Last week we published an excerpt from the newly published Clash of the Financial Pundits: How the Media Influences Your Investment Decisions for Better or Worse by Joshua M. Brown and Jeff Macke. In that piece they talk about the ‘myth of the media diet.’ The idea being that it is impossible for investors to simply restrain themselves from snacking on the news as they do on other diets.
David Snowball in his June commentary over at Mutual Fund Observer looks at the overwhelming amount of noise and chatter out there in the financial markets. The challenge for investors is not only the amount of content but the fact that much of it is contradictory. To close out this theme we wanted to quote from Snowball who comes down on the side of a minimalist, or structured approach to news consumption. He writes:
I actually teach about this stuff for a living, from News Literacy to Communication and Emerging Technologies. My best reading of the research supports the notion that we’ve become victims of continuous partial attention. There are so many ways of reaching us and we’re so often judged by the speed of our response (my students tell me that five minutes is the longest you can wait before responding to text without giving offense), that we’re continually dividing our attention between the task at hand and a steady stream of incoming chatter. (15% of us have interrupted sex to take a cellphone call while a third text while driving.) It’s pervasive enough that there are now reports in the medical literature of sleep-texting; that is, hearing an incoming text while asleep, rousing just enough to respond and then returning to sleep without later knowing that any of this had happened. We are, in short, training ourselves to be distracted, unsure and unfocused.
Fortunately, we can also retrain ourselves for become more focused. Focus requires discipline; not “browsing” or “link-hopping,” but regular, structured attention. In general, I pay no attention to “the news” except during two narrow windows each day (roughly, the morning when I have coffee and read two newspapers and during evening commutes). During those windows, I listen to NPR News which – so far as I can determine – has the most consistently thoughtful, in-depth journalism around.
There is more, as usual, over at Mutual Fund Observer. If nothing else this should prompt investors to take a step back from their routines and analyze your own media consumption. If you are at all typical there is likely some easy ways to reduce the amount of junk content you are consuming. Or as we once wrote:
Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it.