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《余震》的生意经:兜售全球经济末日论

Brendan Coffey 2011年09月06日

韦德默兄弟的新书鼓吹新一轮的全球经济危机不可避免,但新书热销所带来收入的只是蝇头小利。新书给人们敲响了警钟,精明的作者因势利导,顺水推舟,乘势搭建了一个价值数百万美元的商业王国。

    罗伯特•韦德默

    在成为政府顾问之前,拥有威斯康星大学麦迪逊分校(the University of Wisconsin-Madison)工商管理硕士学位的罗伯特,曾开了一家名为Pricesaroundtheworld.com的网站,结果成了互联网泡沫的炮灰(《余震》一书中嘲笑互联网时代“泡沫一代”高管们的素材可能就来自于这段经历)。在过去的8年当中,他一直担任通讯公司Proxim Wireless的董事会成员,该公司在场外电子交易板交易,并于2004年草率收购了Ricochet公司(保尔•阿伦曾于90年代通过该公司在各大城市推广无线网络)。

    在90年代,兄弟二人合伙建立并经营Imark Technologies公司,这家在纳斯达克上市的公司籍籍无名,大卫在书中的自传部分提到自己曾在这家公司担任的首席执行官。 Imark公司主要为出版公司提供CD-Rom资源。1998年,该公司制定的由出版商通过网络销售CD-Rom数据的商业计划以失败告终,公司也随之寿终正寝。然而自传当中对此事只字未提。

    《余震》的第三位共同作者辛迪•斯必茨透露,她曾为《心灵鸡汤》(Chicken Soup)原著的部分内容代笔。《余震》的书封显示她现在是余震顾问公司(Aftershock Consultants)的总裁,该公司主要向个人或公司提供有关此书的解读服务。在就任该职之前,她与多瑞•琳博士在去年年底共同编写了《成人性事》(Sex for Grownups)一书。

    这些背景并不能说明韦德默兄弟关于金融灾难的预言就是错误的。大卫的确从威斯康辛大学(the University of Wisconsin)拿到了经济学博士学位,而且这三人的第一本书《美国的泡沫经济》(America's Bubble Economy)是一本相对严肃的书籍,书中也确实指出了美国房地产市场所存在的不平衡性。但是当韦德默兄弟以此书的观点来炫耀自己独到的经济眼光和投资技巧时,他们其实更多地在证明营销的威力。《美国的泡沫经济》一书希望让读者了解“泡沫在经济和社会长期发展中所扮演的角色。”然而新书《余震》却传达了一个更为直白的信息:“新一轮全球金融危机来临之前还有时间来保护你自己、你的家人和你的生意”。

    不过,兜售末日观点颇有些讽刺意味,因为个人投资者都是墙头草,而且投资电子通讯和顾问服务的更新率与市场动向时刻保持步调一致。资产管理也是一样。如果韦德默兄弟所预言的经济地震发生,韦德默兄弟将失去所有的收入来源,或至少绝大部分来源。大卫表示:“人们总还是要投资的,蛋糕虽然会变小,但是我们分到的份额会变大。”

   

    Before consulting for the government, Robert, who has an MBA in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tried his hand running Pricesaroundtheworld.com, a dotcom-era bust. (The experience may be the source of the scorn Aftershock heaps upon Internet-era "Bubble babies" executives.) For the past eight years, he has been on the board of Proxim Wireless, a bulletin board-traded communications firm that in 2004 ill-advisedly scooped up the carcass of Ricochet, a 1990s Paul Allen effort to bring Wi-Fi to cities.

    Also in the 1990s, the brothers co-founded and ran Imark Technologies, the unnamed "Nasdaq-listed company" in which David's book biography mentions he was CEO. The bio fails to note that Imark, which provided CD-Rom resources to publishing companies, went bankrupt in 1998 when a business plan to get publishers to sell CD-Rom data over the Internet foundered.

    Aftershock's third co-author, Cindy Spitzer, says she ghostwrote part of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul. According to Aftershock's book jacket, she is now president of Aftershock Consultants, which provides insights to individuals and companies based on the book. Just before taking on that title she co-wrote Sex for Grownups with Dr. Doree Lynn late last year.

    All of this background doesn't mean the Wiedemers might not be correct that we're racing toward a financial catastrophe. David does have a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, and the trio's first book, the far more sedate America's Bubble Economy, did point out the imbalance in the housing market. But while the Wiedemers use the claims of their first book as proof of their economic and investing prowess, it's really more correctly proof of the power of marketing. America's Bubble Economy told readers it would "look at how the bubbles are a part of the long-term evolution of the economy and society." With the new edition of Aftershock the message has gotten a lot less oblique: "There is still time to protect yourself, your family, and your business in the next global money meltdown."

    The irony with selling the apocalypse is that individual investors are a fickle lot -- renewal rates to investment newsletters and advice services move in lockstep with how the market is doing. The same is true with asset management. Should the economic hell the Wiedemers predict come to pass, it would dry up all of their revenue sources. Or almost all of them. "They've always got to invest in something," notes David. "We'll get a bigger share of a smaller pie."

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