Today’s Financial News

“What we have to do is boil down our view of the market into something actionable.”

If – TFN for short – had a mantra, that would be their chant.

Given TFN’s success in this market climate, it may come as a surprise that helmsman Christoph Amberger has only 5 people working in the office.

TFN was born in 2006. Christoph then was the executive publisher of the Taipan Group, a financial publishing company owned by Baltimore-based Agora, Inc., one of the largest financial newsletter publishers in the world.

A veteran of the financial newsletter business, Christoph has been with Agora since 1988. When Christoph, a native of West Berlin, Germany, came to Agora, the company had 36 employees and did about $6 million in annual revenues. Now revenue is closer to $300 million with 450 employees in Baltimore alone.


Christoph was entrusted with one of the newsletters, called Taipan. He grew this single publication into a publishing unit of 14 products totaling $25-$29 million dollars in annual revenues, with 40 employees who served 250,000 readers.

The new TFN venture first focused on bringing financial online video to subscribers, “We produced financial interview shows with what we considered the best editors in the industry.” But Christoph concedes, “It seems like we were too early… perhaps. The project was unable to create enough momentum to make it into a viable business model.”

Never one to accept defeat, he spun off “Today’s Financial News” as an Independent LLC within the Agora framework. Agora is still their main investor.

During the time he grew Taipan, Christoph noticed that what he truly liked about the dawn of the business wasn’t happening anymore: Editors were hiding behind money management issues. “And the creation of newsletter ideas had become almost an industrial process,” he muses. “The relationship between the reader and the editors of a publication – originally the core of the business – had almost become secondary.”

Christoph decided to go back to basics: “At TFN, we thrive on the give and take between our readers and our editors. We remain strictly within the law, of course – and within SEC regulations. But during our video period, we really learned to put our faces to what we said. Quite literally. We’re accountable to our readers and subscribers… as a business and as individuals.”

“The only way to survive in this market as a start-up business – which is what we are – is to create satisfied subscribers. You do that by providing excellent service. And by producing good, actionable, and profitable stock recommendations.”

The TFN team’s “calling card” product is a subscription service called Hot Stock Confidential. Within a year of launching, this service has quickly become one of the most successful stock picking letters this year.

Christoph credits his colleagues with that success. When he created TFN, he took a few people with him. “We now have a great editorial team to provide answers to the questions our subscribers are looking for.”

This is a team of very committed individuals: Associate publisher and Hot Stock Confidential editor Laura Cadden used to be a product manager in his old division. As it turns out, she also had a talent for coming up with better stock picks than many highly-paid editors who had gone thorough analyst training and read all the right books.

Laura makes certain the core service of the business is provided to the utmost degree. Customer concerns are responded to in a timely fashion. He adds, “I cannot tell you how often that does not occur in today’s world. Especially if you’d leave this to a ‘big picture’ guy like me.”

The other key member of his editorial crew is Andrew Snyder, who manages TFN’s options trading service, TFN Strategic Trader. A trained analyst with all the right degrees, he cut his teeth on publications like BreakAway Investor. Andrew proved to be an interesting, very understated character. An avid outdoorsman, he’s just as much at home on the financial markets as he is in the Alaska wilderness. “He’s a straight shooter, almost un-bribable,” says Christoph.

“Andrew is our resident guru, technical analyst and sounding board for any kind of problem Laura and I may run into.”

So how does one go about making money in the stock market these days?

“We’re looking to maximize our readers’ potential to emerge from this market with substantial gains. With this kind of volatility in the market, that means less long-term ‘investing’ and more short-term trades. One has to adapt to changes.

“Some blue chip stocks now trade at lower prices than penny stocks. But they still have tremendous volume attached.”

But should you still be investing in the stock markets?

Christoph has a definite opinion about this: “There’s really no other worthwhile alternative to equity investing. Savings accounts pay you 1.8% a year if you’re lucky. Treasuries yield a little more. But the U.S. government has thrown all caution to the wind and is creating large-scale inflation in the medium to long term.

“What we’re looking for in this climate is what we call ‘damn good stocks’. That’s companies with great products, good management… or a major catalyst in the cards. Like FDA approval for a drug or new technology.

“We try to get into those at reasonable prices… and then take the gains those stocks generate without being too greedy. We aim for minimum gains of 20-25%.

“As of today we have made 63 stock recommendations that produced double-digit gains for our Hot Stock Confidential readers in 2009. We have 13 losing positions, which gives us an average gain of 22.4%. What’s most telling is that our average holding period is now down to 52 days.”

Has he noticed any change in investor attitudes?

“Many threw in the towel after February and March,” he says. “Some of them are slowly testing the waters again. I’ve never seen so much distrust in the market. But there’s still substantial optimism. Especially among foreign investors.”

Indeed, a good third of TFN’s subscribers are foreign-based… investors from India, Singapore, China, Germany.

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(c) 2009 Strasbaugh

Claudia Strasbaugh was a freelance writer who founded Scripps Ranch/Mira Mesa Writer’s Guild, was head writer for the weekly TV show “Kill ‘EM With Comedy,” plus California Bureau Chief for National Lotto World Magazine. Claudia also ran a nonprofit called Dinner On A Dollar. Sadly, Claudia passed away in 2015, but we are pleased to display her writing works.