A Countdown to the End of Countdowns

Financial network television producers love a countdown.  I hate to blame the recently deceased Dick Clark, but I sometimes wonder if CNBC and other financial networks favor producers who worked on his New Year’s Eve Times Square Countdowns.  Earlier this month, much of the news was focused on a “Countdown to the Facebook IPO” that culminated with Mark Zuckerberg ringing the NASDAQ opening bell at the Facebook headquarters.  If they would have added Ryan Seacrest and a light up ball one would have sworn it was New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Historically, countdowns were reserved for things like rocket or space launches or bomb detonations.  But now we get regular countdowns to things like jobs reports and fed announcements.  Yesterday there was a “Countdown to the Greek Elections” followed by a “Countdown to Jamie Dimon testimony.”  This past year we’ve had “Tanker Battle Countdown”, “Countdown to Default”, “South Carolina Countdown”, “Debate Countdown”, and my personal favorite “Countdown to the Super Committee Deadline.”

According to Wikipedia, the first known countdown on film was a German science fiction movie in which the director thought the countdown would increase the drama of the rocket launch sequence.  Drama must be what CNBC is going for.  But when we count down to everything doesn’t the countdown lose some appeal?   Are the upcoming Greek elections that much more dramatic and meaningful if we are counting down to them?  Does Jamie Dimon’s congressional testimony become more important if we are anxiously awaiting the timer to turn to zero before we hear what he has to say?

CNBC and their competitors give investors plenty of good and useful information.  Whether they use a countdown, slick graphics, or attractive anchors – viewers need to be able to see through all the noise and hype and focus on the relevant news.  Watch the cable outlets with the understanding that their goal is to get you to tune back in tomorrow.  In the meantime, how about a countdown to the end of countdowns?

Your thoughts are welcomed.

Marisa A. Lenhard, CFA, CFP®