This topic has been on my mind for two or three days now, and I couldn’t decide if I should write about something like this or not, but in the end I just couldn’t resist.
I think a lot of people look at someone on television or read something that someone has written in a newspaper and automatically assume that just because they have a big audience they must be right but the truth is that a lot of these people aren’t even trying to be right.
When you think about it, there are hundreds of people on television these days, and an even larger number write for some publication or the other. With such intense competition, how do these people stand apart from each other?
Making outrageous nonsensical statements is an easy and effective way to do this, and when you look at the large number of people who choose this path, you know it is working as well.
There is a lot more entertainment in financial news than there is actual information, and if you were to pick up most pieces written about the Facebook IPO or the petrol prices in India recently – you would see what I mean. Incredibly smart people talk about oil companies screwing the Indian populace without talking about their losses, or analysts talking about Facebook not being there in 5 years from now, well guess what, Facebook most likely will be there in 5 years, but no one will remember what you said 5 years from now, and at least making such ridiculous statements helps you stand out from the crowd today.
The noise is often so loud that it drowns out the few sane voices that exist and in some way the audience is to be blamed as well because people hang on to scary headlines repeating them mindlessly without actually going deeper in the content and questioning whether the content actually reflects the scare that the headline is trying to generate.
The other aspect of this nonsense is commentary by perma bears or perma bulls. A famous Indian mutual fund manager blogs about markets and a few months ago I created a spreadsheet with date, short term predictions that he made, and then where the market was when compared with his predictions. There were two things that were quite easy to spot. One was he always found something to be positive about and second was he was wrong 80% of the time. But to this day he continues to be optimistic and continues to give guidance, not giving a damn to his plentiful wrong predictions in the last 2 years. There are examples on the other side as well, and what good is the advise of such people?
These predictions are all but useless, and just serve the purpose to make the person popular because others are only too happy to repeat that so and so analyst expects the market to end at 21,000 or 27,000 or whatever. Being accurate is not important, being loud and saying something that grabs attention is.
I think it is important for everyone to take a deep breath and think about this for a moment and keep it in the back of your mind that the person who is writing or appearing on television doesn’t always have the same goals that you as the consumer of that news have. Being popular and being right are two different things, and unfortunately you don’t need to be right to be popular.