Yesterday, I had a lunch meeting about Bailout Nation with the folks at Borders HQ in Detroit was quite interesting.

I was over-caffeinated, and essentially babbled away for 2 hours. I did manage to remember to ask a few questions, and learned quite a bit. It was an education for me in a real “Art meets Commerce” kind of way.

There is the creation of content, and then there is the selling of that content. They are two utterly different worlds, bound by a small overlap. (Picture a 2 circle Venn Diagram, with a rather smallish “c”).  Quite fascinating to me, as I know little of the publishing/book selling universe, especially in the midst of a severe recession.

We discussed the book, purchase promotions, driving traffic to stores and websites, the Bailout Nation blog (coming soon!), and a bunch of other related things.

They asked me what shows I wanted to do to promote the book, and I gave them the full run down. What really surprised me was their reactions to two of the quasi-news opinion programs — The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Glen Beck Program.

After Oprah, these two are (apparently) amongst the biggest book sellers on TV.  Like Oprah, Glenn Beck has a loyal audience, is perceived as very sincere — and moves books.

But the most intriguing “inside baseball” stuff we discussed was the impact of The Daily Show on book sales — in particular, two recent books that were the subject of big TDS segments. These were mentioned as prime examples of the power of Jon Stewart.

The first is House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William D. Cohan. After Stewart raved about the book (“Helluva book — you made finance read like a suspense novel”) when Cohan was on the show April 9th, sales of the book in stores tripled. They have been strong ever since.

The second example was the infamous James Cramer appearance on TDS on March12th. According to the people I had lunch with yesterday, the very next day, sales of Cramer’s book   Jim Cramer’s Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World went into free fall. They absolutely plummeted — and they haven’t recovered since.

And that’s the power of TDS . . .

Category: Bailout Nation, Bailouts, Financial Press, Television

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

52 Responses to “The Power of “The Daily Show””

  1. Dennis says:

    I’m a huge fan of Stewart’s — I knew he was influential, but not THAT influential.
    You should definitely do the show.

    Good stuff . . .

  2. V says:

    As they say correlation does not imply causation … in Cramers case we can make an exception.

  3. dgu says:

    Minor slip: “What really surprised me was there reactions” –should read possessive “their.”
    Good luck Barry!


    BR: Whoops! Fixed

  4. Mannwich says:

    The fact that a comedian is this influential in the MSM landscape should be troubling. Definitely a sign of the times. Glenn Beck, on the other hand, is simply a buffoon. A buffoon who moves books, perhaps, but a buffoon nevertheless.

  5. The Oracle of Kypseli says:


    You must be a politician or a coward or both. You do not call people names. You debate them on the issues. My Roman ancestors called it “ad hominem”

    Barry’s book will sell whether the plug is from Comedians, Buffoons or others. Awareness of the books existence and who Barry is, is what counts.

    It is true however, that American masses do indeed need a helping hand in selecting what to read and often what to think, as we are a nation of sheep.

  6. Mannwich says:

    @The Oracle: Not a politician. I just calls ‘ems like I sees ‘ems. Isn’t it my first amendment right to do so? Do you work for Mr. Beck. I’ve seen his clown act. That’s enough for me to form an opinion of him, no?

    @Oracle (rich irony with that moniker): You call me a “coward” after lecturing me “not to call people names”. That’s rich.

  7. MRegan says:

    Mannwich, actually it was before.

    Kind of like before I yell my teenager about smoking dope, I get stupid high. It makes it a whole lot easier to deal with a bummer session.

    Yours truly,

    Mr. NotWhatIDo

  8. Mannwich says:

    You are right, MRegan. Thanks for correcting me. Still idiotic nevertheless. You’re allowed to be a hypocrite when lecturing your kid. That’s one of the few priveleges of being a parent. I’m not his kid.

  9. Transor Z says:

    Barry: Doing Glenn Beck is the right business decision IMO, but you already know that.

  10. sellthekids says:

    it’s funny that you mention meeting w/Borders especially in light of The Daily Show. several months back i had some interaction w/regional Borders’ management.

    close to my office is a Borders that is somewhat run-down, understaffed, and appears to me to be suffering. since i enjoy spending my lunch hour there, i am constantly wondering when the place is going to go-under and get moved to a better location.

    as happens often, i am usually looking for some book and they don’t have it in stock; usually i have checked their online database from my office and when i get there, no dice. sometimes i check the database and it doesn’t even have the book listed.

    i emailed from the Borders’ website about my experiences and after a few weeks got a reply from the regional manager. my suggestions were as such:

    1) if a book is slated to appear on NPR, TDS, Nova, etc, it would behoove Borders to maybe not only have the books in stock, but create a display by the door to help drive sales. if not by the door, how about in the appropriate section?

    Borders currently does neither of these. When the Mark Everett Nova special aired (, the Borders database didn’t even show the book as being currently in print; no one in the store had a clue what i was talking about. i ended up buying it from Amazon the next day and was reading it the following day. Pretty tough to succeed when customers try to give you money and you refuse to be up for the game.

    2) if an author is doing a book promo tour and hitting all the usual media stops, besides having their current release you might want to stock up on the previous works.

    3) when creating the display mention in #1, you might want to put some related books in w/it. people buying House of Cards might also be interested in Panic, Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown, or even Bailout Nation.

    it’s been over 4-5 months since my emails and Borders’ response; the Borders in question has made no visible changes. i had to hunt and peck for House of Cards. it wasn’t even separated out/highlighted in the business section.

    all that is to say, shopping w/Borders is pretty shitty. i am sure the muckity-mucks in corporate that you spoke w/Barry said all the right things and know all the right moves, but it is apparent to me that their ability to move boots on the ground is severely lacking.

    at least you still have Amazon.

    look forward to seeing you on TDS!

  11. Super-Anon says:

    I’m not sure what to make of Glen Beck – in a way his show really bugs me because it makes me realize how opportunistic and calculating these guys really are, but at the same time he seems to have done something really shrewd:

    I’ve always thought of the guy as a traditional religious-right conservative. But apparently he saw which way the wind was blowing and repositioned himself to capitalize on the Ron Paul movement and has now has recast himself as more of a traditional liberal.

    I think what worries the left these days is the possibility that the right is being strategically smart and staging sort of a political coup by embracing the Ron Paul crowd and a movement that has the potential to appeal to the portion of the left wing that’s more interested in personal freedom than handouts and big authoritarian government.

    The thing that bugs me about Glen Beck is the fact that a guy I once listened to occasionally because I got a kick out of mocking and laughing at him is suddenly saying stuff that I very much agree with…

  12. Mannwich says:

    I don’t begrudge Barry or anyone for doing Beck’s show (or anyone elses). I’d do it too if it would sell my books. I won’t be watching though.

  13. Chief Tomahawk says:

    BR, I’m guessing rather just smiling and being polite, you’re going to have to drop a few educational nuggets for Stewart to take on, explore, ponder, etc. and gain an appreciation for your “Big Picture” insight. Otherwise, “Bailout Nation” faces a stiff headwind I fear; what I mean is “House of Cards” has already come to market and usually there’s only an appetite by the public for so much negative material in a negative environment before the public begins to turn off and look for escapism (i.e. “Happy days are here again!”) I have little doubt you have enough game/ample supply of material to be a great interview for Stewart whenever, and I think that’s what you should aim for (breaking complex material down and putting it in everyman-type speak.) And don’t hesitate to make use of a few visuals for I’m sure they would be an opportunity for Stewart to ad-lib at the same time you’re educating.

  14. drollere says:

    it’s probably true that jon stewart moves books; the border’s people would know.

    on cramer, however, the free fall might be due to the fact that stewart’s team had racked up some pretty damning video replays of his earlier market calls, as well as his market call denials. (yes, he hadn’t recommended people buy bear stearns on *that* day; he’d recommended they buy a month before. roll tape!)

    the point is: the video replays were what really did cramer in. and the larger point is — what other television journalism outlet uses the same technique? under the cloak of comedy, stewart can ignore the pretense to “objectivity” that somehow requires us to take every sound bite on face value only on the day it is pronounced, and ignore everything that came before it. stewart can skewer hypocrisy and reward prescience. that’s his power.

  15. JessB says:

    I think I am most surprised to learn that the Glen Beck audience actually reads books.

  16. Mannwich says:

    @JessB: They may buy them. Whoever said anything about actually reading them?

  17. drollere says:

    mannwich, glen beck is not a buffoon. he is a RODEO CLOWN. he said so himself, in the ny times no less.

    his “disaster scenario” videos on youtube are hilarious. the man actually makes money mocking the intelligence of his audience.

  18. Mannwich says:

    @drollere: I guess I’d be laughing too if I had a successful business mocking my customers but that doesn’t mean I should watch him so he can mock me as well.

  19. Moss says:

    People are searching for an elixir, where they go for that and who they trust to deliver it are the takeaways from the Beck/Stewart influence dichotomy. Beck appeals to one subset while Stewart another. Both seen as non biased by the respective viewers even though they are on either side of the spectrum.

  20. Mannwich says:

    @Moss: It’s part of the sporting, “cheering for my team” herd mentality that has taken over our culture everywhere. It has replaced critical thinking any kind because, quite frankly, thinking is hard. Not thinking is easier. Politicians have brilliantly utilized this phenomenon to divide us over petty issues for votes while making off with the spoils. Let’s leave the sports fan mentality to sports and actually do some thinking on the more serious issues.

  21. call me ahab says:

    I’ve only caught Glen Beck a couple times- MSNBC- pretty funny in a dorky kind of way- I don’t know how serious to take him-much self depracting humor which I appreciate. Haven’t caught the Fox show.

  22. Marcus Aurelius says:


    Stewart is a comedy show that uses other media as a launch pad for humor (and all humor has some truth). Beck, on the other hand, strives to be taken in all seriousness – despite the fact that most of his schtick is pulled from thin air (classic straw man dilemmas and non-factual content is employed), and is designed to frighten, inflame and incite an audience all to willing to be frightened, inflamed, and incited. Beck is what Stephen Colbert would be if Colbert was not a self-parody.

    BR: The Daily Show, yes. Beck, no.

  23. Mannwich says:

    @Marcus: Couldn’t have said it better myself and actually didn’t. Think you summed that up quite nicely, thank you very much.

  24. Moss says:


    I agree absolutely and unequivocally with your assessment. This infantilization of everything has led to the dumbing down which in turn allows someone like Beck to have sway.

  25. call me ahab says:

    I would counter that Beck is the self parody- Colbert is a parody of Bill O’Reilly- the interview Colbert did on the O’Reilly show a few years back was a riot

  26. MRegan says:

    Denizen of Santorini!

    Avis raris or beekeeper

    Have we encountered a contortionist who practices taqiyya.

  27. Transor Z says:

    a contortionist who practices taqiyya.

    Pee Wee Herman?

  28. Marcus Aurelius says:


    I get your point regarding Colbert, but Beck takes himself seriously, and parody is not usually (ever?) employed outside of comedy.

  29. Sell Posters of the Pig!

    Transor, as you know, that’s the one for which there is No rejoinder~

    Jeff, nice point re: pom-poms, these dreaded hacks are giving Cheerleaders a bad name..

  30. Mannwich says:

    @Marcus: More importantly, Beck’s viewers take him seriously. They don’t believe he’s a parody. Key distinction.

  31. Transor Z says:

    Precious metals up, Dow and S&P down…

  32. MRegan says:

    Dan Andros, is that you pretending to be Ulee?

  33. PMs have showed serious resilience, people should pay attention..

    remember, Paper is not Physical

  34. call me ahab says:


    I don’t take Beck too seriously- his delivery is comical- I’m not too sure it isn’t just schtick- the issues he covers are to entertain his audience- but I haven’t seen him on the Fox show so maybe it’s different- didn’t he have a radio show at one time?

  35. acaiberry says:

    The fact is …Jon Stewart gets to the heart of the news better than any of the main stream media. And looking at his interviews of Cramer and of Alan Greenspan a few months back, he has a better understanding of financial matters that the news anchors on the big three networks, CNN, MSNBC, and of course, the Republican propoganda machine, Fox News, which is a complete joke.

  36. EAR says:


    Before you go on TDS, if it’s possible, find out if anyone on the staff reads BP. Try to get Stewart to read BP in addition to the book. If they’re familiar with what goes on here your interview will be a good one. You’d have the respect necessary to avoid the interview where he essentially squirts the guest in the face with a fake flower. You want him asking you (Cohan), not telling you (Cramer). I’d even go as far as to provide them with some of your favorite post/comments combos.

  37. jwc says:

    Like said above, I understand if you go on the Glen Beck Show, but I won’t be watching. Can’t stand the guy. Likening Obama to Hitler, hardly my idea of Ron Pauls philosophy.

    But I can’t wait to see your book out. And go on TDS for sure. It would be a great experience.

  38. EAR,

    makes a good point, do the Interviewer’s ‘homework’ for them, to the extent possible.

  39. [...] for his attacks on politicians, and most recently, for the one-on-one with Jim Cramer. Anyway, Ritholtz had this discovery about Stewart: But the most intriguing…stuff we discussed was the impact [...]

  40. Becky says:

    Barry, see if you can get on on C-SPAN. Those book discussions are an hour long!


    BR: Panzner said the same thing !

  41. Never mess with the jesters

  42. donna says:

    I could never sit down with someone I didn’t respect to discuss anything. Glen Beck would be on that list of people I do not respect. At all.

    If you go on Beck, I certainly won’t be buying the book. But that’s just me.

  43. Econophile says:

    Cramer deserved everything he got. Stewart was brilliant. But I’ll hand it to Cramer, he took it like a man.

  44. EAR says:


    My wisecrack was scrubbed.

    Noted. I will maintain the decorum. I’ve seen what it gets like in the www when there is none.
    Maybe that was a flashback to those days?

  45. Kyle says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if TDS rejected you just for mentioning them in the same sentence as Glenn Beck. You may be underestimating how much Stewart/Colbert hate Beck. If you go on Beck’s show (possibly giving validity/credibility to it), TDS might ask why they should lend credibility to you? I wouldn’t blame them either.

  46. tranchefoot says:

    Dude, do Oprah. Bring it to the masses.

  47. SWMOD52 says:

    Never seen either show, just bits here and there. Stewart seems pretty immature; facile.

  48. [...] Go here to see the original:  The Power of “The Daily Show” | The Big Picture [...]

  49. super_trooper says:

    Everybody wants to be on TDS, but do they (your publisher and Borders) think you have a shot at it? How do one get on TDS or Beck’s show?

  50. [...] Here is the original:  The Power of “The Daily Show” | The Big Picture [...]

  51. [...] Interesting article about the effect of The Daily Show on book sales. [...]

  52. [...] Ritholtz gets the inside scoop on the impact that Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show can have on book sales (good and [...]