Abnormal Returns is a widely-touted finance and investing blog that aggregates news stories from the blogosphere and the mainstream media. The six-year-old website has been celebrated as “the linkfest against which all others should be judged in the financial blogosphere” (Joshua Brown in The Christian Science Monitor) and one of “the best of the blogs” (Minyanville). Its editor, Tadas Viskanta, is one of “the finance people you have to follow on Twitter” (Business Insider) and “a lot smarter than you are” (The Globe and Mail). Mr. Viskanta describes himself as “a private investor” with an MBA from The University of Chicago. In the 1990s he co-authored, with colleagues from First Chicago and Duke University, a series of journal articles on global investing. HIs most widely-cited works deal with international equity correlations and various classes of risk factors. His most recent work, Abnormal Returns: Winning Strategies from the Frontlines of the Investing Blogosphere (McGraw-Hill, 2012), came out in mid-April.
Abnormal Returns has a clean, content-focused layout. Across the top there’s the site banner, with a search box and rudimentary site navigation. Below the banner and site navigation links the page is separated into two sections. The left column contains the current content; the right column has the archives and a smattering of ads.
The content on the left side is presented as a scrollable list of links, grouped into categories. The lists always begin with the quote of the day and the chart of the day and sometimes a video of the day. These are followed by the actual links to the news that you are looking for. Each link includes a concise summary of the story: “Should investors bother with long/short equity mutual funds? <link>”
The simple layout makes navigation a breeze. With no unnecessary graphics to distract me I was able to quickly scan the short summaries and decide whether to click through or move on to the next item. Generally I enjoyed the minimalist uncluttered feel. The site suffers from three small design weaknesses:
- At times it is difficult to identify the different categories when quickly scanning through since they are only separated by a heading that was underlined and in bold font (ETFs). The font type was the same so when quickly scrolling up or down the list at times I missed a heading completely. That was a minor issue though and only occurred when I sped through the page.
- Of greater concern was the fact that clicking a link (in both Firefox and Chrome) did not cause a new tab to open, instead the link caused the page to open in the existing tab. That may not be of any concern to some but be prepared to hit the back button often if you don’t have a preview plug-in installed in your browser. You can, of course, right-click and choose new tab but that’s unnecessarily clunky.
- The function of “The Latest” is muddy. It appears to exactly duplicate the “Recent Posts” list in the adjacent column, and therefore add little value to the site.
Abnormal Returns provides links to news, commentary and information that was created by members of the financial blogosphere, as well as financial and investing news, articles, and occasional videos from the mainstream media and commercial websites. The website is updated daily, and there are also links to archived material and recent posts that you may have missed.
In a wide ranging interview that was published on Covestor, Mr. Viskanta states that the links he recommends contains elements of commentary and analysis. He also stated that they should have some lasting value. He is clear that the links represents material that he personally finds interesting and useful.
Quality of sources
The links that appear on Abnormal Returns are selected from a wide range of sources. After test driving the site I was impressed by the diversity. While many (if not most) of the article links were from the financial blogosphere, there were many articles that came from established and well respected industry heavyweights such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and The Economist. In the Covestor interview Mr. Viskanta explains that his links are curated from a variety of sources including emailed content, his personal newsfeed, Twitter and StockTwits.
The Human Touch
Every link in the daily updated content is human-selected; there is no element of mechanical aggregation in the selection process.
The Bottom Line
Technically speaking Abnormal Returns may be better described as a curated financial news blog. We decided to include it on our list because it is one of the best options for any investor looking for a website that provides important, topical and useful news and commentary from a wide cross-section of sources. Also weighing in on the decision was the reputation of the site founder and the generally high quality of the material that the site recommends. Overall we think that Abnormal Returns ranks as one of the best collections useful finance and investing news and commentary. The layout is simple and easy to navigate and its text heavy presentation means that you will spend more time getting useful information and less time being distracted.[cr2012]?