The Motley Fool: Fools in Name But Not in Nature

by Megan -

At first glance, one probably wouldn’t assume a company by the name of “The Motley Fool” offered financial solutions for investors, analyzing earnings reports and rating stocks for the benefit of its community of millions. Yet that’s exactly what the “Fools” at this financial services company do. So what’s with the silly name? Taken from Shakespearean literature, the “fool” was someone who both amused and instructed those around them, and could speak the sometimes-harsh truth to royalty – without the fear of losing his head. It was the perfect name for this financial services company, which had (and still has) a fresh and fun take on an otherwise serious subject.

The Motley Fool is the brainchild of brothers David and Tom Gardner. It started in July of 1993 in Alexandria, Virginia as a monthly 16-page investment newsletter mailed to 1,000 friends and family members. The brothers requested $48 for an annual subscription; 37 people subscribed. With the odds against them, the Gardner brothers’ dedication to building the world’s greatest investment community fueled the flames to keep going. The investment paid off.

Despite their humble beginnings in the summer of ’93, the Motley Fool grew to be the most popular finance site on America Online – in less than a year. By 1998, the Fools had been referred to as an “ethical oasis” by “The Economist,” published three best-selling books, successfully launched their own website, and played one killer April Fool’s Day prank on the financial world. After celebrating their 20th anniversary this past summer, things couldn’t be better for the growing team. And while the team has expanded well beyond the two founding brothers, David and Tom are just as passionate as ever about helping the world make better investments, serving as a daily inspiration for their team.

The Motley Fool started off in the Internet go-go age as an online resource for retail investors, the first and biggest of its kind,” recalls Motley Fool Analyst Austin Smith, who considers himself a relatively new Fool. “We rose with the Internet bubble and our employee base shot higher. Then the world came crashing down and we had to reimagine our business. We've since converted to a subscription-based business with our premium newsletters reaching investors the world over and providing investing advice for every skill level and type of investor.

Today, the Motley Fool reaches millions of people each month through its website, books, newspaper column, television appearances, and subscription newsletter services. The team champions shareholder values and advocates tirelessly for the individual investor. Recently, however, the Fools jumped into a new frontier: video production.

Our most recent foray, which finally broke the mold and became profitable for us, began probably about two years ago,” said Smith of the company’s on-again off-again endeavor into creating videos. “However, it took four to six months of dipping toes in the water before we really, truly committed to growing videos at scale. The push started 18-20 months ago.

When they started out, the team was using individual editors for all of their production needs, but the process required a day or more to turn around the final product. The software restricted them from discussing the day’s financial events, putting them behind the conversation. The Fools needed something that would shorten production time and allow them to publish videos same day. That’s when they stumbled upon the perfect software for their needs: BoinxTV. Smith tells us, “We heard about BoinxTV through online research and switched to the software because of its ease of use and the timely nature it allowed us to publish.

The team now works almost exclusively with BoinxTV, pairing it with some patched-together workflows including Handbrake, PowerPoint, Word, and an API plug-in. In addition to BoinxTV, the Fool’s technical setup consists of a Mac, three Sony FS700 cameras with teleprompters, a Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher, and a mixer for audio. And while BoinxTV offers easy-to-use features and allows for a quicker production process, these aren’t the main reasons the Motley Fool continues to work with the system. The Motley Fool’s favorite aspect of using BoinxTV?

The team. We may not still be using BoinxTV today if it wasn't for the very responsive and talented team at Boinx. They were able to build us custom layer solutions for our very specific uses and have been a pleasure to work with as we have grown our production.

BoinxTV’s powerful layer concept offers virtually endless possibilities for users to design show templates, by adding layers such as lower thirds, picture-in-picture, scrolling tickers, green screen effects and much more. While this was a great start for the Motley Fool, they needed more. They asked Boinx for special, custom layers with certain options and functionalities. Working over Skype (due to the major mileage between Munich and Alexandria) Achim Breidenbach, Boinx Software co-founder and Quartz Composer extraordinaire, discussed the details with the Motley Fool team in order to implement these new features.

Once I had the graphical designs, I began implementing the features and certain behaviors,” Achim recalls. “When I finished the first version of the layer, I handed it over to the Motley Fool crew, who then tested it in their production environment. After thoroughly testing it, they came back with important feedback. And so in two or three development cycles, a layer was finished and installed on the production machines.

With helpful input from the Motley Fool team, Boinx developed a layer that would run topics on a sidebar to fit their unique requirements. The anchorman has a specific amount of time to discuss that particular topic until it is switched to the next one. To give even more flexibility, the BoinxTV operator can decide if the topic switches manually or automatically at predetermined time intervals.

Another interesting layer we helped develop for the Motley Fool fetches live stock data from their own web service,” says Achim. “The BoinxTV operator simply enters any given stock symbols, prompting the current stock price to display in the recorded TV show. When we finished creating this layer, we actually decided to take it to the next level by displaying stock charts in real time with live data.

You can see these and more layers in action by watching videos from any of the Motley Fool’s series, such as Investor Beat, Ask a Fool and MarketFoolery. It’s all available on their YouTube channel. Whether you’re an experienced investor or simply thinking about opening up a few stocks, the Motley Fool’s videos are the perfect mix of informative and entertaining to help you make the right investing decisions.

Next up in the pipeline for the Motley Fools is, you guessed it, more videos! According to Smith, the new focus will include longer form financial shows that will run anywhere from “five to 15 minutes in length, running the gamut of financial topics and providing more discussion for every type of investor.

We've been thrilled with the team and are eager to grow with them as we push Boinx further and further and they respond with even better solutions.

Check out everything the crew is up to at www.fool.com or see some of their videos on their YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe to stay keep up with all the Motley Fool updates!