- The 5 is free… and you get what you pay for!
- What sets us apart from Wall Street and the financial media
- The “trade-off” for having no conflicts of interest
- Why some of our services cost so much
- How we measure our success (not what you think)
“It would really be a breath of fresh air,” writes a newer reader, “if a company like yours would deliver everything we expected from our subscriptions.”
“I didn’t buy this to hear news,” writes a second. “I bought to find reasonable predictions backed with data to demonstrate why I should buy a stock or a cryptocurrency.”
“I don’t get anything but the same old news in new packaging,” writes a third.
We’re taking time out from our usual fare today to address some reader concerns; there’s nothing urgent happening in the markets or the economy that can’t wait till tomorrow.
If you’re a newer reader, you’ll come away with a better understanding of who we are and what we’re all about. If you’re a veteran, you can skip today’s episode — or you can skim it and maybe learn something new anyway.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: If you’ve been reading this and thought to yourself, This isn’t what I paid for… well, no, it’s not.
Perhaps you first encountered our work at Agora Financial via an ad on Facebook… and you were persuaded to sign up for one of our entry-level newsletters like Technology Profits Confidential, Lifetime Income Report, Jim Rickards’ Strategic Intelligence or The Altucher Report.
Typically, the “fulfillment” for a $49 annual subscription like that includes a monthly issue with an investment recommendation… weekly updates on previous recommendations… maybe links to articles in the financial press that reinforce the themes the editor is following… and “flash” buy and sell alerts as needed.
But we also throw some freebies into the mix — including the e-letter you’re reading right now.
Because your paid product reaches out and touches you once or twice a week… while this missive comes to you every day… it’s understandable that you might think The 5 Min. Forecast is the main product. But it’s not — it’s a free bonus on top of what you paid for.
[If you’re not getting what you actually paid for — the monthly issues, weekly updates and so on — by all means, get in touch with our friendly and helpful customer care team.]
So what is The 5 Min. Forecast, anyway? Our daily recipe goes something like this: Take our entire team’s best ideas… mix in some not-so-common takes on the day’s financial headlines… throw in a dash of “quirk” from the business world… and add a generous helping of reader feedback. Leaven the whole thing with the mockery Wall Street and Washington so richly deserve. Bake for 5 Mins.
The 5, as it’s affectionately known, is coming up on its 11th anniversary next month. With that degree of longevity, we like to think we’re doing something right.
Our firm, Agora Financial, was established in 2004 by our executive publisher Addison Wiggin — author of three New York Times business best-sellers during the mid-2000s. (He also penned The 5 at its launch in 2007. I began collaborating with him in 2010, and by 2012 he handed the reins to me so he could devote more attention to our day-to-day operations.)
Our mission is to provide fiercely independent financial research — the kind of guidance you can’t possibly get from the big Wall Street brokerages that plaster their slick commercials all over TV.
So much of the financial world is shot through with conflicts of interest. For instance…
- If an analyst on Wall Street thinks a stock or other security his firm is flogging is junk… he has to hold his tongue
- Brokerages and financial advisers are frequently incentivized to sell you “packaged products” that generate fees for themselves, even if the investments in those products aren’t suited to your personal needs
- Most financial media outlets pay the bills by soliciting advertising — often from brokerages and other Wall Street firms. The “news” you read or watch is generated by journalists who are forever looking over their shoulders, worried about teeing off the advertisers (assuming they haven’t totally drunk Wall Street’s Kool-Aid already).
Last year, the situation got even worse with the outbreak of a “fake financial news” scandal. It turns out some writers were taking payments under the table to write some 450 bullish articles about public companies.
The articles ended up on many popular sites including Seeking Alpha, Forbes, TheStreet, Yahoo Finance, The Motley Fool, Benzinga, Minyanville, Wall Street Cheat Sheet, SmallCap Network, Investor Village and Market Playground. In some cases, the articles even had a disclaimer saying the writer wasn’t being paid… and it was flat untrue.
Our business model at Agora Financial allows us to sidestep that BS. No conflicts of interest here.
We generate the overwhelming majority of our revenue through the subscription fees of readers like you. Doing so affords us much independence. We don’t take secret payments from companies to tout a stock just so we can keep the lights on. Nor do we have to look over our shoulder and wonder what outside advertisers think of our content.
What you read from us is the unvarnished opinion of our editors. And many of our editors are refugees from Wall Street — demoralized by a culture where they were constantly answering to clients or advertisers or the board of directors, watching their backs one moment, kissing someone else’s backside the next.
All those problems go away when they come to work for us: Subscription revenue is our bread and butter, so all an editor has to do is speak his truth and hope his truth resonates with his subscriber base.
And just to make sure we keep church and state as separate as possible, we insist our editors cannot own a position in the securities they recommend to you. We’ve had popular editors quit on us because of that policy, but we’re not going to change it.
The “downside” to this business model, if that’s what you want to call it, is the marketing.
Maybe you think it’s “aggressive.” We know it’s aggressive. We don’t apologize for that, because we think ours is a way more honest way to earn a living than to, well, kowtow to external advertisers or take payments from the investor-relations departments of public companies. No conflicts of interest here. No hidden agendas. No BS.
We’re proud of the research we turn out here. We think it can make a positive difference in your life. So yes, once you buy one of our products, we’re keen to sell you another.
Generally speaking, we have two kinds of products — the entry-level newsletters like the ones mentioned above and the high-end trading advisories like Weekly Wealth Alert, Kinetic Profits, Altucher’s Crypto Trader or Tim Sykes’ Weekly Fortunes.
The premium services are priced higher — usually, as you’ve likely discovered from our sales promotions, a lot higher. There are several reasons for that.
First, the risk-reward ratio with the recommendations in these premium advisories is much higher. The aim is for big profits in comparatively little time. Usually we’re talking speculations as opposed to investments. Readers need to go in with eyes wide open and know those recommendations inevitably entail more risk. The higher price shuts out beginners and people of comparatively little means — that is, people who shouldn’t be taking on that level of risk.
Too, the plays tend to be more sophisticated. They might be short-term trades of as little as a week. Or you’re buying options. Or you’re selling options to pocket instant income. Or you’re acquiring cryptocurrencies that trade only on certain exchanges. Or microcap stocks that are thinly traded.
The microcaps are a special area of concern for us. We’re talking about companies worth only millions of dollars, not billions. If we published them in an entry-level newsletter to tens of thousands of people, we’d artificially goose the share price, only to see it crash again. Bad for us, bad for readers. Charging a higher price for those recommendations limits the number of people who would potentially buy in.
If you feel the tug of the promise that comes with one of our high-end advisories but you don’t have the means to afford it yet… well, the idea is that the money you make following an entry-level newsletter will allow you to step up to a higher level of service, hopefully sooner rather than later.
In the end, it does us no good just to have customers. It’s happy customers we want.
That’s why we’ve built out a massive customer-care team that’s 100% located in Agora Financial’s home base of Baltimore. There’s nothing that gets offshored when you email or call them. (Some might have that distinctive mid-Atlantic accent in which “downtown” sounds like “day-own tay-own,” but we doubt anything will get lost in translation.)
Again, if you suspect you’re not getting all the “deliverables” you were promised in that lip-smacking sales promotion — if you don’t think you’re getting the buy and sell alerts and such — get in touch. It’s what those folks are there for. Call 1-800-708-1020 or email them at this address. For as much thought as we put into those “promos” and how we get them in front of people’s eyeballs… we really do care about service after the sale, as the saying goes.
Fun fact: Long before I joined Agora Financial in 2007, I was a newsletter subscriber just like you.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the reader experience. And not a week goes by that I’m not offering feedback to our publishers and editors about how we’re either doing it well or we could do it better.
So a few final words about this e-letter you’re getting each day.
Again, this isn’t the product you bought. This is a freebie. So if you read The 5 and wonder, Where are the recommendations? it comes back to a rule of thumb we’ve had for more than a decade.
As our fearless leader Addison Wiggin described it here back in 2010, “From an ethical and commercial standpoint, our analysis is free, but the recommendations remain the province of paying readers.”
Think of it like this: If you saw a recommendation in your paid publication one week and then saw the name of the stock mentioned in The 5 the following week, wouldn’t you feel rooked?
Yes, sometimes the content you read here is structured in a way that might spur you to subscribe to a new newsletter or trading advisory in addition to whatever you’re reading already. We’d be delighted if you clicked and even more delighted if you bought.
But that’s not the yardstick by which we measure our success. Ultimately, we succeed if at the end of each episode of The 5…
- … you learn at least one interesting thing you didn’t know before
- … you decide to come back the next day.
Thanks for hearing us out today and letting us explain a little about how we do that voodoo we do. We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. By the way, because people ask sometimes…
We started using The 5 as shorthand for this e-letter’s name from the get-go in 2007. That was four years before Fox News launched its daily gabfest The Five on short notice because Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes had a falling-out and there was a huge hole in the schedule.
Now you know…