooke Southall


It says something that two weeks ago when RIABiz marked its official second anniversary that there was no article to inform you of the event. We’re not above a little self promotion, but there were simply bigger things going on in the world of registered investment advisors. Last year, we partied. See: Happy [First] Birthday RIABiz.

The news from here in Mill Valley, Calif. – where we are now headquartered after starting off in the living room of my houseboat – is that last month we had more than 27,000 unique visitors and 91,000 page views: That’s up from 14,650 unique visitors and 48,937 page views in July of 2010. We now have 21 advertisers, up from seven at this time last year. In that same time, the RIABiz Directory has grown from 150 listings to 373.

Double trouble

This near doubling of our size has allowed us to approximately double our staff. Lisa Shidler now writes several articles a week, as do I. Nevin Freeman, our chief technology officer is working fulltime as is Frank Noto, our chief of business affairs. Dina Hampton has filled the editing role in the last few months and, when she finishes her book, will write and edit for us on a full-time basis. Steve Garmhausen has become a reader favorite for his Advisor Spotlight series of RIA profiles. Heather Underwood does well-appreciated technology reviews from Colorado. John and Dawn Kodin are bringing their considerable marketing and sales prowess to building our directory from their home in Seattle.

We continue to rely on our guest columnists. The industry owes a particular debt of gratitude to Les Abromovitz of National Compliance Services, Inc. for his timely columns on compliance issues and to Ron Rhoades for his comprehensive coverage of legislative and legal matters. Ron won the Tamar Frankel Fiduciary of the Year award but regular readers know that even with that, he is still underrated.

Another big round of thanks goes out to Timothy Welsh who criss-crosses the United States, covering industry events in a colorful and informative manner. Marie Swift has also puts tremendous effort into writing and organizing bloggers at conferences.

Other key contributors to RIABiz this year include: Brent Burns, Mike Byrnes, Frank Pizzichillo, Ben Valore-Caplan, Rob Isbitts, Steve Huxley, Fred St. Laurent, Gerri Leder, Pat Allen, Elizabeth Ostrander, Elmer Rich, Jeff Spears, Andy Rachleff, Mindy Diamond, Justin Meise, Dorie Rosenband, Maria Marsala and Jason Lahita.

No less valuable are the contributions of Mark Hurley and Bob Veres who engage in lively debates in these (virtual) pages about whether advisors are building enterprise value in their companies. See the full debate.

None of these contributors are paid for writing their columns.

What we do best

The business plan of this publication continues to be the un-plan. I started with the modest premise that if I posted articles with important, focused and previously unreported information about the RIA industry on a website on a regular basis, that good things could happen. The plan hasn’t changed despite temptations to veer from this course that arise weekly as we see opportunities to become conference organizers, webinar hosts, content sellers or purveyors of syndicated content. We have also been tempted to stray into all manner of financial articles that might muddy our focus but would be certain to draw searchers from Google. We have even thought about adding a print product.

But for now we have eschewed all these temptations because we believe they dilute our efforts to do what we do best. Any inclination we may have to force readers to click more or to litter our website with more advertisements – especially ones that blot out the screen – are also short-lived with Nevin as our web developer. He won’t stomach it and Frank and I have come to share his indigestion on such matters. See: How we have leveraged Google services to jumpstart RIABiz. We are also careful not to add the kind of overhead that would put pressure on us to make changes at readers’ expense.

Instead of being the Walmart of financial news, RIABiz focuses on providing a select number of informative and enjoyable news, feature and opinion pieces for and about RIAs. We are not afraid to be a little nerdy. We cover back-office technology, TAMPs, compliance matters and asset custody as bread-and-butter subject matter. RIAs care about these things and so do we. This, however, doesn’t distract us from covering – and not infrequently breaking – the big deals, hot trends and the latest breakaways.

Looking ahead

We believe that by sticking to this rudimentary, content-forward and RIA-centric plan that we can best serve our two constituencies: readers and advertisers. Readers get a manageable intravenous drip of essential information. Advertisers get a pure stream of readers – RIAs and the supporting industry. The un-plan also serves a third constituency: Us. See: Welcome to RIABiz on day one.

We’re starting to make a living at this business and your reaction to our simple plan has been a wave of steady and heartfelt support. It makes us feel like we’re a force for good in the RIA industry, which is made up of great people who we believe are changing the advisory world for the better. We hope that with your continued support – and just enough luck – that on Aug. 3, 2012 we’ll be celebrating a third anniversary. It’s also our hope that we’ll be so consumed with breaking stories of industry interest that we won’t have time to tell you about it until a few days later.

Editor’s Note: We didn’t want this article to become one long string of expressions of gratitude but there are so many more people we would like to thank. I’d start with Elizabeth MacBride who left RIABiz in May but was a big part of our efforts. Julie Cooling contributed some key RIA industry data that showed up in this article: Six things to know about how and where RIAs are growing. We dearly miss a popular writer of first-rate tales of wirehouse breakaways, Bob Margolis, who died in December. See: Goodbye to Bob Margolis, true friend of independent advisors. Other friends of RIABiz, month in and month out, are Brian Hamburger and his staff and Marcel Dawson of RIA Marketplace. Last but not least are all the excellent PR people in this industry who work diligently to get good stories and good sources and deliver key bits of information by deadline.

Mentioned in this article:
RIA Publication, Blog/Social Networking Tool
Top Executive: Brooke Southall

Share your thoughts and opinions with the author or other readers.


Mike Byrnes said:

October 13, 2011 — 4:07 AM UTC

RIABiz team, a belated “congrats” on hitting your two-year mark. I am proud to have been mentioned as a key contributor.

Keep up the great work. Thanks! — Mike Byrnes, President of Byrnes Consulting, LLC


Elmer Rich III said:

August 22, 2011 — 1:41 PM UTC

We come from 4 generation of entrepreneurs and having your own business is basically hell. It demands everything from you, your family, etc — and then demands more. It takes, all your time, energy, money, relationships, smarts, health, etc. and then some.

Effectively all new businesses fail. One of the reasons we celebrate and make-up heroic stories about the few outliers that don’t.

The only words of encouragement we can offer is that it’ll get worse and sometimes deeply difficult. Not sugar-coating it and keeping a tough-minded reality-basis is all that we’ve seen that has a chance of working.

End of pep talk.


Marie Swift said:

August 19, 2011 — 5:12 AM UTC

Happy 2nd Anniversary, RIABiz. Thanks for your comments about me in this article. I’ll be at FPA Experience in San Diego in September, Tiburon CEO Summit in October, the NAPFA Practice Management Conference in October, and Schwab Impact in November. Will try to provide some worthwhile content from the road and would be wonderful to see you, Brooke, and any of your team members! ~ Marie Swift


Brooke Southall said:

August 18, 2011 — 11:38 PM UTC

There were two things I didn’t anticipate in starting RIABiz: I couldn’t imagine how truly difficult it would be. Running a business is fertile ground for messing up — and there are so many ways to do it.

Yet I also had no idea how much countervailing support there would be from fellow entrepreneurs. Most of the time, you come out ahead in that equation.

Thank you everybody for the birthday well wishes both posted here and in my email box but really thank you, too, for just making RIABiz fun and encouraging on any given Thursday in the doldrums of summer or winter.

One thing I forgot to mention in the article is that our new office, ironically, was vacant because an LPL advisor who moved to another office to serve as the succession plan to another advisor. And he’s thinking of converting his model to an RIA.

It’s a pretty nice office, albeit small and windowless, and we hope you visit us in Mill Valley



Brian Hamburger said:

August 18, 2011 — 5:56 PM UTC

RIABiz is my first read over lunch each day and is often more appetizing. It has been a pleasure for MarketCounsel to lend support to your efforts and be a small part of yet another entrepreneurial success related to independent RIAs. we wish you much continued success and hope to remain a trusted resource for RIABiz in the many years to come.


Sydney LeBlanc said:

August 18, 2011 — 5:01 PM UTC

Brooke, couldn’t start my day without it… Best in the industry! Happy Anniversary to you and the team.


Paul Darrell Damon said:

August 18, 2011 — 3:31 PM UTC

Keep up the excellent work, RIABiz. A great resource for the industry and no surprise readership is growing. Here’s to staying busy!


Frederick Van Den Abbeel said:

August 17, 2011 — 6:28 PM UTC

Congratulations RIABiz! We’re glad your located here in the San Francisco Bay Area! :-)


Nevin Freeman said:

August 17, 2011 — 5:41 PM UTC

Elmer, despite the appearance it’s actually a normal sized screen. Must be the angle :)


Wendy J. Cook said:

August 17, 2011 — 5:39 PM UTC

For your excellent business model alone, you are to be commended. Not to mention the useful results it engenders. Happy birthday to you, and many more.


Elmer Rich III said:

August 17, 2011 — 4:03 PM UTC

Let us suggest you start a Linked In group. Of course, that’s even more work!


Jeff Spears said:

August 17, 2011 — 3:58 PM UTC

Congratulations. You provide a great start to my day with timely information and understanding that I don’t find from other publications.

Keep up the good work

Thank you


Elmer Rich III said:

August 17, 2011 — 3:44 PM UTC

Congrats and you are doing a great job. One of the best jobs we see in our market. Not easy we know. Keep up the good work.

PS — How big is that screen on your laptop!?

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