Frequent CNBC guest Barry Ritholtz weighs in with some ideas on how to make it watchable.
How to Fix Financial Television
1. Stop Yelling. Stop interrupting. Stop Talking Over Each Other: This is not Jerry Springer, its serious business. People’s retirement and investments are at stake. Please treat it that way.
2. Bring us People We Don’t Have Access to. What various FinTV channels do really well is when they bring us long, thoughtful interviews with the likes of Warren Buffett, WIlliam Ackman, David Einhorn, and others. People we wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. Example: This morning, CNBC had on James Rickard. More of this please.
3. S – L – O – W D – O – W – N
4. Risk: All traders must appreciate the potential downside of trades. So too, must FinTV. Explain stop losses. Understand Risk/Reward. recognise there are periods when Buy & Hold is a jumbo loser.
5. Lose the Octobox. Fire whoever came up with the Decabox. ‘Nuff said.
6. Separate the Signal from the Noise. Understand that most of the day-to-day action is simply noise. Look at a long term chart, you can barely see 9187 or 9/11. If those major events get lost in the long term trend, what does the intraday jags, kinks and reversals mean? Very little. recognise that not every data release, slice of news, or rumour is at all significant. Stop treating them as if they were.
7. Fact Check: An awful lot of things on air get stated with authority and confidence. Much of them are little more than junk or pop myths. Why is it that the more dubious a proposition is, the greater the confidence the speaker seems to muster? Consider fact checking as much of the statements that are made on air as possible, and making frequent corrections.
8. Accountability is important: I am astounded at some of the money losing hacks that are various shows again and again. These are the “articulate incompetants” to use Bennett Goodspeed”s phrase. Why not keep track of the records of guests — and let the viewers know how their past few calls have been. Are they Perma-bulls or bears? Are their stock picks awful? Are they reliable money makers? If not, let us know. (Of course, the better question is, if not, why even have them on?)
9. Bring Back Louis Rukeyser: Not the man, but rather, his style. Wall $treet Week — Rukeyser hosted it from 1970 to 2005 — was plain-spoken, thoughtful and accessible. Quiet, contemplative, discussions, with intelligent market participants, revealing helpful information. The investing public would appreciate something of that sort — again.
10. Sound FX: What is with all the bizarre sound effects every time a screen changes? Its financial news, not a video game. Kill ’em.
11. Embed your video (on your own website or YouTube) instead of using WMP. At long last, thank you.
12. Investigative Pieces: David Faber seems to have a monopoly on deep, long thoughtful analyses. Be they on Wal-Mart, the credit crisis, whatever, his long format work is a highlight of CNBC. More of these, please.
13. Most stock picks are losers. That’s normal, but the audience does not realise this. A big part of the challenge is informing the viewer that finding the biog winners is a low probability, high outcome event. As in a baseball, a 350 hitter is a star. Explain this to your audience.
14. Stop the Bull/Bear Debate: This is a vast over-simplification of the market, and often does not serve the audience well. There are nuances and variables that get lost when you reduce everything to black and white.
15. Partisanship: Leave your personal politics at home. Viewers don’t care what most of you think.
16. Respect the Audience: We are adults. Treat us that way.
Many good ideas that would indeed make CNBC more watchable. Unfortunately, a lot of them will also make it unwatched.
Previously on Barry’s The Big Picture:
Murdoch’s WSJ Changes Creates Opening for NYT, FT (April 24, 2008)