CNBC Would Rather Be Talked About Than Right
CNBC is on fire! Just like the economy. After being lambasted for being catastrophically wrong about everything its anchors and reporters are paid to understand, the business network is actually enjoying its notoriety.
Jon Stewart and the White House have both put the business network squarely in their sights for emerging as the spokesnetwork of choice for reactionary moneyed interest, but the New York Time's Brian Stelter and Tim Arango report this morning that "The headlines about CNBC are a testament to its relevance."
Which is true in the same sense that the headlines about Enron in 2001 were a testament to that company's relevance. It's the reality-TV theory of publicity; as long as people are talking about you, it doesn't matter what they are saying. In CNBC's case, they're saying that the network was too busy ignoring Maria Bartiromo's overnight flights with Citigroup CFO Todd Thomson to catch on to the fact that Citigroup spent that last eight or so years buying up worthless assets and hurtling toward insolvency. But it's OK as long as your formerly cocaine-addicted anchor Larry Kudlow is considering a Senate run based on the premise that rich people need an advocate in these tough times.
The angry outbursts from Cramer, Kudlow, et. al. are by design, Stelter and Arango report, and for the time being they have been working: Ratings are up 7 percent for the first two months of the year, and CNBC's audience of well-heeled CFOs continues to command high advertising rates. One knowledgable TV source tells Gawker that CNBC rakes in as much money as the Today Show, which pulls in a reported $250 million in annual profit. Still, CNBC suffers terribly during downturns as amateur investors switch over to Judge Judy rather than watch their retirement accounts spiral downward. The early '09 viewership has been goosed by the market roller-coaster ride; as the recession settles in it will clearly drop off.
But Cramer has a solution! "To attract viewers," the Times writes, "[Cramer] said he would continue to make Mad Money entertaining, and that means more predictions, even when they can be used against him by comedians like Mr. Stewart later."
"If I get gushy, then I'm not going to be relevant," Cramer said. Lesson learned.