During the TBP conference this week, several of the commentators noted how little wisdom gets disseminated by the financial press. As we noted this morning, we see lots of noise, and very little signal.

Indeed, that has been a theme in my press criticism — too much useless filler.

So, what us your beef about the financial press? TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs — what works and what doesn’t? I don’t want only bashing — We know there is lots of junk — but what is worthwhile?

(I am working on a column, and this is my open source research)

~~~

What say ye?

 

 

Category: Financial Press

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.

43 Responses to “Open Thread: What Value is the Financial Media?”

  1. The fin press I read: savvy columnists (Proj Syndicate, Martin Wolf) and conduits for others’ reports (Business Insider, blogs)

  2. Mike says:

    Much of it is disinformation. You have to find people you trust.

  3. quick dissemination of expert opinions on timely topics. Can be taken too far, if u listen critically worthwhile

  4. blakegoud says:

    Way too much like cable news with everything becoming a political issue, and dominated by people from the right. Turns into more of a GOP noise machine than something discussing the markets. People on CNBC like Joe Kernan, Maria Bartiromo, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Larry Kudlow are entirely driven by 1) ideology; 2) unquestioning love of Wall Street (with fawning interviews), 3) unquestioning love of corporations (with fawning interviews), 4) unquestioning hatred of the regulators until something goes wrong and then they ask “Where was the SEC?”.

    It is fine to have political views, including conservative/right wing political views, but if you want to create interesting conversations about the markets, stocks, the economy, those have to be strictly censored out or else it turns into MSNBC or Fox News or CNN. There’s a reason I don’t watch those stations and there’s a reason I tune out CNBC and wouldn’t watch Bloomberg or Fox Business.

    But I suppose what I want is pretty boring TV (I mean, it wouldn’t allow folks like Peter Schiff to rant about the same thing OVER and OVER and OVER again), but the ratings are already terrible, so why not make it more of a public service channel from the networks?

  5. chartist says:

    I started trading full time in 1989 when it was Financial News Network, not CNBC. The only value I got then, as now, is using the mute button and studying the running ticker for ideas.

  6. Concerned Neighbour says:

    The day to day beat reporting is almost entirely noise, and often better resembles cheer leading than impartial reportage. This is a major problem in media in general. The line between impartial journalism and opinion has blurred. You need only watch a minute of CNBC, MSNBC, or Fox News to see this.

    I rely on blogs to discuss the topics the corporate-controlled media will never discuss. Take Zero Hedge, for example. Though I heartily disagree with their politics (and really, pretty much everything else), I commend them for having the balls to point out how disgusting these central bank controlled so-called “markets” have become.

  7. rd says:

    I can’t see spending a minute watching financial news on TV. It seems to be constant ambulance chasing with lots of sound and fury and no substance. It may be valuable for traders, but it is worse than useless for investors.

    Most things written about daily market moves are similar to the value of financial news on TV.

    In-depth stories about specific issues or companies where a reporter has done some real research and interviews can be very good and quite valuable. This includes WSJ, NYT, and Bloomberg articles as some of the good sources.

    There are some very good columnists out there who take the long view and the big picture. Clements when he was writing was possibly the best. Folks like Jason Zweig, Robert Powell, Mark Hurlbert, and others provide some real value here to small investors.

    Blogs like Big Picture, Naked Capitalism, Pragmatic Capitalism and others offer very interesting viewpoints and information. These tend to be written by people who are curoius about how the world works and are not just trying to sell something.

    • rd says:

      Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap” was developed related to literature in a period when there were some limits to dissemination because it had to be printed on paper. In the age of the Internet, when you don’t have to physically print or even have an editor to publish, the crap ratio is probably significantly higher than 90%.

      So, applying Sturgeon’s Law to financial news means that most of the work a reader, watcher, or listener has to do is simply sorting it into two piles. One of the main uses of key blogs for me is using crowd-sourcing to help sift through the pile so that much of it is already in the outhouse when I sit down at the kitchen table to “read the newspaper”, even if it is digital.

      BTW – Sturgeon himself wrote a law in a short story that he called Sturgeon’s Law: “Nothing is always absolutely so” which is also extremely appropriate for financial reporting.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_Law

  8. Sharkbite says:

    There are only a few I really think are worth listening to. Off the top of my head – Jason Zweig, Ken Fisher, TBP, TRB… in other words, the guys who remind you to tune out the noise. The data driven fundamental analysis on blogs like The Brooklyn Investor is also useful – not necessarily for the stocks he writes about, rather learning from the process he uses to evaluate stocks.

    • Sharkbite says:

      Oh, and I guess I could add The Economist to the list of useful financial media. That’s a fucking quality publication.

  9. mpetrosian says:

    I don’t have a beef with financial press. 90% of it, like everything else, is crap and its up to you to figure out what’s worth keeping. There are plenty of really smart people who do appearances on really bad shows or get interviewed by people asking bad questions. It seems that good information costs money and that’s because it takes a lot of time and effort to put quality work out there. Check out what some of the speakers from TBP conference charge to read their daily missives like Rosenberg and Pomboy, etc.
    I don’t complain about free cable news and the like because you get what you pay for. And while we are on the subject, THANK YOU for combing through all the garbage to give us two superb reading lists EVERYDAY.

  10. Internet Tourettes says:

    It seems as if the options for financial information from the popular media are very limited and of poor quality. Money is serious, as serious as cancer, and should not be treated lightly. I remember when Crammer was at his height and he was recommending stocks that were total dogs like a boiler room penny stock huckster. I know that he says that his show is “entertainment” but a lot of viewers did not have the insight to know better and really got hurt. It seems as if every editor, producer, and blogger feels as if financial news has to treated in a breezy manner focusing more on entertainment than giving good information or advise. CNBC is a joke. Its as if Blinder Robertson came back as a TV show, a mix of BS and sales spiel that always makes me feel like I’m drinking with realtors. Bloomberg is better for content and commentary but I get tired of the pace, endless sense of urgency, high volume level, and weird hair on the women. On the radio, I like Bloomberg Radio, I actually listen to that the most to keep up on the market (via iphone and computer at work). NPR’s Marketplace is a total waste and and Kai Ryssdal must be a nephew of a big contributor because he knows nothing about business, economics or finance. As to the web, This is best sight I have found so far for both insights in to investment and relevant technical information. I’d like to find another site where I could get some good insight in to individual stocks as opposed to sectors but I don’t think that exists on the web right now….

  11. texan dan says:

    FT, and especially FT alphaville would be the first place I go to look for news and analysis.

  12. I like Tom Keene, Rick santelli. Other than odd interviews there is way more value on twitter or blogs or Mauldin emails than TV

  13. mikeinconyers says:

    About ten or so years back I would watch the financial news programs that Fox News had on Saturdays. I found them interesting and entertaining, and even got very lucky with one of their picks, but eventually the political skewing got a little too much to take, so I abandoned them about six years ago.

    I enjoy watching Josh on CNBC, but I’ve got to admit, it is more for the entertainment value than anything else. About all I expect from CNBC is a little confirmation bias assistance if I’m not finding it anyplace else.

    Jonathan Clements, who did the “Getting Going” column at the Wall Street Journal probably had the biggest impact on my financial sense, pounding on the fundamentals over and over again. When RM took over the WSJ and Clements left, I cancelled my subscription, though I still read some of their online articles.

    In the past couple of years I’ve really discovered the blogs and now I check in daily on Big Picture, Reformed Broker, Abnormal Returns, Calculated Risk, and Baseline Scenario. I subscribe to the New York Times and read the business section, but not very thoroughly. They broke up the “Your Money” section that I used to frequent. I think that content is still out there somewhere, but I don’t reliably get to it like I used to. I read all of Paul Krugmans editorials and blog posts. I usually find Dan Gross to be an interesting read in the different media outlets that have employed him.

  14. bonzo says:

    All I do is move money every few years between stocks and fixed income, based on relative values, and all I really need for this sort of market-timing is a few quotes (SP500, 10-year bonds, 10-year TIPS, oil, gold, dollar-euro) plus the headlines, but maybe it helps my thinking to listen to some chatter. So for the 3 months a year I’m not traveling, I hang out at this site and read up on the Abnormal returns archives. If I were trading individual stocks or trading more frequently, I’d probably read LESS chatter, not more, because the chatter can really mess with your head when you’re trading frequently.

  15. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    > What Value is the Financial Media?

    To answer that question, I have to ask another: why are the financial media in business?

    The financial media are in business to sell advertising and make money.

    How do the financial media optimize the amount of money they pull in from the advertising they sell?

    They have to pull in the largest audience.

    So then the question becomes, how does audience size relate to the quality of information disseminated?

    It doesn’t.

    And that is the problem with financial media.

    Even Bloomberg TV has taken to having hosts that yell over what their guests are saying, cutting off their guest in mid-sentence and not letting the guests finish their comments. When Bloomberg has deteriorated to the point of “screaming is better”, you have to wonder about the worthiness of financial media.

    • Berkeley Maven says:

      Bob, you could be employed as a truth teller. You’ve nailed the crux of the matter.

      For the vast majority of individual investors, helpful information and education does not vary on a daily basis.

      What I like about the best recent WSJ columnists – Clements, Zweig, Arends – is that they can take something current, newsworthy, and alluring, and use that hook to put it into a long-term context.

      For investment professionals and a few serious individual investors, it’s mainly the blogs and some quasi-academic white papers that have the best stuff.

  16. tt says:

    i really love all the great financial blogs out there. i think places like big picture, zero hedge, mish………..have made the world of finance open to some semblance of independent reporting. the old dinosaurs like papers and teevee, obviously became too controlled and scripted. could you ever imagine and honest discussion of how the federal reserve bank of ny, as a private corporation that loans the nations money for interest payments, ever being discussed in old media. the only tv worth a damn is RT and al jazeera for honest financial reporting on amerikan economy. i don’t think i have ever seen anyone under the age of 40 reading a newspaper or watching cnbc…………..

    they are like old rags for old men, that still think the empire is in tact.

  17. mpetrosian says:

    Mauldin does his fair share of fear driven media though. Some of his promo videos feel like a trailer for an end of the world movie.

  18. advsys says:

    It is not just financial media. Most media today is not about news. These are basically talk shows disguised as news. The desk jockeys are not reporters. They know nothing about how to get to the meat of an issue. They know nothing about extracting useful information from guests who might actually have something meaningful to say.

  19. A. Cy Lum says:

    The fundamental goal of financial msm is not to provide a detailed understanding (facts and balance leading to worthwhile discussion or meta-analysis), but ratings. Producers and network executives focus on this, and only this. One answer to fierce eyeball competition is entertainment disguised as cogent debate/discussion.

    Over years and crises certain outlets have been mostly optimistic, and always dramatic. Qualifications for the talking heads must then be skewed to reflect this before business/street acumen. Time, and pundits, have shown they’re wonderful contrarian indicators.

    “Useless filler” does have a use. Sometimes it can spark an idea, trade, avenue to research, etc. This brings one’s own filters, critical thinking and imagination to the fore. Drilling down leads to the internet — filters set on high, and knowing bloggers want eyeballs to — often settling in blogs, from the potty mouths to Douglas Adamesque writers to the sober and dry commentators, to put flesh on the idea.

    In conclusion: have a cadre of bloggers and sites covering specific topics and regions, eg. IKN “For all things LatAm.” The strategy then: filler >> idea? >> research >> action or move on. Therefore there is utility in the fringes of filler.

    A. Cy Lum

    .

  20. Chief Tomahawk says:

    What is worthwhile?

    When there’s a sleazy murder case unfolding at glacial pace on the other news outlets (like the ordeal of dredging the bay for Lacy Pederson’s body while footage of Scott walking his garbage to the curb runs over and over, often while the host interviews some *expert* in exchange for their 2.5 minutes of face time…), financial news channels restrict non-financial news to brief updates once an hour which is all the ‘Pederson news’ one needs to hear to stay up-to-date. Functioning in such a manner, financial TV is a blessing!

  21. jwhjkh says:

    I miss Lou Rukeyser. Yes, he was always positive. But he had good guests and he pressed them for honest answers. And he let them speak rather than cutting them off to interject his opinion.

  22. EdMcGon says:

    Barry,
    I find bloggers such as yourself far more useful than most of the financial Media. However, I will say this for the Media: When they start saying nice things about one of my holdings which has had a nice run, I know it is time to look for the exit!

  23. christopherneill says:

    My biggest complaint would be the media’s failure to make the distinction between trading and investing. Yes, one of the media’s most important roles is dissemination of information and timely information is everything in the world of trading. But the financial media seems to be fine glossing over the fact that by the time you get the news on CNBC, most professional traders have already beat you to acting on that news and the price of the stock probably already reflects whatever that news may be. Financial media outlets need to stop trying to draw ratings by doing things like providing tips on “hot stocks” etc. It needs to be more cognizant of its ability to move markets and more fully bear the responsibility that entails.

  24. Robert M says:

    There is zero value in current financial 24 TV media unless you are a short term trader w/ no access to overseas trading. The wide market swings caused by “news events” are your bread and butter. Magazines are better for those w/ a long term focus. The time lag gives you perspective to determine what is valuable to you; i.e. real knowledge.

  25. gps says:

    If we take anything on face value we would get fooled. If we take anything for the purpose of investing then we are nothing short of stupid. I read Telegraph, FT Alphaville, Few blogs and keep things in mind. When it comes to investing, I simply follow the price action of the markets and would take complete responsibility for my own position. I don’t blame media for my bullshit. I believe that media should be used properly and intelligently so that we should take note of it and apply it when necessary rather simply blaming it for bullshit. Everyone know that MSM Editors have to come up with daily post eventhough they consider something as bullshit and utter nonsense. They are having their living only by their post despite its usefulness to their readers. Its duty of the readers to apply it for their own purpose. I generally consider most of the news as entertainment and noise. I watch TV Channels for entertainment and definitely not for making my investment decisions. I make my investment decisions based on my own research than blaming others. I take full responsibility. Make no mistake, MSM is always a noise and it would remain noisy even after 50 years or 500 years.

  26. agenbite says:

    Aside from the already mentioned issues (politicized reporting being the biggest to my mind), I have two long running gripes…

    1. They hardly ever give you context, especially when economic and really any data is reported (just PUT the numbers on a few bloody CHARTS to see the TREND). Why can’t they do this?

    2. They NEVER go back and hold anyone accountable for past predictions, opinions, etc…as if all of it was one big bubble blowing exercise. Blow a bubble..watch it glimmer for a few seconds…within a few hours/days whatever..poof, it is gone forever.

    • rd says:

      Thew first thing I look for on a graph is the structure and labelling of the axes. That usually instantly tells you if the graph creator is competent looking to present data in a useful way or is trying to fudge the presentation to make a point that may or may not be supported by the data.

  27. DeDude says:

    Their job is to get you excited so you will keep watching. They do not take a cut of your winning nor do they get to share your loses.

  28. iratherbe says:

    Where’s the tipping point after all the TV appearances, books, blogs, columns, conferences, interviews, etc. when former “grassrooters” like Barry & Josh morph into becoming part of the mainstream financial media themselves?

    • When the work suffers and becomes blather, let me know

      • iratherbe says:

        :-) It was asked more as a nuanced rhetorical / philosophical Q rather than a barb. Perhaps I should have added, let’s hope that the open forums, educational sharing & honest discourse you’ve helped champion become the major part of the financial MSM.

  29. the pearl says:

    The goal of the mainstream financial media is to create sufficient short-term angst in order to generate viewership. If you are reading blogs like this than I am going to make the rational assumption that you have made an attempt to go beyond the standard “retail investor” behavior which involves a subscription to Motley Fool, reading Paul Farrell articles, watching Cramer, and refreshing your TDWaterhouse account 15 days a day.

    The purpose of the mainstream financial media is to unintentionally provide contrarion investment ideas for the saavy investor.

    The real “actionable” information will never be seen on CNBC or other mainstream outlets. Even those of us who think we are saavy won’t sit through it. Very few people are interested in value investing, technical analysis, and actionable quant strategies. Despite Barry’s best efforts this blog proves my point. If Barry posts a political, macro-economic article he gets 50 comments. If he posts something geared toward a sophisticated investment strategy topic he gets 3 comments. The fact of the matter is that people really aren’t all that interested in becoming better investors.

  30. Roger N says:

    Barry,

    I believe there is a legitimate use for financial media (stock market TV). An example I have used on my blog many times is from the financial crisis. I’ve never owned GM and probably unlikely to ever own it but during the crisis it got plenty of coverage on CNBC. There was no fundamental reason I needed to know about GM but clients did ask and so I was able to be somewhat informed without having to take time from something else to read about GM.

    The other use is when there is breaking news. If I have a bunch of tabs open on my browser to read in the next hour I would not necessarily know that something big just happened.

    In terms of gleaning useful insight, those opportunities probably are far and few between but when you realize that going in then it can be useful.

  31. Joe says:

    The best way I’ve found to learn stuff is through emersion. Learn as much as you can as quickly as you can. The more you are exposed to, the sooner you will have to impose some kind of order on the mass of info you have. You end up with catagories of stuff, including a relative importance/worth among the catagories, a heirarchy and a trash can of garbage/not useful to me.

    Hell, I first encountered you, the Rev, and Jeff Miller on Cramer’s site.

  32. My note from the morning post on the subject (ps, loved your post on Time):

    We were discussing Thomas Jefferson in Chat this morning (see morning Tweet for details) and one of the things he said was “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Keep in mind that, in 1776, the difference between newspapers and books was mainly the time-frame they covered. Books were still a big deal and were generally written by respected and learned men while newspapers had become easy to publish and any yahoo with an opinion could get it in print – making them essentially useless in a quest for knowledge.

    Well, now we have 500 TV channels and Infinity web sites and you have to be more careful than ever about who you listen to. Even better, learn to trust yourself and not the last pundit you came across. Keep in mind that most of these guys are sitting in their living room in their underwear typing on a food-stained laptop, telling you how to live your life and how to invest your money!

  33. Jack Waymire says:

    There is big difference between reporting news and writing opinions. Too often the financial press is giving us their opinions. As we have said for years, “how much money is managed by the media?” The answer is none. Do they have specialized financial knowledge that enables them to write authoritative opinions that impact investor decision-making and behavior? They have none. They sensationalize headlines and write weak, poorly researched articles that sell newspapers and advertising. The biggest risk? The articles are extremely dangerous when investors believe them and act on them.

  34. SFGale says:

    I look for three things in financial media as in any other:

    1) historical perspective and context of issues, (breadth).
    2) depth of information.
    3) fair reporting of differing perspectives

    I am not particularly interested in obsession over the market hiccup of the moment.

    I miss CNBC anchor Mark Haines, who exercised an even-handed skepticism, and refrained from the gushing hero worship practiced by so many of his colleagues. Since his passing, I have given up on CNBC.

    I would like to see the WSJ resurrected to what it was BM (before Murdock) when news and features could be clearly distinguished from the editorial page, which could be tolerated in isolation, if not respected.

    I would like to see a financial media that assesses the function of business in the broader human context, and does not merely parrot the capitalist mantra and ignore its consequences to human society.

    In order to save capitalism and elevate business from its current morass, we need to probe its dark core and hold it accountable to a standard of performance greater than the bottom line.

  35. flakester says:

    To paraphrase George Box, “Essentially, all media is wrong, but some media is useful.”

  36. [...] I am working on this week’s WaPo column, based loosely on last week’s open thread on the value of the Financial Media. [...]