Neil Collins has become addicted to alphaville’s interactive forum for stock-market watchers
There are thousands of websites for anyone interested in markets. You can spend whole days shunting from one to another, blitzed by irritating ads, looking at share prices anywhere in the world, reading opinions expert and stupid, blud-geoned by analysis. Where on earth do you start? Can you sift the wheat from the chaff? More importantly, can you avoid being bored to death?
The small, resolute band who still read the print version of the Financial Times have long since become used to skimming past what we in the trade call a ‘house ad’ — a puff for something related to the paper, or owned by its proprietor. On the back page of the FT, inserted into the stock- market report, is a box. Framed by mugshots of a couple of dubious-looking characters, it urges readers to log on to Markets Live every weekday at 11 a.m. It’s hardly arresting, and most newspapers offer something superficially similar: rolling news services, fat-chewing exercises from columnists, or cringingly wooden interviews between pairs of journalists both of whom would rather be writing, which is what they signed up to do before the internet whirled them into the telly.
Alphaville — www.ft.com/alphaville — is different. Its inventor is Paul Murphy, the shiftier-looking of the pair of mugshots. He was a fine, mischievous stock-market reporter when I was City editor of the Daily Telegraph, and I was upset but not surprised when the Guardian pinched him to be its City editor. He has the demeanour of a bookie, and a rapport with those upmarket bookies who call themselves market-makers in stocks and shares.
He eventually found out what the rest of us financial hacks already knew, that nobody in the City reads the Guardian because they think it’s full of pinko rubbish.