CNBC is Dead: Here's Why Retail Investors Won't Miss It

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Florida Miami Beach television TV flat panel screen monitor cable channel CNBC business stock market Jim Cramer
Jeff Greenberg/ AlamyOne episode of Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" only drew 2,000 viewers to CNBC.
There was a time in the late 1990s –- and again briefly during the financial crisis of in the late 2000s –- when CNBC was the 800-pound gorilla of financial news. Professionals in the financial services industry and amateurs who were active traders were tuned in constantly, and even those with just a cursory interest in the markets were regular viewers.

Those viewers -- especially the retail investors like you and me -- were the lifeblood of the network, driving the ratings of its personality-driven programming. And as much as Comcast's (CMCSA) CNBC needed us, its well-crafted propaganda tried to convince us that we, too, needed CNBC to get the best, up-to-the-minute financial information.

It's questionable as to how much the average retail investor ever really needed CNBC in the past, but what is blatantly clear is that we no longer need it today -- and we know it.

According to the latest Nielsen ratings, CNBC's total audience viewership during the second quarter of 2014 for business day programming has dropped to its lowest levels since 1997. The news is even worse for its marquee show, "Mad Money," hosted by the controversial financial pundit Jim Cramer.

Cramer's show recently had its second-lowest ratings ever among total viewers, and its lowest-rated show among the key 25-54 year old demographic, bringing in only 2,000 such viewers on a Friday afternoon. As Cramer might say, "Un-booyah!"

A New Self-Defined Measurement

The news for CNBC is so bad that Adweek reports that it is replacing industry standard Nielsen ratings -- which it says don't accurately reflect its audience -- with its own "internal measuring of ad deliverables" when soliciting daytime advertisers.

To be fair, the network had little competition for viewers back in its heyday. Now it faces competition not only from the two other major financial networks, Bloomberg and Fox Business News (FOX), but a wide array of financial news sources across the internet and via social media platforms.

Whereas CNBC used to be the de facto source for breaking market news, today, platforms like Twitter (TWTR) regularly break news while CNBC is talking to a previously scheduled guest or in a commercial break. And market-specific social communities like StockTwits generate hundreds of thousands of interactions among their members revolving around the financial news of the day.

Not Enough of Anything

CNBC was never really a useful tool for the retail investor, but now it occupies an awkward space where it's neither fast enough to compete with social media, nor deep enough (nor accountable enough) to compete with long-form digital content, and not accessible enough to compete with online personalities.

Advances in technology have finally revealed the dirty little secret about CNBC -- and financial news television in general: Their shows are window dressing for clients in the offices of institutional investors, and obsolete badges of honor for financial pundits.

The last point of which Josh Brown -- himself a CNBC contributor -- emphasizes in his book "Clash of the Financial Pundits" by saying, "The practiced pundit is making appearances and dropping quotes for the benefit of a firm or a career -- not necessarily for your benefit."

Wise words for the retail investor to live by in an age where your choices for financial information no longer are limited to a single resource, method of distribution or form factor.

Brian Lund's blog offers more on personal finance, the stock market, investing and the secret to eternal life.


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51 Comments

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geoffball

What are you talking about. CNBC is great for third or fourth tier sports during the Olympics and spillover first round NHL playoff games.

July 02 2014 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chasgustaf

CNBC USED to be a Business channel. Now, just like Bloomberg News it is more a Shill channel .Guess it is mor profitable to do canned sales pitches than to do real business news. And that loud mouth they have on the floor spewing his political agenda belongs on Fox.

July 02 2014 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ted_wilson7

Mad Money…….the Gong Show of business finance

July 02 2014 at 11:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
k4jlp

When FOX NEWS talks, nobody but the mules with blinders on following the sheep down the row listens.

July 02 2014 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bolten2

Maybe they can bring in Chelsea Clinton to ramp up viewers. After all they pay her $600,000 a year.

July 02 2014 at 10:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Investing is a crap game. Beware! the market will crash soon when the real reports are released.

July 02 2014 at 9:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Yiwen Nni

One way to get ruined surely and quickly is to take investments tips from CNBC, TheStreet, Zacks or The Motley Fool!

July 02 2014 at 7:03 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Yiwen Nni

The Stocks Pundit has become The Mad Clown!

July 02 2014 at 7:02 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
irv

i stopped watching cnbc years ago. bloomberg is what i view for financial entertainment. i, concluded that they were too political relying on gop talking points rather than news. their "guests" appeared to me to be merely used to promote their favorite products & kramer's shtick became a bore. they need to get back to their original idea of reporting the financial news & getting rid of those "experts" who have a political agenda.

July 02 2014 at 5:58 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to irv's comment
Craig

So in your opinion it's fine to have a political agenda just as long as it is similar to yours, right? The majority of the media have had a political agenda backing that minority ruler in the White House.

July 02 2014 at 7:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Craig's comment
chasgustaf

Remember, the minority ruler was in the House between 2001 and 2005. He got fewer votes and had to have the five Republicans on the Supreme Court, put him on the throne. We are still paying for that mistake.

July 02 2014 at 2:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
mikep3177

There are some quality guests (ie Bernstein, Saut, Cooperman, Tepper, and a few others) worth listening to, but I agree that 99 per cent is garbage. my solution is to DVR the shows and fast forward through them. can get through 7 hours of programming in 15 minutes, plus whatever I decide to actually watch.

July 02 2014 at 5:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply