The Future of OTC Adventures

OTC Adventures is eight and a half years old. In internet time, this site is practically an ancient relic. For roughly half of my post-college adult life, I have been sitting down every few weeks (OK, sometimes months) to hammer out a post on some little-known company. And it's been wonderful! I owe so much to this blog and its readers. Through it I have come to know dozens of like-minded investors who have generously shared their own considerable wisdom and expertise. OTC Adventures is directly responsible for the existence of my life's work, Alluvial Capital Management, LLC.

I'm proud of my output here. Most of my work holds up well. There are a few posts I look back on and cringe, having been way off with my projections and assumptions. But that's life. I have yet to meet an infallible investor. I like to think there is some merit in making mistakes in a public setting and owning up to it. I have never deleted a post, even those that in hindsight fall short of my standards for quality and insight.

I have changed considerably since 2012, and so has OTC Adventures. When I started this blog, I wrote with the individual investor in mind. People who were happy to find opportunities to plunk down $5,000, $1,000, even $500. Because that's who I was. My personal investment account didn't reach five figures until I was nearly 30. I don't come from money. I grew up in an isolated Pennsylvania timber town of 4,000 people, pre-internet. Nobody I knew had a stock portfolio or paid much attention to the faraway, ephemeral stock market.

Today my situation is different. Through Alluvial, I manage nearly $40 million in client capital. So my investment focus has shifted to securities and situations where I can invest at least $100,000. Buying $5,000 of some promising liquidation story simply doesn't move the needle, no matter the potential return. So I spend a lot less time looking for that sort of opportunity, and that results in fewer OTC Adventures blog posts of that ilk. To be clear, I still focus on little-known, thinly-traded issues. That's where I know how to find value. They're just a little larger on average than they used to be. But blogging about those ideas while I am attempting to trade them could disadvantage my clients.

This is undoubtedly disappointing to some long time OTC Adventures readers. But just as my focus has changed, markets have changed, too. There simply are not as many micro-cap/unlisted deep value opportunities as there were eight years ago. The long bull market took care of many of these situations. A sizable proportion of "dark companies" were bought out or cashed out minority shareholders. The ranks of OTC-traded community banks continue to dwindle. The value ideas I find today rarely make for a brisk, 500-800 word blog post. I don't have any interest in publishing comprehensive research reports here. I also don't want to attempt to compress complicated ideas down to a few paragraphs by glossing over important details. I try to pay readers the same respect you have given me, and that includes making efforts not to bore you or insult your intelligence.

That brings me to the topic that has occupied my mind for several months: what do I do with OTC Adventures? How do I best position this blog to achieve my goals? The plain truth is OTC Adventures is a commercial blog. No, there are no ads here. Never will be. But my primary goal in writing here is to make people aware of my portfolio management services through Alluvial. My success on this front has been mixed. Yes, I do occasionally hear from somebody who likes an idea I have profiled and is interested in hiring me to find more of them. But more often, writing here feels a bit like shouting into the void.

OTC Adventures has never been terribly popular. Some of the reason for this is simply the subject matter. There is not a big appetite out there for blog posts about community banks in Wichita or Latvian chocolatiers. And some of the reason is, well, me. I could have kept to a more consistent posting schedule or made my writing snappier, clearer, more relevant. Finally, some of the reason is just the way that internet investment writing has developed. It's tougher than ever for an independent website to compete for attention against portals and aggregators with marketing staff and content curators.

The low traffic in itself doesn't bother me. I am grateful for the engagement I receive and the lively conversations that sometimes ensue. But I have to evaluate the return on my own effort that this blog provides. Every blog post represents hours and hours of time spent in research, writing, and editing. If the resulting post is viewed by only a few hundred blog visitors with only a handful of potential clients among them, I am not making the most of my limited time.

As I see it, there are four ways forward. I could:

  • Maintain the status quo. This is the easy approach, but obviously it does not address the issues I just made a wordy blog post discussing. A non-starter.

  • Cease writing on OTC Adventures and use the time I spend here for other projects. C'mon, not gonna happen. I enjoy this too much, even if the current format is sub-optimal. I need some kind of outlet to talk about the weird stuff I find in the markets, and nobody in my household is nearly as interested in this as I am!

  • Take OTC Adventures "private" and make it a paid service or a benefit for Alluvial clients and partners only. Interesting, but I am probably flattering myself to think there would be a market for my writing. And I cannot commit to writing with enough frequency to make it worthwhile for potential subscribers. As for offering content only to Alluvial clients and partners, this approach would fail to increase my reach and readership beyond those who already appreciate my investment style. There is no need to preach to the converted.

  • Move all or most of my future output to a larger platform, such as Seeking Alpha. Various investing sites have approached me over the years, asking to host my content. I have always declined, worried about giving up total ownership of and control over my intellectual property. I am becoming convinced this was short-sighted on my part. After all, what good is my intellectual property doing me if it reaches only a small audience? If the primary purpose of my writing about investments is making more potential clients aware of my services, shouldn't I want as many readers as possible?

The last approach is the one I will likely take. I'm still thinking it over, but the ability to reach a large, untapped audience is attractive. If I do move platforms, future blog posts might amount to "Check out what I wrote on (______)!" OTC Adventures would undoubtedly lose subscribers from readers simply choosing to follow me solely on that platform, but the trade-off seems positive. (And if it isn't, I can always revert to posting everything here.)

Before I make a definitive move, I want to invite readers to comment. I have benefitted substantially over the years from reader input. This blog is nothing without you, and I want to make accessing my content as easy as possible for the broadest possible audience. If you have any advice, please leave a comment or drop me a line. Thanks as always for reading. I'll do my best to provide interesting, informative ideas and stock profiles until at least 2029.