James Cramer hits the cover of BusinessWeek. Roben Farzad writes a profile of CNBC’s star commentator. Anyone who has watched his show will have strong opinions on his on-air antics. This is due in large part because what is on the air is so unlike anything else:
Cramer senses a huge information vacuum. “You can’t just be neutral on everything,” he says. “Go see a shrink!” What he sees is a woefully underserved market for unabashed, aggressive stockpicking — his kind — that is laced with bombastic sound bites like “Back up the truck!” and “Get the paddles!” and lends itself to the showmanship that has made Mad Money a cult hit with 384,000 nightly viewers. No Warren Buffett, Cramer is a trading mercenary to the core. His rapid-fire in-and-out moves are raising chat room buzz to levels not seen since day traders reigned supreme during the bubble. All of which has turned CNBC’s once-moribund 6 p.m. slot into one of its top-rated hours. “What’s smart about Mad Money is it does away with the usual boring guests and lets Cramer vent in a way that is hard not to watch,” says Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz, who profiled Cramer in his book The Fortune Tellers. “It occupies some sort of netherworld between sheer entertainment and useful financial advice.”
BW’s research finds that Cramer’s on-air picks have outperformed the market by a decent margin. CXO Advisory finds out that Cramer provokes strong emotions. CXO has conducted a series of studies on Cramer’s previous stock picks. In short, they find that Cramer’s picks in print, and on-air, are of little or no economic value.
It is not clear that Cramer’s audience really cares about the utility of his picks. What will be interesting to see is how well (and long) Cramer’s brand of financial journalism wears on the investing public.