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.

81 thoughts on “The Future of OTC Adventures”

    1. Same here!

      If your goal is to reach more readers, you can just try posting both on SA and here (if you want to get paid from SA you can’t do that though, but they pay peanuts anyway). Not sure if there is really any other viable alternative besides SA that could offer a meaningful number of potential readers?

      That said, as a fellow blogger, I think there are also numerous other benefits that you get from writing down and publishing a thesis. So it might be worth it, even if you never really attract new clients. Just the act of writing down a thesis is usually helpful in the research process, you often get into contact with people who know more about the company than you do, or you get suggestions for related idea’s. Etc etc.

      1. I basically agree with AlphaVulture.

        I would like to add that you (and AV) are one of the few who both 1) share excellent content and 2) do not desperately try to monetize said content. So many people are nowadays trying to make extra money by stuffing their thoughts (and odd lot trades) behind paywalls, premium services and in newsletters. Especially if you manage outside money I think it speaks for your character and your love of investing that you DON’T do that. Whitney Tilson peddles breast pump discount codes in his newsletters. Warren Buffett doesn’t have to do shit like that because his track record speaks for himself.

        But obviously that’s just me pushing my own agenda because I like your blog the way it is!

        1. Just to make clear, that was meant as a compliment 🙂

          I agree that sharing your articles on SA is probably the best way to reach a bigger audience, even if it means striking a deal with some disadvantages. Are there any other alternatives? Medium? Upping your Twitter game by retweeting more funny pictures?

          1. Haha, no doubt my meme game could be better. There are serious advantages and disadvantages to SA. There is probably also an elitist aspect to some of the criticism Seeking Alpha receives. Decisions, decisions…

      2. Great points. And yes, I find that writing improves my investing. Forcing myself to talk through a thesis helps me criticize each part of it. More than once I have abandoned an idea after finding I could not articulate it well enough to write about it!

        The potential income from writing on SA is inconsequential, so that’s not the draw. My primary reason for wanting my articles to show up there is the possibility that someone there with money to allocate likes my writing enough to get in touch. Even if that only happens once a year, that’s enough to make it worth while.

  1. Don’t go to seeking alpha and lose your control over the content and they also can control who reads it with their paid subscription model which honestly is quite high for the handful of people I read. I would recommend a small fee that goes directly to you and you own the data in both present and past terms. Lastly seeking alpha was a good site, but the comments from some are worthless. Just my thoughts.

    1. I agree. I think this is the best idea. SA could be nice, but you will lose control. Thank you for your blog.

  2. I would just like to say that I’ve always enjoyed your emails and found them highly enlightening.
    Apparently, I am one among the mass of silent readers who are culpable for the lack of feedback.
    So I don’t feel qualified to give my opinion on where to go from here.
    But I hope that I can read from you again, through one channel or the other.

    1. Thanks. Your blog is one of my favorites. It’s not so much a feeling of lack of engagement that drives my desire to shake things up as it is a feeling of having plateaued. I need to do something to reach a new cohort of readers beyond those who show up through my existing channels.

  3. I wonder if doing something like having a page on investor village would work better than SA. Available to all, not just paid subscribers as it might be at SA, ability for readers to comment. Larger potential audience than this blog though smaller than SA. I’m not sure how that would work so far as the details but you could contact the owner of IV and see. Just thinking aloud here.

  4. literally just passed along your Wheeler write up to an acquaintance this week- first time i’ve shared the site- perhaps I should’ve done it sooner! please keep up the great DD work (ideally here but really anywhere haha)

    1. Glad you enjoyed that writeup! It’s obviously only intended as a starting point for much deeper research, but the fact that you enjoyed it enough to pass it along means a lot. Thank you.

  5. When I was blogging more frequently, Seeking Alpha approached me and set up an arrangement whereby my posts on my blog automatically went to Seeking Alpha, and they still do to this day. I never even visit SA any more as I’m more UK focussed, but my posts still automatically go through fine.

    It was pretty easy as they set up everything. All I needed was an RSS feed, so it might be worth asking them to do similar for you.

    1. This is one of the more interesting suggestions here. Thanks for sharing. A setup like this could be the best of both worlds.

  6. Hi from Perú! I´ve recently suscribed to this blog and let me say that its content is so interesting/awesome, what a effort from you to write often this content .
    In my case I’m starting reading content about markets/stocks from invest in a close future.

    Whatever you choose, all of the best for you!

  7. I don’t have anything to add regarding how you will best move forward, but I am sure I speak for a lot of readers when I say we’ll be here no matter which route you choose! Appreciate your writing, and I hope to have a journey somewhat like yours.

  8. I admire your transparency. For the record, I have never made a trade/investment off your writings because it somewhat gets lost among all the other email that comes my way and because I am still licking my wounds from having lost everything (!!!) by foolishly trying to day-trade (and do not know if I will ever buy stocks again). Having read today what your wrote, I realize I probably should have of given your emails deeper consideration as it may have provided insight of how to dip my toe back into the market without going full bore.

    I wish you the best whichever route you take.

  9. If you can keep originals on your site, but gain distribution through other networks, dual posting sounds like the way to go. The “Go to OTC Adventures to read more or leave a comment” also lets you manage comment contact through your site.

    Seeking Alpha is an obvious choice for increased readership, but they will also hide your article behind a paywall after a few days, attract some inane comments, and potentially cheapen your personal brand by displaying your work next to crypto coin and junior miner pitches.

    Also more active promotion of your existing site could get you a boost. If you summarized an article to a 10-tweet rollout and got Liz Hall to mention it, you could get a few thousand hits right there.

    So long as you don’t go full Tilson on us, “Meet the Pink Sheet Prophet of Pittsburgh who bought LICT at only $2200 a share!!!” I trust your faithful readers would be happy to help you get the word out wherever you land. Good luck!

    1. Haha! More like “Meet the crapco King of Pittsburgh who rode Contura Energy from $70 to $10!”

      You are correct about the association with the less savory side of SA. That’s the nature of investment writing. For every earnest researcher there are a dozen carnival barkers.

  10. Hi Dave
    Long time looker.Small time investor here. Liked your ideas. Your performance I envy. Would be sorry to see you quit. I hope you will keep up the good work. Perhaps if you go the Investing Sidekick route.
    Good what ever you decide

  11. ” Before I make a definitive move, I want to invite readers to comment.”

    If you want to move to Seeking Alpha to increase your readership, fine, as long as I receive the SA link in your OTC blog post coming into my mailbox. I already have created a long time ago an account at SA, but don’t use it much anymore, not enough time and way too much noise on SA.

    The best approach is therefore to post a summary of your SA article on OTC + the link to SA, of the published SA blog post. The summary to entice your readers to click on the SA link, and the SA article to increase your readership and get paid by SA for your publications. Everybody happy: your current readership stays in the loop, and you increase bizz opportunities, while not having to invest more time.

    1. Thank you for your perspective. It is beneficial for me to know how readers prefer to access my content.

  12. Hi Dave,

    I’m one of your lurkers who noticed very early on that you were more than a cut above most  investment bloggers.   The fact that you wrote up 5 of my very obscure investments probably had something to do with that, so it was time to see if you had any interest in managing OPM.  I’m very happy that you said yes.   (The other bloggers that are very good are Matt at Clark Street Value and Heilko at Alpha Vulture, but sadly, they turned me down .)

    I’m not as turned off by Seeking Alpha as some others.  Yes, there are trolls, but if you concentrate on the good posters, I find the site quite useful, especially when getting up to speed on a new idea.   I have no doubt if you started posting on SA, you would eventually build up quite a following. 

    I would also recommend becoming a member of VIC.   It’s an excellent website and the good threads result in hearing all sides of an investment thesis, and if you are looking for more exposure – excellent ideas get noticed.  

    Whatever you decide, I plan on continuing to read your posts.

    1. I am simply happy to be mentioned alongside Matt at Clark Street and Alpha Vulture. Two of the best out there! It’s about time I apply for VIC again. My first attempt was turned down years ago. It wasn’t a terrific write-up, though the stock in question did double over the following year!

      Thank you for the advice.

  13. I would like to add to what others have said. Your posts are well done and I read for the analysis. I have not traded on the ideas but certainly read and learned a bit. I would not mind following on seeking alpha if that is the option you choose, but certainly would love for you to continue.

    1. Recently started following your content and I have really enjoyed it. Takes me awhile sometimes to get to reading but I don’t miss a post. Understand whatever you’d like to do, but would love to keep exploring your ideas.

  14. I personally don’t like SA much. Reading your post, I think in your situation it does make sense to perhaps make the switch. Writing about exchange listed companies will probably get you a lot more attention on SA than you could generate on your own site, but I’m not sure whether many more people will really want to read about OTC-listed stuff. That said, as your AUM grows, you’ll need to focus more on slightly larger, exchange listed stuff anyway, so I’d say SA makes even more sense for you in that situation.

    As far as I know, SA is not an option for foreign stocks that don’t also have a listing in the US. I think you can post about those behind a paywall on their site, but not in public articles. At least, I think that was the situation when I last looked at their requirements. You do usually have a bunch of obscure international companies in your portfolio, so I don’t think you’ll be able to post about those on public SA.

    1. Thanks for your input. I also wish SA would allow content related to non-US stocks. There are so many opportunities! My AUM rising to the point that I have to change my approach is not a problem I expect to have for a long time, but I’ll turn down capital before I get locked out of the best small-cap and micro-cap opportunities. They are my sweet spot.

  15. Perhaps a (relatively) small fee model to compensate for the low post frequency? If you disclose up front that you are going to post infrequently with an unknowable actionable idea volume, I think it’s fair game to add a small bit of recurring income off of your IP.

    Based solely on the amount of times I’ve heard you shouted out on podcasts, I think you’ve built a more loyal following than perhaps even you may think.

    1. Thanks. I won’t be pursuing a paid model, but that would be a sensible approach if I ever changed my mind. It’s always nice to hear that others have enjoyed my work. For the most part, the value investing community is supportive and encouraging, and I try to pay it forward.

  16. Seeking Alpha is far better than many would have you believe. It’s like ice cream, you sample for a while and then decide what flavours you like. You should go with it.

    1. Thank you for your input! I follow several authors of SA, all of whom have provided some great ideas over time.

  17. I love reading your posts. I own a few “trade by appointment” stocks and this blog is in my top 5 must reads.

    Would love to find a way to help support your cause to make this keep going.

    1. Thanks! The best way to support what I’m doing will always be to keep reading. The blog will keep going because believe me, my wife and kids shouldn’t be expected to listen to me talking about my latest find over dinner each night.

  18. Dave,
    I have really enjoyed your write-ups over the years. I feel like Seeking Alpha has become click baitfish.

    But I have no right to expect you to provide your content for free.

    Best on whatever you choose,
    Todd

    1. Thanks! Years ago, I faced a choice. I could monetize my blog by going subscription model or doing a newsletter, etc. Or I could establish an investment management firm. I didn’t think doing both would work, and I still believe that. It doesn’t feel fair to me to “double dip” by charging people to manage their portfolios and charge different people for the same information. So OTC Adventures won’t be going paid. I will continue writing on OTC Adventures, but of course I have to save my best work for clients, at least while I am still accumulating shares of opportunities I like!

      1. You can definitely publish your blogs on Seeking Alpha as well (if you don’t care about getting paid). You can link from there to this blog and have a good profile (including your blog link). You can do that on several other sites as well. That helps expand your reach a bit. Reader numbers for microcaps are very low though. Unless it is a rare high-profile situation that ended up there.

        If you just do the blogs there (unpaid and not-emailed to ticker subscribers) they don’t go behind a paywall.

        If you post on a little bigger names (small caps etc) SA will definitely help new people find you. But if you do the microcaps and you post your blog posts on twitter with the ticker (I’d think people will find you).

  19. Hey Dave,

    I haven’t got a whole lot of input but wanted to thank you for the time and effort you’ve put in to your content over the years. The ‘obscure, misunderstood, hiding in the shadows, awkward business combo’ picks are truly alluring and fascinating to me.

    Good luck with whatever route you decide to go down; I certainly endeavour to remain a reader.

    1. Thank you. OTC Adventures will continue and will remain accessible to all. That’s a requirement for whatever direction I decide to take.

  20. If you want more people to read your writings, then I think SA is a good route to try. Realistically, though, I wonder whether SA will ever be a big funnel to get new clients. You might meet some quirky HNWIs through SA, but much of the buttoned-up Wall Street world still views SA as retail trash. If growing is your main goal, then networking with the right people may be a better use of your time.

    More importantly, do you want to grow Alluvial to a 9-figure AUM fund? If so, you will probably need to change your investment style a lot. Forget $100k minimum position sizes (which is already probably too low of a threshold for your AUM, in my opinion), you will be at $1mm easily. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision, it just means that the game gets harder and you need to be better to achieve the same results.

    1. Great comments. Thank you. I totally agree that allocators with serious $$$ to throw around are not lurking on SA reading random pieces of analysis. Then again, those people are generally not looking at firms like Alluvial at all. Not enough AUM, no neatly-defined style box, insufficient infrastructure, etc. And that’s OK. Nearly all of Alluvial’s clients are high net worth individuals who happen to enjoy the micro-cap market but want to diversify their own efforts or farm their portfolio out and spend more time with family or other hobbies.

  21. In general I mistrust investment advice websites, blogs, newsletters.
    Now that I have read your motivation, your letters have gained more my trust.
    The quality of your analysis is good. Your article on Titlis Bergbahnen put me on the track of swiss investments.
    I hope you will cover again more european stocks.
    I would not shift your content to a well known investment website. In general the quality of investment analysis and recommendations there is very poor. It’s better not to be associated with it.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate it. I plan to write more on European stocks. I do a lot of international investing. The only problem is many of my readers stick to US stocks only, so too much discussion of European stocks is not of interest for them.

  22. For a small investor it is getting harder to find real blogs or other people such as yourself to provide any useful content or investment ideas. I grew up in a similar situation as you and have worked to build a small nest egg buying some of these little companies and holding for a long time. Alluvial would be right up my alley for assistance in investing but I like to do it on my own. I would be willing to pay for the blog if the price were reasonable. I think your writing is very good and hope you continue to share. It is funny that no one cares to listen about investing in your household. LOL My wife and kids could care less as well.

  23. I just wanted to say that I love your blog and I have been reading it for many years. I hope you continue!!! If you find that posting on Seeking Alpha would increase your readership, then I’ll follow you there 🙂 Selfishly speaking, I do hope you continue to post free content 🙂

    Good luck with your decision!

  24. Dave, I’ve been following you since before Alluvial. You’ve got a really great story. I don’t always read every blog post because of the opportunity cost of time, but when I do they’re always interesting. I tend to agree with the consensus thoughts on SA, but best of luck in whatever you choose.
    Brian

  25. Thank you for all of your research. I believe you should do whatever works best for you!
    Happy Investing!

  26. I think you should really think about your OTC stocks not being allowed to trade due to the SEC ruling and stovk values & your AUM plummeting to 0. You will be hooped. Are you scared?

    1. Scared? Not particularly. The proposed SEC rule change on only affects non-reporting so-called “dark stocks.” These make up only about 5% of my AUM. I believe there is a good chance the “expert market” proposed by multiple different parties will be allowed to function as a venue to continue trading in these stocks. But if not, I am comfortable holding these shares for many years to come, ultimately selling back to the company or to an acquirer.

      1. Yes it will affect stocks like JG Boswell where I have a big shareholding. Do you like the company and will you recommend continuing to own it ?:(

        OTC Adventures is very best. Please continue publishing.

        1. Yes, JG Boswell is at risk of becoming difficult to trade if the proposed rule change goes through. Unfortunately, I cannot make any buy/sell/hold recommendations here, as doing so would be against my ethical guidelines as a registered investment advisor.

          1. Not asking you investment advice, kind sir. Just wanted to know if you like JG Boswell. Stating you like a stock over the long term will not construe investment advice.

            Thanking you kindly.

  27. Dave,

    I have, over the years, very much enjoyed your writings and the education your blog has provided. The financial detective work you have done was fascinating and should be more widely circulated. Though I’m no fan of Seeking Alpha due to the high volume of chaff your blog could a highlight. It would provide you the wider audience you deserve and help you advance your personal business.

    I wish that I was at the level of an accredited investor so that I could give you a portion of my portfolio. Early in your writings, it was often difficult for someone is Canada to invest in some of your ideas but the situation has much improved and occasionally I have been the Remora to your shark.

    Thanks for the entertainment and education you’ve provided to date and good luck with whatever you do in the future.

    1. Thanks for the encouraging comment! I am always happy to hear somebody has found this blog informative and beneficial to his education in investing.

  28. I think mirroring your posts here on SA is probably a good idea. One thing to keep in mind is that post in SA disappear behind a pay wall after a couple of weeks, so unless you want to trade in a bit of money for a whole less of exposure, then it’s not a good trade off.

    I have been follow you blog for years and always enjoyed your content end learned from it. I think the most important thing you are getting is Readers feedback to your long format.
    If you wan to get more exposure my suggetsion would be to add up your twitter game and supplement this blog with short form posts there.

  29. There is a newsletter called the Prudent Speculator which has both a paid newsletter and managed account services, so it can be done. Perhaps go through their ADV to get a sense of their policies and procedures.

    Given the level of comments here, I think you should consider using the blog as you currently do, but making the articles as more of teaser and have a quarterly newsletter where you can go more in depth on a new name or review an existing holding. A second source of revenue never hurt anyone.

    Have you considered the interactive brokers marketplace for your SMA strategy?

    What about trying to interact with some other publications that have the thoughtful audience you are looking for like Grant’s Interest Rate Observer or their podcast.

  30. I am a big fan of this blog the way it is. It has brought to my attention interesting out of the way companies. It is always very informative and unique. I hope you keep posting.

  31. Whatever works for you. I’m a Seeking Alpha proponent as I have found the platform valuable as a networking and feedback tool. Just glad you are keeping on with it!

  32. Would love for you to maintain the status quo but I completely understand the constraints that have led you to write this post. As a young investor, I’ve learned quite a bit from your work and greatly appreciate your willingness to share so much of your thought process. Whatever you decide, thanks very much and good luck.

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