Health & Wealth – Bill Bonner

Health & Wealth – Bill Bonner

Health & Wealth – Bill Bonner

What was once a side project is now a newsletter powerhouse… Author, lawyer and businessman Bill Bonner established his publishing career by communicating ideas that are often underrepresented. Bonner discusses the humble beginnings of his business, the focus of his publications and his predictions for the future of financial publishing and our country with Agora colleague and host, Charles Mizrahi.

Topics Discussed:

  • From Law School to Newsletters (00:02:05)
  • The Next Step (00:04:55)
  • International Living (00:09:10)
  • When the Internet Came Along (00:10:59)
  • Back in the Day (00:13:55)
  • Interpreting Events (00:17:45)
  • Health & Wealth (00:20:01)
  • Where the Industry Is Going (00:25:41)
  • Bill’s Biggest Concern (00:27:19)
  • The Importance of Domestic Life (00:32:34)
  • Expanding Agora (00:34:01)

Guest Bio:

Bill Bonner is founder and chairman of The Agora, the largest independent research network in the world, and co-founder of Bonner & Partners publishing. Over the course of several decades, Bonner established a powerful newsletter business with a global footprint — spanning 14 countries and eight languages. His continued success stems from a desire to share opportunities that are overlooked or stifled by most media outlets.

Bonner is also a New York Times best-selling author and has co-written several books and essays on debt, family fortunes and the market. You can check them out here.

Resources Mentioned:

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Read Transcript

BILL BONNER: We’re the alternative news media — the alternative idea media. We have ideas that are not mainstream. If they were mainstream, nobody would need to turn to us to get them. Those ideas are now being squashed. They’re being put out of business by a bunch of gatekeepers who now have the power to do that.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Bill Bonner. He’s the founder and chairman of The Agora.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: After graduating Georgetown University, he was a lawyer. Bill tried to enter the publishing business as a way to make extra money.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: He first tried a humor newspaper, The Public Spectacle, and then a magazine, The Frontiers of Science. Both didn’t have much success. He then realized that the cost of entry into mainstream publishing was way beyond his means. So, he turned to newsletters.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: In 1978, he started The Agora with his first newsletter, International Living. At the time, the newsletter business was a cottage industry, offering stock market advice — an alternative used by relatively few people.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: A big break for the industry came in the late 90s with the internet. Suddenly, costs, postage, paper and printing plummeted while the potential market soared.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Today, The Agora is the largest independent research network on the planet and has more paid subscribers worldwide than The New York Times and The Washington Post combined. Agora publications are published in 14 different countries and in eight different languages. They generate close to $1 billion a year in revenue.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Bill’s e-letter, which he writes each day, is read by over 500,000 readers around the world.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I recently sat down with Bill to talk about the attack by the government and tech companies on free speech and the important role that newsletter’s play.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Bill, I want to thank you so much for agreeing to appear on the show. It is really an honor and a pleasure to sit down and talk with you.

BILL BONNER: It’s a pleasure being here.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks, man. You were trained as a lawyer. You graduated Georgetown, ready to go into the legal world. My first question to you is: How the heck did you get into newsletters?

BILL BONNER: When I got into law school, it took me about a year to realize that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I had already signed up, so I continued for another two years and got through the courts. But I knew I didn’t want to do that.

BILL BONNER: Meanwhile, I had been working for a public interest group in Washington, raising money. We raised money by mail, and the mailing lists that we went to were often newsletter lists. So, I got curious about newsletters and started reading them. I found that industry very interesting — although, it wasn’t much of an industry back then. It was just a few guys with newsletters.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What intrigued you about this industry?

BILL BONNER: It’s alternative. It’s really the alternative press. The newsletter industry has traditionally been able to say things that the mainstream press can’t say.

BILL BONNER: We were writing to a different audience, and they were typically people who turn to the newsletter world to get views that they don’t get in The Washington Post and The New York Times.

BILL BONNER: That’s all changed a lot with the internet. There are all kinds of flaky views you can get on the internet. But the newsletter business is still one of fundamentally alternative views.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you graduated college and realized you didn’t want to be a lawyer. You spent a year doing other things. What did you do? You started at your kitchen table and said, “I’m going to write a newsletter”?

BILL BONNER: No, it wasn’t that easy. First, I had a friend who wanted to do a satire newspaper, and that was great fun. We did a satire newspaper for about three months before we went totally broke. We were selling a satire newspaper in Washington, D.C., but in Washington, people took themselves very seriously. Nobody wanted to be satirized at a local newspaper. So, we found that that just didn’t work at all. At least, we didn’t have the means to make it work.

BILL BONNER: Then, we tried a magazine. The idea of the magazine was to talk about things that people didn’t know about. Again, it was alternative press. We called it Frontiers of Science. The idea was to push out to things that sounded kind of quirky and strange and find out if they were true or not. That lasted for about five years. But we lost money every year, so eventually, I gave up.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you messed up. It didn’t work out with the satire and Frontiers magazines. What was your next step?

BILL BONNER: Because I had gotten into the newsletter world, I saw that newsletter publishing required a whole lot less capital. You could just start up. You didn’t need a big magazine or editors. You didn’t need picture editors. You didn’t need all that stuff.

BILL BONNER: So, the newsletter business was perfect for somebody who didn’t have any money. I got into it writing a newsletter about something I thought was kind of interesting. Then, I saw that there was business to be done there on a much bigger scale than before.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’d you do? You took out your typewriter and started typing away about international living?

BILL BONNER: International Living was the first one. Soon after that, I was reading all these newsletters from financial guys. The financial guys — who are all dead now — would claim track records, and I wondered whether they were true or not. So, I got together with Mark Hulbert. Mark Hulbert and I started the Hulbert Financial Digest to track the performance of newsletters and tell people how they actually did.

BILL BONNER: Mark is a very nice and very original kind of guy. He studied philosophy at Oxford University, which made him perfectly prepared to do a newsletter about investing.

BILL BONNER: Anyways, we started tracking them and found that it was very difficult to do so because the advice was never very clear. An adviser would say: “I think I might take a shot at this. Get some when the price goes down.”

BILL BONNER: There were all kinds of vague instructions, and the reader could make anything they wanted out of it. We found that very tough, but also very challenging.

BILL BONNER: We also found that the newsletter industry was more interesting than we thought. There were all these people out there with very different ideas. There was an astrologer who based his investments on astrology. He did quite well for a while. We found that it was a world that was fascinating, and we were eager to get deeper into it.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Who was the “we”? Who was the other part of it?

BILL BONNER: Mark Hulbert, and then I had some other partners early on. It was a very small group.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Where were you working? Out of your house? Your basement? Your kitchen table? Did you have an office?

BILL BONNER: Right now, I’m at home.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Oh, no. Not now. Back in the day — when you first started.

BILL BONNER: Back then, no. I had a little office in Washington. We tried all kinds of things, but we had just terminated the Public Spectacle, which was our satire newspaper. We had a little office. It was a very small affair and rundown. There were probably mice running around in the back. But, it was from there that we gradually lost.

BILL BONNER: Then, we moved to Baltimore from Washington because I saw an article in the newspaper about how Baltimore was giving away buildings for free to anybody who agreed to come there and set up a business.

BILL BONNER: I took two of them. I said, “OK, I’ll take two of these buildings” and moved to Baltimore. We’ve been in Baltimore ever since. It’s been almost 40 years.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: By the way, just so our listeners know, the Baltimore when Bill made this bold, courageous move was not the Baltimore that you know today. It was a pretty terrible place.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I remember because I was working for my father at the time, selling garments, and he told me to go to Baltimore and sell. I got off the bus in 1978 or ’79 and it was like a war zone. It was a pretty scary place back then. Those buildings you had turned into great investments. But looking back, nobody was in those buildings.

BILL BONNER: No, Baltimore was a very rough place. It still is. It really is. It depends on what area you’re in.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. So, International Living… What was it about, and how did you find that marketplace?

BILL BONNER: Actually, it was just something I thought was kind of interesting. I imagined that other people would find it interesting too. I didn’t know that there was a marketplace because there was no evidence of it. There were travel magazines, but that was a very different thing. I started writing about living somewhere for a while, having a second life or spending six months of the year in Portugal. I found it very exciting, and I was eager to go do those things.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Now lawyers aren’t known to be great creative writers. How the heck did you go from writing legal briefs to writing newsletters?

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And, by the way, you’re the essayist of our time. We’ll talk more about that in a moment. Your writing is fluid, captivating and engaging. How did you get these skill sets — to sit down, start typing away and talking to the reader in a way nobody did before you?

BILL BONNER: I don’t know that that’s what really happened. I’ve been at this for 40 years, so my first writing was probably horrible! I don’t remember.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: You wouldn’t hire yourself back then, huh?

BILL BONNER: I probably would not. In fact, I was not hirable, generally. I partly got in the newsletter business because, for one moment, I decided to go out and get a real job. That was not too long after I got out of college. I applied for a real job, put on a suit, went to Washington, had an interview, did everything and I didn’t get it.

BILL BONNER: On that basis, I determined that I was kind of unemployable. So, I had to figure something else out.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: You’re a humble man. And of course, you’re going to tell me that you’re not. You are more than that. Everyone I’ve spoken to tells me how humble a person you are. You really took Agora from just an idea on a typewriter to close to $1 billion in revenue. You publish in 14 different countries and eight different languages or so.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Did you ever think, in 1979, that this was where the future was?

BILL BONNER: No, I didn’t. In fact, the future wasn’t there then. What happened was the internet came along. The newsletter business was a small business. It had to be small. It was expensive and difficult. It was hard to find people.

BILL BONNER: When the internet came along, it was no longer a small business. It would be a very big business. And it wasn’t because of me. [You] talked about modesty…. You just have to be realistic about it. It wasn’t me. It was the fact the internet came along — and I didn’t invent the internet.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: But you were well positioned, right? You were positioned there and saw the advantages of the internet. I remember that, back in the day, to solicit prospective subscribers, it took a tremendous amount of money to mail out letters. Then, it became magazines and bookalogues. It took an enormous amount of money.

BILL BONNER: Yes, it was frightfully expensive and very difficult — with very low margin. Our margins were very low. We were scraping by. In fact, we were scraping by for the first 20 or 30 years. We were making progress. The important thing was that we were learning. We were learning how to write.

BILL BONNER: I think that’s really the key: Learning how to write persuasively. In the old days — in the paper world — you had the cost of paper, printing, postage and mailing lists. All those things couldn’t be changed. Those were fixed costs. The only things you could change were words. You could change the words that you sent out. So, all our efforts became focused on having words that meant something and were powerful and persuasive. Our company, not just me, focused on that more than other businesses did.

BILL BONNER: I think that was what served us well. When the internet came along, we had a lot of words! And we kept offering words.

BILL BONNER: Now, we can send out the words for nothing! Before, we did newsletters that came out once a month, on paper. You put them in the mail and they got to somebody if the post office didn’t throw them away.

BILL BONNER: Now, we send out messages twice a day — for free! For people who write for a living — people who like words and expressing themselves through words — it’s a great medium. That was a revolution for us.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I remember back in ’79 or ’80, I subscribed to an options newsletter service. I knew of the person who was producing it. He was a smart market trader. He used to call into an answering machine — which was pretty amazing back then — and, later on, a fax service. That’s how you got the information. Every day at 4:45, New York-time, I would call that number just to hear his voice. You just connected and followed that. That was the engagement. I said, “Wow, what power this business has!”

BILL BONNER: It was remarkable back then — almost more than now — because people didn’t get so much information. They didn’t have so many contacts. When you had that contact with the newsletter guy, the guru, it was really very special. You might remember Harry Schultz. Harry Schultz was one of the pioneers in our business. He later bought a title, so he called himself “Sir Harry.” It’s typical of the eccentrics in our business.

BILL BONNER: Then, Sir Harry developed his own language! Remember: we were sending out pieces of paper and the words counted. He found a way to shorten the words so we could get more of them on each page. You had to read it for a while before you could understand it. It was a totally different language that he’d developed.

BILL BONNER: And his subscribers were very, very loyal! They had invested the time and effort to stick with him and understand what he was saying — to learn his language. It was a whole different experience from the typical things that happen today.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: We never have that with a magazine — with Fortune, Forbes or The Wall Street Journal. You never have that kind of a connection or engagement. That was the magic.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I’m not going to mention the name of it, but there is one market newsletter I have continuously subscribed to since 1984.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I knew the father who produced it and spoke to him. Then, when he passed away, I felt like a member of the family passed away. That was the amazing connection I kept seeing throughout my life of information that was totally different than what you would get in the mass media. It was not only information. It was the engagement.

BILL BONNER: Yeah, it was very important. I stuck with Richard Russell. You probably remember Richard Russell. I’d stuck with him for 40 years.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: And he was bearish from 40 years ago.

BILL BONNER: The whole time!

BILL BONNER: He was very good. You learned a lot! He would introduce you to all the ideas and theories he had and so on. You felt like you were really getting somewhere. Then, later on, you had this relationship with Richard. He was in his 90s or late 80s — to the end — when he stopped writing about markets and started recalling his days in World War II as a bomber. He was a bomber sighter or something. He flew these sorties over Germany. He would recall what it was like — getting shot at and getting shot down. Every day he was lucky to be alive. That was a great experience. I was sorry to see him go. He died about five years ago.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: There’s also another guy… James Dines. I think he’s in his nineties and has been continually writing since around 1960.

BILL BONNER: Another colorful character.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah.

BILL BONNER: He used to come to conferences with the Dinettes. They were these attractive girls who managed his little stand there.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: He was all about marketing. I just want to give a full disclaimer: I write for a newsletter that’s part of the Agora family — for Banyan Hill Publishing. You are my chairman of the board. So, we have that relationship. I just want to let my listeners know that. There is no one out there who has mastered words, and the way to put them together, like you have done over the past 40 years. Today, your e-letter goes out to about half a million people a day.

BILL BONNER: I think it’s about half a million.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: You sit down in front of the computer now… How do you come up with ideas? First of all, the ideas are great. It’s totally engaging. I don’t agree with half the things you say, Bill, I really don’t. But I have to read — just to see where you go with it.

BILL BONNER: Nobody has a lot of ideas. You’re lucky if you have one or two. You’re interpreting events for people. At least, that’s the way I see it.

BILL BONNER: Things happen and people want to know what to make of it. Is it important? Is it not important? Should I do something different? Should I sell? Should I buy? So, you’re really just interpreting these events through the lens of your own ideas — and you don’t have many ideas. I only have one, but I keep spinning everything through it to see how it turns out.

BILL BONNER: It’s like one of those things you put wine through to get some air in. Once you get going, it gets easier. If you have to sit down and write a message like I do — in 700 words — it’s hard. You’ve got to think: “What am I writing about? What am I going to say?” When I do it, Tuesday follows from Monday and Wednesday follows from Tuesday. It’s an ongoing conversation.

BILL BONNER: Occasionally, I sit there and don’t have anything to say — but that’s very rare. I’m usually just elaborating on what I said yesterday.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: There’s the trick folks. You’ve got it. That’s really the trick, and you mastered it.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: My question is this: Out of all the topics that were out there, Agora specialized and focused on health and wealth. Why those two?

BILL BONNER: Those are the only two that really work. And it’s not just health and wealth. We still do International Living, which is kind of quirky. What’s important to people is their money and health. Those two areas cover just about everything of real importance.

BILL BONNER: There’s another newsletter business — a whole industry — that covers little things. I call them little, but they’re not little. [They cover] how to get ahead in your job or program your computer… [There are] lots and lots of detailed newsletters that are very practical.

BILL BONNER: But that’s a different business. Our business is selling ideas. And the ideas people want to read about are the ideas that are most important to them, which are their health — and health includes practically everything — and their wealth, which also includes economics, politics and everything involved in wealth. There’s a lot of ground [to cover] in those two areas.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Agora has how many millions of subscribers?

BILL BONNER: We have about 2.5 [million].

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you have 2.5 million people. You ask the average person about a newsletter and they look at you cross-eyed. They have no idea what you’re talking about. How big is the newsletter industry — the universe of subscribers?

BILL BONNER: I don’t know. We’re the big player in that market. When I started, I had four or five competitors. They all just gave up! Or, they got old and retired.

BILL BONNER: Now, we don’t have many. I don’t know how big the market is. I’m talking about the worldwide [market]. We sell our stuff all over the world, and nobody else does that. In the U.S., that market is maybe five million people. Maybe it’s 10 million. I don’t know. It can’t be more than 10 [million]. It’s still a very small market.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: We’re now at a crossroads. The information on the internet is ubiquitous. You can really get anything. Most people say: “Why the heck am I going to pay a nickel when I get all this amazing free stuff?”

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What reason are you giving that prospect or subscriber to pay you for information on health or wealth when they could easily spend an hour or two searching on the internet and possibly find it?

BILL BONNER: It’s is an entirely different thing. You can get anything on the internet. Anything. But you don’t want anything. The hard thing in in life is separating the wheat from the chaff. You can get on the internet and the next thing you know, you’ll be you’ll be breaking into the Capitol building. There are all kinds of things available to you, but you don’t want information. You’ve got too much information. What you want is somebody you trust to go through the information and give you something that you can you can work with.

BILL BONNER: That’s what Richard Russell taught me. Every day, he would come on and say, “Well, the Dow went up, but I don’t think it’s a big deal because…” That saved me a lot of time. I didn’t have to think about it myself because I trusted him. I wasn’t going to worry about it.

BILL BONNER: It’s a matter of trust. The relationship is so much more important because if you have somebody on the other end of the line that you trust, you’re willing to pay them.

BILL BONNER: In fact, you should pay them. If you don’t pay them, the deal is not right. It’s not right to get something that’s valuable and not pay for it. People understand that, and they like that deal. They want to pay. They want to pay because they want a deal where somebody else agrees to do the work — to analyze, think and figure things out when they can’t. People are too busy. They have lives.

BILL BONNER: There are people who are aeronautical engineers or well drillers. They’ve got families. They’ve got all kinds of things going on. They pay us to do the work that they would do themselves if they had the time, training or inclination. That’s the relationship we have with them. It’s not just spewing out information because you can get any kind of information you want. We don’t do that.

BILL BONNER: In fact, we try to limit the amount of information because that’s what people really need. They need less information and more wisdom. Wisdom is what we try to provide.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. So, it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant versus a garden hose. You supply the garden hose with exactly what they want to get because they’re in tune with the editor.

BILL BONNER: That’s right. We try to tell them what’s important. The fire hose will kill them. There’s too much there. It’ll drive them crazy. Just try to think of all the news you could consume. That’s a big problem in today’s world because people have too much stuff coming at them. They need people.

BILL BONNER: It used to be that a newspaper columnist would do that. You would read the columnist of your choice and say: “That’s what I should think because he thinks that.” That role has changed a lot. Now, in their financial and health lives, people look to our industry to find people they trust who can help them make important decisions.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Where do you see the industry going now that we’re here? It’s been 40 years or so since you first started. That’s a major milestone. You’re now the biggest fish in a pretty small pond. Compared to the amount of information out there, and the amount of people wanting information, where do you see this industry going?

BILL BONNER: It’s hard to know, and I really don’t know myself. I think about it all the time. I’m puzzled by the channels. You have all these different ways to contact people — influencers, Twitter accounts, Snapchat and Facebook. Those people have become gatekeepers. We didn’t have that before.

BILL BONNER: Before, we had the post office. The post office would take anything that you put in front of it, more or less, and throw half away. But the gatekeepers can just shut you down.

BILL BONNER: Right now, that’s a big problem for us because the gatekeepers have decided that negative views are not going to be allowed on their channels.

BILL BONNER: For example, negative views of the economy [are not allowed]. Negative views are what I’ve got! I’ve got a lot of negative views about the economy, politics and those things.

BILL BONNER: My views are almost all negative. I think we’re going in the wrong direction. But you can’t say that now. It’s a big problem. I don’t really understand how this is going to evolve, but I assume there’ll be other competitors with other ideas, channels and platforms that people like me can use to talk to people who want to hear.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What is the biggest concern that you have when you put your head on your pillow at night about the industry and where Agora’s heading?

BILL BONNER: I don’t have anything that specific, but what I think about is this trend of shutting out alternate news. We’re the alternative news media — the alternative idea media. We have ideas that are not mainstream. If they were mainstream, nobody would need to turn to us to get them.

BILL BONNER: Those ideas are now being squashed. They’re being put out of business by a bunch of gatekeepers who now have the power to do that.

BILL BONNER: Now, the government is in on it as well. In the wake of the Capitol invasion, people with alternative views were being labeled terrorists!

BILL BONNER: And some of it is pretty extreme. Even the people in my world — the newsletter world — terrorists are the last things we are. We’re not going to blow anything up. We’re just going to give ideas and information and call it the way we see it.

BILL BONNER: There’s this new trend where if they don’t like what you have to say, they don’t want you to have the ability to say it. That’s very different.

BILL BONNER: Before, some people would just tune you out. In fact, most people would. Remember: We’re alternative, so the mainstream never wants to hear what we have to say — even when we’re right.

BILL BONNER: And we were frequently right about the main things that were taking place — at least, in the financial marketplace. We were frequently right, but people never wanted to hear it.

BILL BONNER: Now, we’re still frequently right and we can’t even say it because we get shut down by Facebook and others.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’s the workaround for that?

BILL BONNER: I don’t know. To me, it’s almost a technical issue. Somebody is going to find a way to get an internet that works — and that’s free — where people are not going to be able to shut you down.

BILL BONNER: Imagine the days of the post office or telephone. Everybody had telephones, but AT&T never came on the lines and said, “I’m sorry. You can’t say that.” That would be extraordinary.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I live in New York and get The New York Post. Several months ago, when the situation with Hunter Biden came out, The New York Post’s account was banned on Twitter.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: A newspaper! A newspaper protected by your freedom of speech. Freedom of the press was knocked out by a technology company.

BILL BONNER: It’s absolutely amazing. I can’t add much that conversation except to say that the media itself has become so political that certain views, if they’re in opposition to what the mainstream thinks, are just not going to…

BILL BONNER: In fact, people are sort of forced into these very marginal things. There’s a QAnon out there, and there are kind of crazy things going on. If you have a view that is not approved of — like you want to know what Hunter Biden was really up to — you almost have to go out to this scurrilous side of the press where they don’t care about truth. They care about rumors, conspiracy theories and so on. We’re entering dangerous territory. Since I read a lot of history, [I know] it’s not the first time. But it might not be very pleasant.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: How do you see it playing out over the next four years?

BILL BONNER: What I think is going to happen is that people are going to become much more desperate. The fundamental economic policy of the U.S. is wrong. It’s going in the wrong direction. You can’t just print out money and make an economy stronger. All you can do is change the makeup of the population so that some people are richer than other people, depending upon whom you give the money to.

BILL BONNER: The whole philosophy of stimulus, control or giving out money is wrong. Every time it’s been used, it leads to a financial disaster. I expect a financial disaster to happen. I expect that this will cause the government to become more desperate to hold onto control.

BILL BONNER: More and more people are going to be upset because they’re not going to find the work or salaries they want. They feel things are unfair, and they’re right. They are unfair. I suspect the government is going to have to be tougher. It’s going to have to shut down more websites — shut down more people’s points of view — and try to hold onto power that way.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: That paints a pretty grim picture of where you see the industry going…

BILL BONNER: We have to enjoy it while we have it!

CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, it’s these alternative voices that are going to be squashed pretty soon. Bill, end on a positive note so my listeners and I can tap dance back to our office — because I’m feeling pretty depressed.

BILL BONNER: You want a positive note?

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I want a positive note from you, and I know there’s one in there.

BILL BONNER: The positive note is that what really matters in life is not the big picture. It’s not what’s happening in global trade or politics. It’s what’s happening in your own life.

BILL BONNER: One thing that we have learned — all of us — during these lockdowns and the COVID crisis, is the importance of family and domestic life. With how much time we spend at home now, we have to get things right there first.

BILL BONNER: If you get things right there first, then a lot of that other stuff like inflation, deficits, debt and crazy trade wars… It matters, but it matters a whole lot less in an immediate way. So, that’s the bright spot. I think we’ve done a lot of learning this last year. People probably appreciate the relationships that mean something to them more. And that’s important. That’s a big deal.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: I totally agree. I remember Barbara Bush saying something to the effect of: “It’s not as important what happens in the White House as what happens in your house.”

BILL BONNER: That was a good line. Yeah, very good.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Alright. Bill, I want to let you go here. Bill Bonner, you started with a typewriter on a desk and built a billion-dollar business. Now, Agora is one of the biggest… You are published in 10 countries now, right?

BILL BONNER: [Yes,] in 10 countries, and six different languages.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What was the latest country that Agora got into?

BILL BONNER: Japan. We stayed away from Japan for a long, long time because we just didn’t know what to make of it. We don’t speak the language. We don’t know what’s going on. But a guy came to us and said he wanted to publish our stuff in Japan.

BILL BONNER: We were skeptical, and he didn’t speak English very well. We had a difficult time getting together with him.

BILL BONNER: Then, when he started to, he found that the market in Japan was very good for our kind of stuff.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’s the next market you want to go into — what country?

BILL BONNER: I want to go to Russia. I haven’t been able to get a good contact there, but I’ve been toying around with it for a long time.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Why Russia?

BILL BONNER: Russia is a big market. We won’t go there, by the way. We may not publish from Russia. That’s a whole other thing. But, I think that market will be open to alternative media.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. That’s exciting. That’s a huge, huge market. How about China?

BILL BONNER: We’ve been in China. We’ve been there for 10 years. That’s been very difficult. It’s a very difficult market for us. We don’t know why. It’s just a puzzle.

BILL BONNER: Some markets are easy, some are hard. We don’t know why. Brazil is a great market for us. France has been a good market, but England is not. It’s hard to say why. In India, where they do speak English, we’ve been a big failure. We have never been able to make any progress there.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Really? That’s so amazing. These countries where you think would be great for spreading new ideas are just not there.

BILL BONNER: Yeah, it’s just funny. We don’t know. Australia is a very good market, by the way.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Great! So, if anyone is listening who has contacts in Russia, Bill Bonner is offering you a fantastic opportunity to get into this business.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Bill, I want to thank you so much for being on the show today. [I wish you] continued success. Continue doing what you’re doing for many more years. You have done a tremendous service by taking newsletters and creating an industry — in terms of making a connection between editors and subscribers while giving amazing value for it.

BILL BONNER: Thank you very much, Charles. It’s a pleasure. I have known of you for years, but this is the first time we’ve actually gotten together.

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Let’s make this a habit. This is really great. Thanks so much!

BILL BONNER: Thank you!

CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome! If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple Podcasts. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.

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