Today's Column
8:30 AM Monday June 14, 2004: Hanover, NH. The best investment you can make is your children. My son, Michael, graduated from Dartmouth yesterday. Figure $200,000 for his B.A. Worth every penny. Now he goes onto Dartmouth's month-long, mini-MBA program, called Bridge and in several years probably a real, two-year MBA program. He's already several-fold smarter than me. A few years from now, he'll be awesome -- a favorite word around Dartmouth to describe the "Dartmouth Experience."

Michael A. Newton, honors in government, yesterday.

Claire starts law school this year. This is her, two years ago, graduating from Bowdoin in Maine. She'll hate me for publishing this photo. But I love it. It's my baby Claire.

These kids will choose my nursing home. I hope it's as nice as the colleges I helped them choose.

Commencement address -- Part II: Jeff Immelt, GE boss, talked at Dartmouth. His five-point advice for the graduates:
1. Commit to learn something new every day.
2. Work hard with passion and courage.
3. Be a giver. "Most times, I'm teaching," he said.
4. Have confidence.
5. Be an optimist.
He concluded: "You have some amazing days ahead. Take on the world's greatest problems. Now, go get them."

How Google destroyed my business, but may now save it. Technology exists to create and to destroy. Technology creates wealth beyond your wildest imagination. But it can destroy wealth in the blink of an eyeball. The technology publishing business I sold in 1997 is today worth no more than a tenth of what I sold it for. What happened? First, the tech wreck of 2000-2002, which cut tech spending and decimated tech advertising. Second, the Internet and then Google.

Our largest magazine issues were buyers' guides. Our most profitable business was our trade shows. Here our readers could find the products they wanted. The Internet exploded. It became the world's largest buyers' guide. Google arrived. It became the world's best product finder. Suddenly it became far easier to find what you wanted -- instead of schlepping to a distant trade show or thumbing through a heavy, thick magazine.

None of this was predictable. There seem to me to be two lessons:

1. Take some money home. Clearly your own business is (after your children) "The Perfect Investment." But since you can't predict left-field events like the Internet and Google, you should take some money home, while the going is good. Don't leave it all in the business.

2. Join the bandwagon. If a "left-field" event -- like the Internet or Google -- broadsides your business, join it in some way. Google is now the most power advertising medium on planet Earth. If you sell left-handed, baby nipples,your web site should pop up in every Google search for left-handed, baby nipples. You'll pay for the privilege of a "sponsored link." But you'll get more business than you ever dreamed of. And you'll never have to advertise in a magazine or telephone yellow pages again. The major reason to advertise now is to announce new products.

Now comes Google's latest invention -- AdSense -- which may save mine. Here's how this one works: You write a column on the Internet, as I do. I include a piece of Google computer code in my column. Then users who visit my column will see ads that, according to Google, are the most likely match between the things I talk about and the advertisers' products -- brokerage ads, I bankers, money management services. Each time someone clicks on an advertiser's link, the advertiser pays a fee to Google, and Google passes some of that on to me.

As you can see, I haven't embraced AdSense, yet. I'm still mulling as to whether it will destroy my "objectivity." What happens if I get money from AT&T for recommending users, when the stock is my biggest short?

But what a fantastic idea. And one that's clearly catching on. Here's Check out the sponsored Google AdSense links on the right.

AdSense will clearly change the entire nature of publishing as we know. For more on how it works, click here. For a piece that James Fallows did on AdSense over the weekend, click here.

By the way, you do -- amazingly enough -- get two Google sponsored links when you search for "left-handed, baby nipples."

A Parable for Our Times
One day, a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river when her thimble fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, "Why are you crying?"
The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water, and she needed the thimble to make her living.
The Lord went down into the water and reappeared with a golden thimble.
"Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked.
The seamstress replied, "No."
The Lord again went down and came up with a wooden thimble. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked.
Again, the seamstress replied, "No."
The Lord went down again and came up with a silver thimble. "Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked.
The seamstress replied, "Yes."
The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.
Some time later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, "Why are you crying?"
"Oh, Lord, my husband has fallen into the water!"
The Lord went down into the water and came up with Mel Gibson. "Is this your husband?" the Lord asked.
"Yes!" cried the seamstress.
The Lord was furious. "You lied! That is an untruth!"
The seamstress replied, "Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said 'no' to Mel Gibson, you would have come up with Tom Cruise or Sean Connery. Then if I said 'no' to him, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said 'Yes,' you would have given me all three men. Lord, I am a poor woman and am not able to take care of all three husbands, so that's why I said 'yes' to Mel Gibson."
The Lord said, "I understand. You are forgiven."

The moral of this story is: Whenever a woman lies, it is for a good and honorable reason, and for the benefit of others.

That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

Harry Newton

I make my daily column (Monday through Friday) freely available for three reasons: First, writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I'm hoping some of you will send me your investing ideas and concerns. To email me, Click here
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