Congratulations to Vanguard Investments which launched a real-live blog in mid-March, continuing a tradition of online leadership that dates way back to its early work with America Online.
Never mind that more than 100 million blogs have preceded Vanguard, and more than 300,000 blogs are about investing alone, according to Technorati. Check out this widget that tracks the use of investing terms on all blogs—with its blog, Vanguard joins lots of others talking about the business it is so dominant in.
Corporations have approached blogging cautiously. Given the advertising rules governing their communicating, money managers, including mutual fund companies and ETF providers, were never going to be at the front of the line.
Most important is that Vanguard got it done, and with little compromise that’s discernible to the outside eye. Comments can be submitted but there’s no ability to publish them, which blog purists might take issue with.
Here’s how Vanguard acknowledges that a blog should be two-way and leaves room for hope:
"At Vanguard, we’ve always believed in candid, direct communication with investors. In fact, it’s one of our core principles. We created this blog so we could talk about what we see happening in our industry and hear what’s on the minds of our shareholders…
We hope you’ll use the Comment feature to respond to our bloggers. However, although we hope to be able to publish readers’ comments in the future, we’re unable to do so at this time."
Five authors are on board posting every few days, linking to outside sites and completing their thoughts with what seems to be a restrained number of lines of disclosure. Marketing communications veterans might be surprised (secretly delighted) to read the following un-hedged line on John Ameriks’ March 31 post:
"At the risk of giving away my age, I’ll tell you that that suggests buying stocks right now could be the deal of my lifetime."
The "deal of my lifetime"? Sign of the Apocalypse? No, hope not. (Maybe let’s save that for money manager adoption of Twitter!)
A handful of other asset managers do maintain blogs—the first one we’re aware of was the Gabelli blog and by far the best blog is Navellier’s. But Vanguard is the largest mutual fund complex and its site was the 7th most visited investment/finance site in February.
If social media—the relatively unstructured, informal exchange of information between human beings—can make it anywhere in financial services, it ought to be able to make it on Vanguard.com. Vanguard is showing by example that there are people who work for the company, people who are leery of Jim Cramer and people who consider themselves "crummy forecasters." In revealing more than what the standard dry investment commentary reveals, Vanguard should be even more successful in engaging its audiences.
If your company is behind Vanguard—and every asset manager is—it's time to plot how to catch up.