Technology Investor 

Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM Monday, March 20, 2006: Funny weekend reading. A bunch of articles say the stockmarket is about to tank. A bunch say it's about to soar. Both sets have learned reasoning with oodles of carefully chosen statistics.

Predictions fill newsletters and newspapers. That's their BIG accomplishment. A coin toss today would work just as well. Suffice, follow our rules: Don't buy on margin. Don't take outrageous risks. Be broadly diversified. When anything tanks 15%, get out.

Firefox's absolutely delightful feature: Firefox is the better Internet Explorer. Get it for free from here. Two big reasons to use it, not IE:
1. Firefox is less susceptible to viruses, spyware, etc.
2. Firefox has tabbing. You can have 20 web sites open simultaneously and jump instantly between each. File/New Tab. I've just learned you can set Firefox up so when you start it, it will automatically open the web sites you want. Here's how. Set up the web sites you want, e.g. Wall Street Journal, New York Times business, BusinessWeek, and this site. Then go Tools/Options. Underneath the home page location is a button marked Use Current Pages. Click that.

Mutual Fund sales charges can still be outrageous: Some mutual fund families have dramatically reduced their sales charges to match Vanguard's. Some remain staggeringly high. There is zero relationship between high sales charges and performance. You don't get better performance if you pay more in sales charges.

There are basically three types of sales charges -- those you pay up front (going-in charges) -- as much as 5.75%. This means you give them $100 in cash. They invest $94.25. To get back to your original $100, the fund would have to earn 6.1% -- which is more than many funds earned in the past 12 months.

The second way of paying sales charges is to pay nothing up front, but pay when you take your money out (going-out charges), i.e. cash your fund shares out. Here's a typical (and outrageous) going-out charge schedule:

Year of Redemption Deferred Sales Charge
Seventh and following


The third charge is an annual management fee. All funds charge it. But not all funds charge going-in or going out fees. The average annual management fee is about 1.5%. My Vanguard funds (which charge no going-in or going-out fees) charge 0.5% annual management fee.. By comparison, Fidelity's Contrafund, which Cramer pushes, charges 0.91% annual management fee -- and also, to its credit, charges no going-in or going-out fees.

Traditional media companies are making a huge push onto the Internet: Private Capital Management put me into newspaper stocks which was dumb because newspapers are dying. And, so, it turns out are traditional media companies. This is from the Economist:

MARCH Madness starts this week in America, and for the rest of the month millions of basketball fans will watch the country's college teams dunk on each other, until the final of the men's national championship on April 3rd. CBS, a broadcast-television network, has shown the event since 1982—but this year it is conducting an experiment. As well as broadcasting the games on TV, it is streaming them live over the Internet free of charge, accompanied by advertisements.

CBS's move is one of many recent efforts by traditional media companies to try to develop “new media” revenue streams. Music firms have sold their material online for a while. Newspaper and magazine publishers are busy trying to attract readers on the Internet. But now the world's largest entertainment companies are rushing to distribute their video content online and, to a lesser extent, to the users of mobile phones.

Old media companies are also snapping up Internet firms as fast as they can. Most of these are profitable, in contrast to the dotcoms of a few years ago—but only just. On March 6th NBC Universal, a media firm owned by General Electric, spent $600m on iVillage, a website for women which had a profit of $9.5m in 2005. Last year Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation spent more than a billion dollars buying barely profitable Internet companies.

Has the industry gone as crazy as basketball fans in springtime? The answer is that traditional media companies have no choice but to experiment. They are in mature businesses, many of which are endangered by the Internet and other technologies. Investors have sold down their shares. This week, Mr. Murdoch warned in a speech in London that changing technology means that “power is moving away from the old elite in our industry—the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors.” Old media companies badly need to persuade the stockmarket that the digital era brings them opportunities as well as threats.

“Everyone's got a digital tsar now, or if they haven't, they're frantically searching for one,” says Peter Kreisky, a media consultant. Many large media firms have recently formed separate digital divisions. With the exception of Time Warner, which in 2000 merged with AOL, an Internet-access firm, most of these contribute only a tiny slice of their parent company's revenues (see chart). But they are growing rapidly. Jessica Reif Cohen, a media analyst at Merrill Lynch, reckons that profits from online advertising and paid content could represent up to 8-9% of total earnings for Disney, Viacom and News Corporation in 3-5 years and considerably more for Time Warner, courtesy of AOL. The most obvious opportunity is to put the content they already own on new platforms. Media companies can charge people directly, or sell ads around it. In October last year Disney took the big step of allowing two of its hit dramas—“Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”—to be downloaded from Apple's iTunes download service on to iPods for $1.99 an episode. Programmes from NBC and from Viacom's cable channels soon followed, and CBS has put two of its hits, “CSI” and “Survivor”, on Google Video Store, the search firm's new video service. Time Warner, Disney and Viacom have all started broadband channels.

Only a fraction of the media firms' video content is online, certainly, but every few weeks another slew of popular programmes makes the leap. In just a few years, says Michael Wolf, president and chief operating officer of MTV Networks, almost all the company's content will be available online and on several platforms. Because people in offices will be able to gain access to it, he says, “daytime will become the new primetime.” (For people watching March Madness at work, CBS has thoughtfully provided a “Boss Button”, which at a moment's notice calls up a fake spreadsheet.)

Shifting onto the Internet will take time, because powerful forces are lined up against changes to video distribution, says Josh Bernoff, a television analyst at Forrester Research. Most important are huge concerns about digital piracy, although Apple and Google do seem to have eased those with digital-rights-management technology, which guards against unauthorized copying. Content owners also worry that putting their video online might mean that fewer people would watch programmes on TV, which is where they earn most of their advertising revenue.

And none of the conglomerates want to jeopardize the phenomenal profitability of DVDs. So far, Hollywood has barely allowed its films onto the Internet, and certainly not before their release on DVD. But even that taboo may soon be broken. Amazon, an online retailer, is reportedly in talks with three Hollywood studios about a service that would allow people to download new movies at the same time as they come out on DVD.

Which of the big entertainment conglomerates is furthest ahead? That, of course, is fiercely debated by rival executives. Many were jealous of Mr. Murdoch's purchase of, a social-networking site, because its soaring popularity has pushed News Corporation up among the giants of the Internet by page views. Viacom is believed to have wanted to buy the site, but it lost out to News Corporation at the last moment. Now, however, after a furor over men lying about their age on so as to meet under-age girls, competitors are feeling a bit less envious.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that News Corporation has moved most vigorously among large media firms. Viacom, on the other hand, has missed some opportunities, perhaps partly because it has spent the last year or so concentrating on splitting from its sister company, CBS Corporation. As well as missing, it has still to launch the music download service it has talked of for years (it is planning a music service called URGE with Microsoft for later in 2006) and in the meantime Apple has seized the online music market.

Each of the firms has a different strategy for the Internet. Viacom and News Corporation want to build or acquire brand new online businesses as well as to expand their existing brands onto the Internet. Disney and Time Warner, on the other hand, are mostly putting their own programming online. Jeff Bewkes, chief operating officer of Time Warner, reckons that one-off download deals such as Disney's and NBC's with Apple's iTunes will prove to be merely a beginning. “These are fine trials and they may turn up something,” he says, “but the evidence says that the real money goes to ad-supported and subscription models.” Vivendi Universal, a French media firm, is being more cautious than the American firms. Its chief executive, Jean-Bernard Levy, says it will exploit the Internet to distribute its content, but not as a general-purpose advertising medium. There is still plenty of doubt over whether traditional media companies have the right stuff to prosper on the Internet. But now no one can accuse them of not trying. Perhaps the most promising change is that executives at all levels are fully aware that succeeding online means personal reward. As one manager explains: “In 2002 it was career death to be involved with the Internet, now it's a career priority.”

Don't load your PC with junk. Especially Apple junk. My daughter allowed a relative to put Apple's iTunes onto her laptop so he could load up his new iPod. Good for him. Lousy for her. Her laptop turned glacial. She needs to rip off the extraneous software Apple loads, like QuickTime. Lessons:
+ Don't allow anyone mess with your PC.
+ Load the absolute least software you need. Want to play with software? See if it's any good? Load it on a old machine you don't care about.

Real estate syndication does wonderfully well: We bought a downtown office building, fixed it up, rented it fully out and then sold it (in the last few days). IRR? 37%? Better than a slap in the belly with a cold fish.

More stuff on bird flu: From an authoritative source, I'm assured:

Bird flu is an infected disease which is caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses, so it is called also avian flu. These flu viruses seem generally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually they do not get sick from them. Nevertheless, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them. Domesticated birds may become infected with avian flu virus through direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry that have been contaminated with the virus.

Many people think viruses like the common cold and influenza, fly through the air then into your body through your mouth or nose. But most viruses don't fly into your body - they hitchhike! It can spread many ways. With a virus on your hands all you need to do is touch, scratch or rub your eyes or nose and the virus can enter your body. Over ninety percent of respiratory viruses get into your body when you touch your eyes and nose with your fingernails.

Bird flu can be treated by Tamiflu. It belongs to a group of medicines called neuraminidase inhibitors. It is directly attack the influenza virus and prevents it from spreading inside your body. Tamiflu treats flu at its source by attacking the virus that causes the flu, rather than simply masking symptoms. Each Tamiflu remedy contains 75 mg of perfect drug and should be taken by mouth.

Tamiflu is usually well bearable remedy. Tamiflu may cause mild-to-moderate nausea or vomiting in minor amount of people. Taking Tamiflu with food may decline the potential for these side effects. Other less common side effects may include bronchitis, sleeplessness and vertigo. Tamiflu is approved for patients aged 1 year and older and is available in a choice of capsule or liquid suspension form.

A flu vaccination is your best chance to protect against the flu, if you can take it. However, you may have heard that the vaccine is not completely effective. Why? Because the flu strains it protects against may not be the same as the ones that are going around in your area. So even if you have received a flu shot, you could still get the flu.

If these conditions apply to you, consult with your doctor. Learn about the opportunity of preventing flu with antiviral medications such as Tamiflu. These are available only by prescription and must be started within 2 days of flu exposure. Tamiflu is approved for patients aged 1 year and older and is available in a choice of capsule or liquid suspension form.

To prevent getting the flu, or to lessen its severity, before flu season starts, you should get a flu shot each fall. This is particularly prescribed if you are aged 50 and older or have a heart problem. Wash your hands could be the best way to avoiding the bird flu virus. You should wash and dry your hands every time you go to the toilet and any time you have hand to hand contact with people or contact with birds. The next time you go to rub your eyes or engage in an unmentionable activity with your nostrils remember viruses don't fly into your surroundings- they hitchhike.

About to have a bad day? Every time I look at this, I laugh. Perhaps I'm perverse?

Friday was St. Patricks Day. Three more:
An Irishman arrived at J.F.K. Airport and wandered around the terminal with tears streaming down his cheeks. An airline employee asked him if he was already homesick.

"No," replied the Irishman "I've lost all me luggage!"

"How'd that happen?"

"The cork fell out!" said the Irishman.

Second One
An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut.

The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

"Just water," says the priest.

The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"

The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

Third One
Two Irishmen were sitting at a pub having beer and watching the brothel across the street.

They saw a Baptist minister walk into the brothel, and one of them said, "Aye, 'tis a shame to see a man of the cloth goin' bad."

Then they saw a rabbi enter the brothel, and the other Irishman said, "Aye, 'tis a shame to see that the Jews are fallin' victim to temptation as well."

Then they see a catholic priest enter the brothel, and one of the Irishmen said, "What a terrible of the girls must be dying.

Harry Newton

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: 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 encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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