My company is getting an advertising appeal from a firm that will help us get new business.
Here is the pitch:
There is no recession – – we’re in a depression – – created by Alan Greenscam and his privately owned “Fed”!
The email goes on to explain how the subjects will respond with specific times to call, etc.
It is no surprise. It is a theme of the highest-rated market blogs. The top political blogs are also filled with criticism of every idea. The critics are from both the left and the right. The mainstream media write the same type of articles, and for good reason.
If you spark controversy, you get comments. You also get readers returning to the page to see what others say in response. The wise advice is to be opinionated and controversial. It builds page views and your value to your company.
Take Rush Limbaugh for example, a topic we covered at ElectionStocks. Whether President Obama succeeds in bi-partisan leadership is crucial to the country and our economic success. If you are an investor, it is a subject you should be following with care.
Meanwhile, the Limbaugh approach is one of self-importance. His approval ratings are a bit higher than Bush or Blagojevich, but few would get excited about 33%.
Already the leading conservative voice with 14 million or so listeners, he has made himself a part of the national policy debate. He starts with an outrageous statement wishing the President to fail. Then he gets a response from Obama. Then he gets an op-ed piece. And finally he gets even more TV time. It is a good business model.
Financial media imitate this approach. Guests on financial TV are routinely advised to be aggressive and opinionated. It is part of the reason that everything seems to have many sides and no answer.
A Small Test
Yesterday we tried a small test, providing some factual information that no one else writes about — even the leading economists. It was not bullish nor bearish and it involved no opinion. Despite this, many readers thought that "we were seeing the glass as half full" or that "government data could not be believed."
This is what we have come to. There is a natural audience of those who have pre-conceived notions about government. Those willing to consider data constitute a much smaller group. It is somewhat like comparing Rush Limbaugh to the Newshour with Jim Lehrer.
Each writer, each investment manager, each company, must find the right market. Many choose to profit from investor fear, exploiting the events of the past year. It is probably a poor business decision, but we reject this approach.
We are left with the traditional idea. As so often happens, it is best expressed by Warren Buffett.