Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Fall of CNBC

So I've been catching up on this story about Bubblevision, since I don't have television service. (Only FiOS Internet access, but it's great so far.) It is truly entertaining, both to watch the video as well as reading some of the analysis to come out of it.

What can I say? I popped my cherry on CNBC. I've been watching them, to some degree, since the early 1990s. Even after discovering Bloomberg TV, and watching hopefully for CNNfn to grow into being somewhat entertaining (before its demise), I kept coming back to CNBC.

But then, last year, there was a shift. A large motivator for that shift had to do with the realization that CNBC guilty of propagating bad information in various ways. However, I also became clear about what I was seeking from CNBC, and how it no longer served a central role in providing that. What I was seeking was information. Specifically, I was trying to find ways into the knowledge flow.

You see, this entire world of finance is based on information. A friend of mine used to have the following quote as his e-mail signature:

"Information - the currency of the future."

This was around 1993, so long after the release of "Wall Street", wherein Gordon Gekko first expounds on the importance of information. For a neophyte such as myself, at that time, I could not appreciate the sheer brilliance and importance of Gekko's lines regarding information. Even after being exposed to the above quote, it never hit me, through all the intervening years, just how critical the right information is to success in this world. I'm not sure when it finally landed, but I felt amazingly stupid for not "getting it" sooner. (Rightfully so!)

CNBC has always represented the regular man's access to the information flow of the world of finance, and Wall Street in particular. The very embodiment of the concept of "democratization" of information. At least, so I and many others thought. We didn't know what we didn't know.

CNBC's role in my life has slowly been usurped by the Internet, in particular the many excellent resources I list along the right hand navigation bar, and most powerfully, By Twitter. Sometime since early last year, the light bulb came on. I got it. And since then, CNBC was no longer just wrong. It was pretty much irrelevant, becoming more entertainment than information. All Jon Stewart did was highlight this for regular people, and they probably still won't really get it. The power brokers, on the other hand, have clearly been aware of this for a long time.

I don't miss CNBC, because there was never enough substantive information to miss (unlike the devolution of the Wall Street Journal over the past 10 - 15 years). It's clear as day. CNBC doesn't matter. Whether it ever will again, or even should, if a wholly different question. Sure, it will always have its place on trading floors/desks, among the financial cognoscenti, and the regular man. It is a tool - a very blunt tool - but a tool with some uses. Without sound, it is a decent breaking news tool and ticker. (Bloomberg's colors make it far too difficult to read their ticker quickly, IMO.) Yet the prominence and stature will never return, at least not for me.

Such is life.

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