Reading Business Without Getting Played

So, you have an extra-curricular interest in Business. Congrats, and welcome to the club.

Like so many hobbies, you want to learn more and find ways to get involved WITHOUT getting ripped off by the big players with a marketing machine behind them. To me, individual investment in shares is like a die-cutting/embossing machine for papercraft nerds. Yes, it’s valuable, and yes, if you choose the right one you can enjoy it AND make a return on your money (making & selling cards/scrapbooking supplies/whatever vs dividends & selling at a profit). But it’s a big step to take, very daunting to a newcomer and potentially a real waste of money if you interest in the hobby wanes. But the magazines, they want you to buy that die cut – or rather, their sponsors do. So they write articles, “Top 10 embossers under $100″, ” Top 10 activities with a die-cutter”, etc., so that reading the accepted paraphernalia of your hobby makes you really start to get that machine.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been talking myself into one of these machines for about three years. I may yet get one…)

So, why am I labouring this point? Well, a lot of business magazines and newspapers will focus on what you, an individual, should be investing in right now. And on the one hand, it makes sense, because they assume you have a financial reasons to be reading its content, rather than an amateur one. But on the other hand, it makes sense because these publications have built up around the industry of “business-ing”, and that can only continue in the same format in which it currently exists if lots of people put their Christmas bonus into shares and buy magazines or subscribe to online news sources to find out which ones to choose.

So, how to get around this? Well, by stopping to ask yourself “am I just going along with a norm that I only learnt about via the media, here?” (A useful question when forming any opinion in any sphere of life!) But also by picking your media. Not everyone assumes your interest is self-interest.

A few suggestions:
– CIMA’s FM Magazine – a business-focussed magazine whose target audience is management accountants. It is generally not too technical. Also, free! It tends to take a broader perspective, which I appreciate. I learn a little about whole industries by reading an article ostensibly about one aspect of one company, or whatever.
– ACCA’s AB Magazine – again aimed at accountants, with more technical content (by which I mean tax, mostly!), but plenty of highly interesting, educational “single interest” articles to teach you something new and relevant in the space of a short commute. Just as global as FM. Again, free.
The Economist (not free, but many 3 month free trials offered across the web). Certainly full of its own biases, but I can’t imagine reading this newsmagazine would hoodwink you into wanting to “take advantage of the next hot ticket”.

Thanks for reading!

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