TV Still Matters

By , 19 October, 2008, 1 Comment

If the 1990s taught us anything, it was that video did not kill the radio star: despite their unappealing physical demeanors, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh did just fine. Radio survived the loss of the family dinnertime market by targeting a niche audience of political extremists at either end of the spectrum.

In a similar vein, if the financial crisis has taught me anything, it’s that the Internet has not killed TV news. On corporate hallways in the middle of the afternoon, TVs are still running. And while websites carry stock tickers and financial news stories, only 24-hour news channels carry live speeches by government regulators or live Congressional negotiations (they sometimes show up YouTube! several hours later).

Those speeches are the news behind the stock ticker: for example, the day Ben Bernanke announced his plan to buy commercial paper, the Dow tumbled several hundred points. DURING his speech. Which means traders were watching it live, on TV. Similar trends apply to the market response during the Congressional bailout bill hearings.

Then there’s the case of Jim Cramer, who spends weekday afternoons telling viewers how to make “Mad Money” on stocks. Not only did his ratings soar this past month with so much financial turmoil, but he learned (the hard way) that viewers really do care what he says. Many have gone as far as to blame him for some of the crisis: he was bullish on Bear Stearns when the company was about to go under; now he’s telling people to stuff their mattresses when many experts say a little less caution might help us loosen a stuck financial system.

We like to think of Wall Streeters and their fans as high tech high rollers. Ironic then that the financial sector is turning out to be the niche audience for the media stepchild that is daytime television news.

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