As a small business owner or investor, many of us are inundated by the endless daily barrage of financial information causing us to question our own decisions and pursue poorly researched opportunities. Financial websites such as Yahoo (YHOO) Finance are constantly updated with fear-inducing headlines and magazines such as Forbes and Fortune have an endless stream of hot stocks and business ideas to choose from. How can you separate the hype from the information in this sea of articles? Should you follow the markets like a hawk, or should you take a breather and have faith in your own ideas and gut? Gandhi once went for years asking that no one show him a single newspaper, as that would disturb his inner peace. Most of us today are the exact opposite, experiencing wildly bouncing bouts of euphoria and anxiety brought on by these websites and magazines.

Financial Magazines

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Picking Informative Websites

First off, I don't plan to endorse any website over another, but good financial websites should contain some of the following qualities:
  • Informative and unbiased
  • Cleanly written articles free from typos and properly cited and credited
  • Contain a glossary linking to some obscure financial terms
  • Full disclosure of holdings from market commentators who often push bullish or bearish arguments upon visitors
  • Updated frequently
  • Moderated comments to filter out poor quality messages
  • Uses new web technologies such as RSS feeds and Facebook integration to allow easy sharing of articles
However, more than likely we will stumble across mediocre websites, which often have the following flaws:
  • Poorly researched, speculative fear-inducing headlines such as "Dow set to plunge to 3,000 by the end of the year!"
  • Self-promoting advertisements that offer subscription services guaranteeing "gains of 500%" by following their commentators.
  • Unmoderated message boards in which traders and investors trade playground insults at each other, and post false bullish or bearish rumors.
  • Simple data streams of a company's financial numbers posing as an "article" without any additional company information or commentary.
  • Poorly written, unedited and spun articles from recycled sources.
If you see any of these negative aspects in the website you most commonly frequent, then consider one of the other hundreds of other financial sites on the web.

More importantly, the website you select should be geared toward your investing style. If you are a daytrader, the spectator sport nature of CNBC may be for you, but if you are a passive, long-term investor, then the advice on this kind of site can lead you to make hasty, panic-induced decisions. Websites like Seeking Alpha offer clearer stories and a better focus on long-term investing. If you really desire premium commentary, you may have to pay for a subscription at sites like Wall Street Journal Online.

Picking Financial Magazines

Choosing the correct print magazine adheres to many of the same rules for websites. However, due to the biweekly or monthly nature of magazines, you will less likely find extremely recent developments or fear-inducing short selling articles in print media. Instead, due to the decline of print media and its struggles to stay profitable, you will find full sections of misleading advertisements disguised as articles, and find little actual original content between the ads.

Despite that, there are still some benefits of reading traditional financial magazines:
  • Articles are brewed longer, and tend to be of higher quality and more readable than website ones, which tend to be recycled from other sources.
  • Topics are more educational and suited for beginners in personal investing.
  • Topics tend to offer a broader view of the socio-economic landscape, with longer articles often focusing on cultural and society, as well as economics.
  • There is a strict quality control policy that filters out the false information for you, so as a reader you can be assured that the magazine article has been properly edited and fact-checked prior to release.
  • In a financial world afflicted by attention deficit disorder, what you see in the magazine is what you get.
  • You are less likely to impulse buy a stock with your online trading account while you are reading a magazine, in contrast to a finance website, when a purchase is just a click away.
Yet there are some obvious drawbacks in relying on print magazines for financial information. If you are a day or swing trader, then the dated stories in magazines are hardly important. If you are a medium to long-term investor, however, you can gain valuable global and domestic insights from following magazine articles, which tend to be much longer and more thorough than their online counterparts. Here are some things to be wary of while reading:
  • Huge sections of magazines tend to be sponsored advertisements, cleverly disguised as real articles.
  • Lots and lots of advertisements, and many get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Financial markets move quickly, and much of what you read may already be outdated.
The most established financial magazines include Money, Smart Money, Kiplinger Personal Finance and the Economist. Many offer free trials before subscribing, so try them all on for size to see which one suits your personal needs.