The Motley Fool Blog Network FAQ

The Basics

Q: How do I get started?
A:
Go to http://beta.fool.com/join to join our Blog Network. You’ll then be directed to http://cms.fool.com where you can watch an intro video and post your first article.

Q: How long should each post be?
A:
As long as it needs to be. OK, that’s not entirely satisfying, so let’s say that you should shoot for somewhere around 500 to 800 words – that tends to be the sweet spot for readers.

Q: How often do I need to post?
A:
As often as you are inspired to educate, amuse, and/or enrich thousands of readers. Whether that’s once a quarter or five times a day, that’s fine with us, as long as you're providing outstanding content. Keep in mind, however, that if you have to make a choice between writing four mediocre posts or one great one, we will always vote for quality.

Q: How long does it take you to review my post?
A:
We try to get to everything within two to three business days from when you submit for syndication – sometimes it’s a little longer, sometimes we’ll get to it in a matter of minutes. NOTE: If you leave the status as Draft, it won’t get into the editors’ queue and we probably won't stumble across it. Be sure to hit that big green Submit for Syndication button.

Q: Can I post the same piece of content in lots and lots of places?
A:
Nope, that’s a big no-no, but you can post the same piece of content to your personal blog and to the Fool. And you’re welcome to include a link back to your own blog.

Q: Plagiarism is bad?
A:Yes. Plagiarism is very bad. We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to plagiarism.  In order to post with us, you must agree that the submissions to our Blog Network are original, that you have the right to submit them for publication, and that they are your thoughts—no stealing from others, no ghostwriters. If you’re borrowing the ideas of others to help make your argument, you must provide attribution. In general, be good, not bad. 

Q: I see a button that says Make CAPS Picks? What’s that about?
A:
We feel that it’s important to keep score (as described here by one our founders), and this is our way to do it. If you feel strongly about one of the companies you’re mentioning in your post, back it up with a pick in The Motley Fool’s stock-picking game. In time, your CAPS score will be a part of your profile, so make those picks good.

Q: What’s a promo?
A:
Think of a promo like that extra line below the headline, but above the article, in a newspaper -- a chance to add a little more context or information that gives readers a clearer idea what the article's about. If you leave it blank, it’ll automatically pull the first sentence or two of your post.

Q: I can’t wait to use my pen name!
A: Sorry, O. Henry, we don’t allow for anonymous posts or pseudonyms. Our bloggers need to stand behind their work, so we need an actual first and last name attached to each post. If you don’t currently, please either fix it in the platform or just email us with your name.

Q: Why haven’t you reviewed my post yet?
A:
We will get to your post, we promise. And if you have something that’s time-sensitive, drop us a note at blog@fool.com that includes a link to your post and a sentence or two explaining why it has to jump to the front of the review line.

Q: Why didn’t you syndicate my post?
A: The fact is that we don’t syndicate every post that we receive. If it’s going to take a reviewer more than 10 or 15 minutes to get your post cleaned up or to tell you what you need to do to get it ready, we’re going to decline to syndicate that content. It’s incumbent upon the blogger to present something that is as close to syndication-ready as possible, and that means reading through aloud to make sure you’ve caught your little mistakes, bolding company names on first reference, triple-checking your numbers, and otherwise polishing your post. If we decide not to syndicate, don’t despair. You can take that version and rework it so that it wows your reviewers.

Q: How do I update my personal stock holdings?
A: It's important that you keep your stock ownership up-to-date so that the disclosure at the end of your post is accurate.

To update your stocks:

  • Go to http://my.fool.com/profile.
  • Scroll down to "Investing Basics" and click "edit."
  • Scroll down to the box labeled "Stocks I Own."
  • Make sure all the stocks you own are included, with each ticker separated by a comma (ex: AAPL, SBUX (Short), GM)    
  • Hit "Save Changes," and then you're done.

Remember that you're not allowed to post about a company two (2) market days before or after buying or selling shares of its stock. And don't forget to delete stocks from your profile after you sell or trade them.

Q: Anything else that would be good to know?
A:
 A few little things that would help us and make us like you even more:

  1. Please type company names in bold on first reference, and if you’re tickering a company, please use this format: I think you should buy Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL).
  2. We encourage three to five tickers per blog post to provide context and to ensure broader distribution. Make sure you write enough about each of those companies to be sure none of your readers feel short-changed.
  3. We want our readers to get to know you. To that end, please pull in an avatar to help build your brand. Just go to https://www.fool.com/Account/SetAvatar.aspx to make it happen.
  4. If you go to http://my.fool.com/profile and enter all your information (including the stocks you own), it will efficiently and accurately generate your disclosure when you hit the Generate Disclosure button.

Payment Issues

Q: What do we get paid?
A:
If you write a post that is thoughtful, well-written, and makes specific and relevant mention of businesses and their tickers, we’ll syndicate that entry (i.e., publish it to the financial world’s top ticker feeds) and pay you $50. If your posts are awesome on a consistent basis -- they make us think, they show us something new, they make a point and support it, they tell a story, they are clear, compelling, and Foolish -- then we'll give you a raise to $100 per post.

Q: How do we get paid?
A:
After you've been syndicated for the first time, you'll receive an email from Elance, a payment services company we've partnered with, inviting you to a blogger job with us. Click the link in the email. If you're a new user of Elance, you'll need to set up your profile and your withdrawal options. If you already have an existing Elance account, you'll need to respond to our invitation with a proposal -- but don't worry about the terms, just send us something! We'll deposit your pay into your Elance account. 

Q: When do we get paid?
A:
We deposit $50 to your Elance account two business days after each post you write is syndicated. To make that happen, you need to open the email from Elance (you’ll get it approximately two business days after your post is syndicated) and click the link inside. (If you already have an Elance account, you’ll receive an invitation to bid on the job – put anything in the bid and we’ll take care of it from here!)

Q: My sessions didn't go up as much as I wanted, and they might have even dropped from one view to the next. Are you guys trying to hose me?
A: Nope, we're really not the hosing types. The number oddity is happening because our traffic analytics use statistical sampling to generate session numbers, meaning that visit data will change or even drop as time passes and it gets more real data to process. Secondly, most blog traffic is generated through syndication with third-party aggregation websites. This means that for some popular tickers, you'll receive a large number of visits in a relatively small amount of time, but once the article scrolls off the ticker feeds, the visit volume will slow considerably. For some popular tickers -- such as AAPL or GOOG -- your post might be among the most recent links for a matter of minutes, in which case you could receive a thousand or more sessions soon after syndication, then only a handful more over the next month.

Q: How do I become a $100 blogger?
A:
Our blog reviewers are constantly watching for high-quality bloggers to send to our talent development team. This team will give you comprehensive feedback on what you might need to do to move up the bladder (blog-ladder). Here are a few things they’re looking for:

  • Goes out of her/his way to explain things to readers in clear, accessible terms;
  • tells a good story;
  • gets facts right, and leaves no obvious questions unanswered;
  • knows how the English language works, or at least displays the ability to learn and improve on this front;
  • takes criticism well, learns from it, and clearly is willing to work hard to improve his or her writing.

Q: This “bladder” sounds interesting, if unfortunately named. Can you tell me more?
A:
The Blog Network has become the primary pipeline for our Fool.com writers, in-house analysts and editors, and more. With several hundred candidates applying for every open position at the Fool, we’ve found that those who have established their skills and their commitment to the Fool through blogging set themselves apart from the average job-hunter.

Here’s how it works. Blogger William Porter signs up to blog with us. When his first post is syndicated, he changes magically from BloggerNewbie to Blogger. If William’s posts catch the eye of our reviewers, we tag him as BloggerToWatch. If he’s earned an Editor’s Choice or two and has proven himself to be awesome, we’ll send him to Talent Development Review (TDR). That team will review his next five or so posts and either make him a BloggerPriority (a badge of honor, plus those folks earn $100 per post) or tell him what he needs to do to get there.

Q: Do you have a referral program?
A:
Yep! If you refer a friend, you’ll receive a $100 bonus after your friend has had five posts syndicated. However, if any of those five posts earns an Editor’s Choice designation, your bonus jumps to $500 upon the occasion of their fifth syndication (sorry, the maximum bonus per referral is $500 – you don’t get $2,500 if your friend goes 5 for 5, although we might send you a hat). Just send an email to blog@fool.comwith an introduction to your smartest friends

Q: Is it cool if I put an ad on Craigslist to look for referrals?
A:While we admire your entrepreneurial spirit, you should think of these as personal recommendations that carry your vote of confidence. They reflect on you. If you flood us with dozens of random people who turn out to be a waste of our time, we won’t be happy and we will bar you from blogging

Q: Can we have multiple writers posting articles under one account?
A:
It’s not our preference – the deal doesn’t usually work out well for the actual writer of the material – but we understand that sometimes these arrangements are successful for everyone. If you choose to go this route, here are your rules: 

  1. You must list the author's name at the bottom of each post, as well as a disclosure of the author's, the editor's, and (if relevant) the company's stock holdings, as they relate to the companies mentioned in the article. 
  2. Additionally, you must disclose to us the financial arrangements you have with your contributors -- specifically, how much they receive per post and what you do to earn the difference. We don't want to dictate your business model, but based on unsavory deals we've seen, we are working to ensure the person who does the bulk of the work gets the bulk of the money. If we learn that the terms have been misrepresented, your organization will be banned from The Motley Fool Blog Network.
  3. Finally, because we don't want one writer earning $100 status for the whole team and then less talented writers chipping in afterward, writing teams are not eligible to earn $100 post except in very rare occasions. 

If these terms are understandable and amenable, we'd be happy to have you move forward with your writing team.

Subject Matter

Q: It sounds to me that your distribution to portal partners is very stock-centric.
A: 
That’s technically not a question. But yes, posts about specific companies and their stocks will have the opportunity to achieve broader distribution through our syndication partnerships (i.e., Yahoo! Finance, AOL DailyFinance, MSN Money, CNNMoney). We encourage three to five tickers per post. But we’ll also be able to feature top-quality non-stock articles on our Editor’s Choice page, on Fool.com, and in our emails that reach millions.

Q: Should we just slap on a blah and boring headline that amounts to an afterthought?
A:
Surprisingly, we prefer engaging titles that make readers want to click. Remember, the title of your post is the most important factor in whether a reader will pick yours from among all the items in the ticker feed. It should draw the reader in, but not be overly provocative and, of course, the article must deliver on the title.

Q: What is an Editor’s Choice Award and how do I get one?
A:
Editor’s Choice varies a bit from editor to editor, and even based on time of day that we happen to be reading. It’s subjective. But in general, we like well-written posts with a conversational and engaging tone, thorough analysis of the ideas and companies mentioned, and original thinking (so the 12th post writing about Apple’s earnings probably won’t get the nod).

Q: My post is listed as ConMan Review – that doesn’t sound good.
A: Don’t worry, you’re not under investigation for running a scam. We now train bloggers to review other bloggers. Those external reviewers send their edits and comments to a Contributor Manager (ConMan), who then makes the syndication call. So if your post is in ConMan review, that doesn’t mean you’re in trouble; it means our in-house team will be acting on your post soon.

Q: Can we write about penny stocks?
A:
Generally, no. It’s too easy to manipulate the market, even unintentionally, so we steer clear of those. Specifically, red flags are a market cap below $200 million, a share price under $1, and an average daily trading volume (three-month average) less than 300,000. If your stock has all three of those flags, it’s definitely a no. If it has one or two, ask your friendly neighborhood blog team member.

Q: I’ve been offered money to write a positive article about a company or to include links to another site. Is that cool with you?
A:  Absolutely, positively not. The Motley Fool should be the only entity paying you for your post. If we find a blogger has accepted payments or gifts in exchange for coverage, links, or comments, that blogger will be banned from our system immediately and permanently.

Q: Can we write about ETFs, foreign companies, and commodities?
A:
You are more than welcome to discuss exchange-traded funds (ETFs), foreign companies, and commodities. However, understand that not every tradable security can be easily syndicated to ticker feeds with our partners. For the most part, we have found that American companies and foreign companies traded on American exchanges can be tickered. Outside of that realm, it's not a given. Also, we tend to avoid more technical-oriented topics like futures and foreign exchange trading.

Q: What about technical analysis?
A:
That's not really our gig. Since our founding in the early 1990s, the Fool has practiced and preached a long-term, fundamentals-focused approach to investing. Just like Warren Buffett, we're notorious buy-and-holders.

Q: Is it OK to have just one ticker in a post?
A:
No company exists in isolation. You're going to have a more thorough post with far greater context if you can incorporate three to five companies and their tickers in each post. Not incidentally, that will also allow you to get broader distribution. But should you just slap in a couple competitors and call it a day? Nope, we are strongly against drive-by tickering. But if you can include material discussion of a relevant company (i.e., competitors), that will get you more readers.

Q: Can you suggest a particular style I should emulate?
A:
We’ve decided not to be prescriptive on posts – some folks will provide in-depth analysis of a particular stock while others will be lighter and chattier in nature. We figure that we have all types of readers, so we should produce content that appeals to everyone. So write what feels comfortable to you. The biggest things for getting your post syndicated are:

  • having opinions and supporting them, not just listing analyst opinions;
  • writing with original analysis, not just sentences listing financials and ratios;
  • writing with a clear, clean, conversational voice; and
  • making relevant and material mention of companies and their tickers;
  • bonus if you correctly differentiate between its and it’s.

Some Technical Stuff

Q: Can we embed video in our posts?
A:
Yep! When creating your post, you can find the video upload feature on the right-hand column of your CMS screen.

Q: Can we make charts, graphs, or pictures to include in our posts?
A:
Definitely. We have a tool on the right side of our blog post window that will make uploading pictures and creating tables easier. Keep in mind that any charts, graphs, or pictures should relate to the text and further inform the reader. If it's an article about Apple's sales around the world, show a visual. However, showing off your Angry Birds high score on your iPhone might not be relevant. Further, keep your visuals and stock charts simple, and your readers will appreciate it.  

In the same way that you shouldn’t claim that other people’s written content is your own, you shouldn’t infringe other’s copyrights in images, charts, or graphs. In general, works that you made or that are in the public domain are always acceptable, but other works may require the permission of the author. You can find out more information on copyright law and the Internet at http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html.

Q: Should I draw my chart using crayons, then take a picture and paste it in?
A: While that theoretically might work, you can also use YChart:

  1. Once you have created your chart (including a title) click "Embed"
  2. Copy the link that is generated
  3. Go to the post you are writing. 
  4. Click on the HTML button
  5. Find where you want the chart to appear
  6. Paste the link
  7. Click "Update" and voila, you now have a chart embedded in the text.

Q: Can we include hyperlinks?
A:
Yes, you can embed the hyperlinks in your text using the chain link tool at the top of the blog post window.

Q: OK, this all sounds reasonable enough, how do I get started?
A:
If you're emotionally and otherwise ready to get started, just follow the steps below. If you already have a Fool.com username, skip to step 3.

  1. If you don't already have a fool.com username, head over to http://my.fool.com/profile. Click "Registering is easy" and follow the instructions to set up your free account.  
  2. Navigate over to the "My Fool" tab, then select "My Profile" directly under that, and then click "edit" on the fields to enter the appropriate information. Please be sure to enter First Name and Last Name under "General Information." You can come back and enter the other information at your leisure.
  3. Come on over to http://beta.fool.com/join.If you’re logged in at fool.com, all your information should magically appear.
  4. You’ll be directed to our CMS (http://cms.fool.com) where you can watch a getting started video and start blogging immediately.

Q: How can I get the best possible service from the FoolHQ blog team?
A: Two things will help get all your issues resolved quickly. You’ll be best served in your communications with us by emailing blog@fool.com rather than a particular team member. And if you want us to look at or make a change to a post of yours, it will help us if we have a link to the post in question.

See? Easy! If you have any trouble along the way, be sure to let us know. We'll get things working as soon as we can.

 

If you have other questions, please drop them into the comments below. We'll answer them and expand the FAQ as needed. In the meantime, blog like the wind!


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