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The Cuffelinks to Firstlinks to Morningstar journey

In 2012, Graham Hand and I sat down for a catch-up lunch. During the wide-ranging chat, we noted that due to budget cuts at mainstream publishers, experienced finance journalists were leaving and much media had become a reproduction of PR releases or quick-grab quotes.

The superannuation and investment industry needed a forum where market experts provided the insights, with editing and curating resources delivering the opinions in a newsletter and website. Bringing together his two interests of writing and investing, Graham said he would do it. We needed a catchy name, and since I was well-known in the industry, we liked the quirky ‘Cuffelinks’.

I don’t think Graham knew what he was getting into. He designed a website, and started a mailing list by contacting the people we thought might be interested. We invited experts to write articles with two basic goals in mind:

  1. Make the content useful, interesting and independent with a focus on investing and related subjects such as superannuation, demographics and financial advice.
  2. Grow our reader base to benefit as many people as possible.

We decided at an early stage that the weekly newsletter and website should be free. We didn’t want a subscription model as a barrier to accessing the content. In fact, at the start, there was no business model and no real plan for revenue.

It did not take long to realise the venture would soon be a major undertaking, requiring staff resources to manage the workload including a social media presence and liaising with hundreds of people in the industry.

At the end of the first year, we had about 5,000 subscribers, some fantastic content, and a steady stream of new writers wanting to provide articles and reach our audience. People approached us to advertise on the website, but we preferred a long-term sponsorship model where we worked with respected brands to share their ideas with our rapidly-growing audience.

Over the years, Cuffelinks has become a major financial newsletter, but with that, the demands of running a substantial business. I know Graham never intended to build an empire. It was always about the best content to an engaged audience rather than making money.

Now, people want conferences, podcasts, videos, social media, perhaps new mastheads and a wide range of ways the business can grow. And with all this potential, a priority was to make Cuffelinks sustainable, as it has published thousands of articles which help people with their investing and it has built a community wanting to share ideas.

For the last couple of years, Graham has wanted to focus more on the quality of the content and his own writing, but with the assistance of Deputy Editor, Leisa Bell, he spends much of his time running the business. It is not sustainable when a business relies so much on the energy and commitment of one person.

A substantial partner was needed with the same independent philosophy to take over the growth and management of the business, while Graham transitions more into editing and writing. We must maintain close relationships with the sponsors who are committed to investor education and making the business viable, and develop contacts with the people who supply the content. And we need to offer new ways to communicate with our audience in ways we simply cannot achieve in the current structure.

It was recognised with this likely change that I would be less involved, maybe writing an occasional article, and for the long term, the association of the name Cuffelinks with Chris Cuffe should be addressed. The new name, Firstlinks, retained the ‘links’ to the previous name, and recognised the content as the ‘first link’ between our readers and the ideas. There was a connection with the charitable business I manage, Third Link, and the time when Graham and I worked together at First State. So over the course of 2019, the publication transitioned to Firstlinks, which has been well accepted.

It also meant the business could be acquired by a substantial new owner with the resources to develop it further with a new name.

Separately, Graham will describe why he feels Morningstar is the best company to take the business to its next level, and how he and his assistant, Leisa, will remain closely involved in producing the content.

I welcome Morningstar’s acquisition, and thanks for joining us on the journey. Long may it continue.

 

Regards, Chris Cuffe

 

5 Comments

D Ramsay

October 27, 2019

I have been a subscriber for a long time (since inception I think) and having had 3 decades working in the corporate world I just hope Chris's guiding light/mantra/ethic - namely - "Make the content useful, interesting and independent with a focus on investing and related subjects" stays foremost in the new look Firstlinks.
Like others, I also have enjoyed the content and learned a lot - even if it was only to come to a contrary position to a given article(s), those articles helped me decide my own path greatly.

Guy Brindley

October 22, 2019

Having been an early subscriber (and initial Third Link Fund investor too), Chris and Graham you have done an incredible job with this newsletter making it an email I have always been happy to receive with so many relevant and interesting articles. At no cost too makes it all the more amazing.
Fingers crossed it continues!

Robert

October 20, 2019

Have been with this news letter from the start lots of wonderful free information which you must be proud to have brought to a range of people over the years thanks for so many interesting articles and looking forward to many more years of the same from Morningstar thanks Graham Chris and all involved to make this possible.

Denis - SMSF Trustee

October 17, 2019

This publication has always been excellent and has been a great source of meaningful information for investing and particularly for management of our SMSF. The quality of the articles are timely and first class and I commend you for the approach taken in delivering such a much needed service. It particularly served as a great source of factual information during the recent franking credit debacle. I hope that the quality continues under Morningstar. Thanks so much.

Liam Shorte @SMSFCoach

October 17, 2019

Thank you both for launching and guiding this great service. I have enjoyed the content and learned a lot, had a few arguments, put forward a few ideas and especially appreciated the comments section. Look forward to more quality articles from Graham and the odd one from yourself too please.


 

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