Financial Television Rodeo. Warm Pie. Watch Yo Step.

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television stepped forward at the lineup when the order was given; “Everyone with an agenda please step forward.”  Everyone we know was present, while “guests” from around the globe also stepped up.  Financial television is exactly what you think it is; a mirror, a big bright tool, with a host of smaller tools and players.  It’s also entertainment


When a talking head says a stock is a “buy,” do they mean for a trade, or over time?  Do they mean using derivatives or straight?  Or do they even mean as a part of an ETF–along with 30 or 90 others?  How people trade or invest deeply colors their views and thus their “Buys.”  So does the very medium they’re speaking through.


If it’s not fun we won’t watch and it won’t last. Financial television began with Louis Rukeyser. PBS provided the space for “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser.” It was slow and dry and staid, but it was there laying down the track for the future. Thanks Louis. You were a trail blazer.


investors need other voices.  There are no smart, functional, successful, island investors.  The media can be a fine place for finding other perspectives.  They often suggest things to buy.  Yet why we buy matters as much as what.  What you mean by a “buy” may mean nothing at all to us.  What do you already own?  What do you expect it to do for you, and when?  Financial television has its’ own goals and rules.  Marshall McLuhan would tell you that “The medium is the message.”


Entertainment is not investing.  Nor is television.  But TV better be entertaining.  And when brought together the three unavoidably create an odd amalgam.  Television is sales and so mostly is investing talk.  All innocence dies when they clip a mic to someone’s collar and snap on the red “live feed” light.  Whatever that person really is becomes irrelevant.  Now they’re “on television.”  Think NBC’s Brian Williams.  Good and even accurate things may come forth, but all within a predominating context.  “Guests” on financial television are not guests.  They are co-conspirators, complicit in the act of television.  What are they really up to?


Many will suggest Beelzebub was slick.  The task of attempting to trick absolutely everyone is a tough gig.  Yet Beelzebub was a backstage masturbator next to television.  Television glitters and sizzles with pure immediacy and promise.  Attempt to look away.  Only Americans can, and only because we are used to the very best, thus partially inured to even the purest emulsions of the medium.


Television is as American as it gets. We invented it, and some say we yet produce it best. RCA created the first “color console” and life began anew, in Technicolor. Now financial TV brings investors news, fresh in minutes. Such reporting changes the very way we act in real dollars. Wow. It’s like Novacane . Just makes things better.


precisely stacked foremost on the broadcast desk, all the actual activities going on within FT’s feed would obscure our view of the guests.  What’s going on?   Sales, promotions, axes being ground, personas being built and shaped, relationships being managed, or alliances being nurtured or nourished, political agendas being promulgated.  But mostly it’s waving to keep us tuned for the on-deck ad block.  Think Youtube and Facebook.


Stephanie Link is a savvy experienced investing professional, yet who knows?  She’s also a TV personality.  So what is she really doing in moments like one of her bullish calls on the banks during a “Halftime Report.”  “We really like the financials here.”  When that call was vigorously challenged she responded with a fevered fast dance featuring “Well,  that’s why the banks have out-performed over the last couple of days.”  Last couple of days?


We all have to trust someone.  Yet who are we listening to, and what do they mean specifically?  Only listening critically and over time will provide clues.  Are you listening to a savvy trader, an options trader, an investor with an 18-24 month average time frame, a Buffet-style long-term investor who might ride something down 30% and hold shares for a decade?  Or are we listening to a firm’s frontman, or an IPO market maker?


Stephanie Link, Global Equities, Nuveen, and frequent guest on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.”


endeavor requires close attention to, and extended scrutiny of, information.   Both the sources providing said, and the medium itself warrant our attention.  On Thursday the 26th CNBC’s Fast Money hosted Tasha Keeney of ARK Investments.  Tasha was on to speak about Tesla.  “It’s an EV and autonomous vehicle story.  We believe the two will account for maybe 26 out of the 86 million vehicles sold in the coming five years.  We have a $4000 price target on Tesla.”  Explain that, when current thinking is asking if Tesla can make it through the next three years.


The Economist recently reported that “A recession, at some point, in the next eight years is possible.”–The Economist, June 15-21, 2019. The “Leaders” section, “The European Central Bank.”  “A recession, at some point, in the next eight years, is possible.”   The paper goes on to explain that in the selection of a new European Central Bank head, “Sound judgement is paramount.”  Not only is the financial media rife with sales calls, it’s also brimming with comments so hedged or vague or brutally obvious, as to be utterly useless.  So why do it?  Clarity perhaps.  To fill space?  To justify an appearance, in the case of TV?  An appearance is an appearance. 


Jim Cramer has delivered more legitimate market education to more people than any source in history–not even close.  We’ve heard people state that he’s “an entertainer.”  Fine.  Were he not you wouldn’t see him.  Anyone routinely utilizing the medium could be described in precisely that way, or they usually do not remain in place, and that includes what the Brits call “news readers.” Americans call them “anchors.”


If you can’t hop over a table with a hunk of watermelon in your mouth, you’ll never make it on financial television. Not now. And the melon has to remain intact. Smile.


has explained the arcane mechanics of the market and the quirky motivations of institutional money.  He’s explained how to survive  the brute irrationality of market ways, sector rotations, and how to separate the junk from the gold.  What he doesn’t explain, directly, are the myriad requirements of diplomacy and tact as it involves dealing with guests, or the glowing publicity plugs as reciprocity to information sources.  TV or not, journalism is sources.  That’s the special sauce without which the show don’t float.


Anyone paying attention over time clearly knows Cramer’s ways and leanings.  He loves Apple(AAPL) and Sales Force(CRM).  He seems to be friends with CRM’s CEO Marc Benioff.  For years he loved Pittsburgh Plate Glass’s(PPG) Chuck Bunch.  And the point?  Everyone has stalwarts and favorites and you can’t expect to lure “guests” on to your show if you constantly shred them on screen.  Gotta show some love.


Therein lies the issue.  Offer guests and obtain some insight, but never press too much or go too far, and remember to pay them in kind for their effort.  Working together produces over the long haul.  As much as we respect Cramer and enjoy the show, we know better than to watch the Cramer/Benioff skit.  Why?  Because no take-away exists.  Cramer lobs cherries and Benioff bombards the airwaves with circular CRM adoration like a teenage cheerleader.


Image result for marc benioff
Marc Benioff, Sales Force(CRM) CEO and head cheerleader.  CRM has been a monster winner, both as a company and a stock.  Benioff has led them the entire way.  Any company would be blessed to have such an amazing CEO and frontman.


skit is always the same: Cramer “So why is it that Sales Force is doing so well–I mean, even in this environment?”  Benioff, “Well Jim it’s really that we have what our customers need and they’re seeing their businesses grow as a result.  Nothing on Earth can contain the goodness.”


Cramer provides most all guests ample opportunities to look good.  Apple’s Tim Cook is by far the biggest question dodger in business.  Bill Gates used to own that.  Cook’s also a completely shameless nonstop cheerleader who refuses to allow the facts to smear the promotion.  His main tool is the “pivot.”  Yet Cramer will place the tough questions, even to Cook.  “Why are iPhone sales not higher?”  Perhaps his best interview occurred on May 3rd, 2017, on Apple’s campus.  Tim Cook is arguably  the highest profile CEO in the world–a very tough interview to land, and Cramer showed up, even amid the complexity.  


No one has taught more people more about the market, stocks, and equity investing, than Jim Cramer–not even close. Louis Rukeyser came first, but Cramer took things into an altogether broader and sprawling galaxy. To the best of our knowledge he has successfully navigated the treacherous depths of duplicitous television to deliver life-changing truths.


there’s the Opening Bell hour.  TV banter is an appropriate phrase to describe the content created by David Favor, Jim Cramer, and often Carl Quintanilla.  As Cramer free-associates, Favor fixates on media speculation, while Carl attempts to create coherence, context, and relevancy.  Half sentences dangle, on-screen personas deepen, and many glittering personal references are delivered like club dues.  Why?


Television is a complex trapeze act–toss and catch and be there for each other.  Entertainment holds viewers for ads which pay Comcast talent.  Wacky banter and free-association however do not deliver investing insight.  Media involving complex realities such as financial news requires critical unpacking.  So does the medium.  The true value of Jim Cramer is not found between 9:00-10:00 AM EST.  Nor is it normally found during interviews.  It’s found in his meaty analytical pieces, and his “teaching” shows, and books.  The former two survive the contortions of the medium itself.


Cramer’s interviews exist for a reason.  They tell viewers that Cramer is connected to the companies he reports on, that he has his finger on the pulse.  They also provide CEO’s the chance to tell their story.  His morning slot is for fun.  It’s a wake-up, not an analysis, not too heavy.  It’s TV persona time, and for Cramer, it seems like a big “Thank You” card to those who help make his show a success.  It takes a village to create a show, and Cramer clearly understands.  As viewers we could be glad for the good, and forgive while noticing how the warm pie of financial television is baked.  But then, it’s just like Facebook.  Nothing’s free.  Not even television.


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Additional resources:  Seriously Wonderful.  Fact.
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