[Ever get something wrong? I made an error in the first version of this post (March 9, 2010). I have fixed the error. My apology to several fine people for implying they are accounting pornographers. They aren't.]
We get into some strange conversations over on AECM (Accounting Education Using Computers and Multimedia), the listserv for accounting professors. One started out innocently enough, then took a exotic turn in the direction of wierd.
Early yesterday, someone brought up the notion of valuation of web sites, especially those used by accountants. This is an appropriate subject for us (the accounting professor listserv) to consider. The topic is indirectly related to matters of business valuation, but I don’t think it is related to fair value principles for investments.
Bob Jensen entered the discussion:
And as far as value is concerned, if an accounting professor hosts a tremendous academic research and teaching set pages that receive about 1,000 hits a day worldwide and also a couple of free music and comic book links pages that receive 10,000 hits a day, the music and comic book pages should not drive the “value” of that Website.
I agree. First, there is the accounting entity concept. In accounting, the accounting entity is an identifiable business organization, separate from the affairs of the owner/manager. I think Bob is saying the scholarly activity of a blogging professor should be separated from the nonprofessional blogging activity. If placed on the same domain (the same named web site), then distinct fair values should be determined for each blogging purpose. Secondly, I think that it is best to keep separate blog sites for two such distinct purposes as scholarly activity and personal interests. Third would be the general approach used for determining fair value. Is an entry or exit value going to be the foundation for determining the “fair” value. Fourth, would be the bias inherent in the valuation process.
Bob continues on:
David and I could greatly increase the traffic to our sites if we hosted accounting porn or maybe some links to nude pictures of Britney Spears and Madonna. We don’t have to serve up the pictures, only the links to those pictures.
You go first David. Is there such a thing as accounting porn?
Bob is just being ornery here, by asking me to define accounting pornography. Has anyone but him ever linked the two terms together before?
Replying to this is risky, I imagine. Can The Summa be branded as outlaw by WordPress.com if I use the terms porn or sexy? Will @profalbrecht be banned from Twitter? Joe Kristan (Roth CPAs) thinks either result is possible.
To prepare a reply, I first went to Merriam-Webster.com to look up the definition or pornography. It says the etymology of the term is: “Etymology: Greek pornographos, adjective, writing about prostitutes, fromporn prostitute + graphein to write; akin to Greek pernanai to sell, porosjourney “
That implies accounting porn is writing about accounting prostitutes. I wish it were that simple. Pornography is exploitive and unacceptable. I know some fine folks who write about accounting fraud These fine folks are Francine McKenna, Sam Antar, Tracy Coenen and Bob Jensen. I can’t bring myself to think of their activities as pornography. After all, they seek to root out accounting fraud. So, in this case I think it is the corporate CFOs, and their conspiring CEOs, and approving auditors that are the porn stars. They prostitute themselves by altering their accounting reports in the search for fictitious profits and all too real unearned bonuses. In other words, accounting fraud is accounting pornography.
Richard Campbell, AECM participant, says, “Example of accounting porn = Enron financial statements – “pumped-up”, obscene profits” I agree.
Switching back to valuation. Theoretically, I suppose there are many different ways to go about determining the value of a web site. There e impact of a professor’s blog: influence on regulators, influence on other professors, and the assist it gives students (and even if only one student is helped, it is worthwhile). But we accountants can count, and page hits or visitor counts are appealing.
I had noticed analyses which report that one way to bump up traffic to a website is to imbed the words sex and sexy into as many web pages as possible. I don’t think it works, though. When I started my blog, two of the early posts were on sexy accounting (frequent descriptor for fraud auditing) and sexy accountants (such as taxxxgirl.com). I loved those two posts, because I thought they were funny. Hardly anyone ever came to read them though. I can’t tell that anyone world-wide ever searches on sexy accounting (oxymoronic and ridiculous to think about).
My first traffic bump came when I commented on Charley Niemeier’s famous speech back in September, 2008. Over the months that followed, I’ve concluded that the only thing that draws traffic to my site is a good post on an accounting issue (such as IFRS adoption). I don’t get that much traffic from web searches, less than 5% per day. And no one ever comes to read my posts on sexy accounting. Most of my traffic seems to be driven by regular readers that return time and time again, as they don’t come from links or search engines.
By the way, I read two novels over the weekend: Zero Coupon by Paul Erdman and Naked Option by Joe Kolman. Both deal with fraud. I think both show the faudsters in a favorable light (especially Erdman). Neither novel deals specifically about accounting fraud, hence neither is accounting pornography. However, the favorable treatment afforded to those participating in fraud is certainly obscene.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht