Friday, August 03, 2007

Happy (?) Birthday,!

Mark Cuban's much-ballyhooed, trading-financed "investigative journalism" website has "celebrated" (quote, unquote) its first birthday -- its first post was on July 31, 2007. It was no great surprise that the great day came and went without anyone noticing. The site is that much of a flop.

When first inaugurated by Cuban last summer, it was pushed by the self-promoting billionaire as a new "business model" for financial investigative journalism, notwithstanding that its very premise was an insult to financial investigative journalism.

Cuban has been trading ahead of his Sharesleuth picks, skirting insider trading laws and mocking fundamental journalism ethics. Cuban's response to protests was something along the lines of "ethics, shmethics," and he babbled that journalists should be "thankful" that he views their profession as a source of data to line his pockets through a slimy trading strategy.

"If Sharesleuth is successful, you can bet that any of the above [hedge funds] with billions of dollars at stake will gladly hire the best and brightest business journalists they can find," Cuban said. Well, Sharesleuth hasn't been "successful," but even if it was I doubt that most self-respecting journalists would rejoice at the idea of selling out to hedge funds as he envisioned.

Indeed, Sharesleuth has been a flop in every way imaginable. Editorially (I won't say "journalistically," as this is not journalism), Sharesleuth has been a disaster. The site has focused on a grand total of two public companies -- Xethanol and UTEK -- over the past year. Sharesleuth flayed at these two related companies repeatedly, all for the profit of Cuban and pretty much nobody else. Then, repudiating its own business model, the site trashed a private company.

Cuban was squeezed on some of his trades, so it is hard to imagine that the site could be self-supporting, much less profitable.

I'd bet that a small-town Dairy Queen stand (to harken back to one of Cuban's idiotic publicity stunts) rakes in more money in a week than Sharesleuth has in its whole sorry existence. There's no chance the site can support itself legitimately by selling advertising -- not with readership numbers this lousy.

Say, isn't it a shame that this clown couldn't make a ton of money trading ahead of his "journalism" vehicle? I weep for him.

Despite the publicity that has accompanied Sharesleuth's launching and subsequent foundering (such as this New York Times piece), no public-spirited rich guy has funded a website that would engage in investigative journalism for the public interest. So all that's left are a small number of beleaguered, unappreciated journos and one billionaire-financed travesty.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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