The Reckoning

The Perils of Cable Television

So it is written, so it has begun: my book tour. With both trepidation and anticipation, I’m out on the road, volume in hand ready to jump through (almost) any hoop in hope of getting my ideas noticed. While I’m an old hand at media, including stints and a radio and television analyst for the BBC and later MSNBC, there’s something different about being out there on the basis of your own brand.

There is something slightly odd about the sudden ability to, say, land a slot as a guest on CNBC’s Power Lunch, as I did yesterday, just because a publishing house has chosen to bound your thoughts between two pieces of cardboard.

While this can be hugely beneficial for book sales, of course, it also leaves you at the mercy of the venue. CNBC, for instance, hit me with the standards “four risks to your portfolio” question that are only tangentially related to the book.

Not that I don’t get into risk - the whole book’s about risk - but by definition, CNBC is talking to an audience of people who are focused on very short-term considerations. So, Iran-Israel, the Eurozone crisis, US political dyfunction and the continued weakness of certain elements of the banking sector are almost obvioius responses.

But then, try to get into the deeper issues - long- and medium-term adjustments the US and others must make to avoid a Lehman-like cascade of geopolitical woe - and you get labeled “a worrier” or “Ron Paul.” Both made my true friends chuckle.

The fact is, American investors TRADE TOO FREQUENTLY. I can’t prove this, and in fact the debate over “buy-and-hold” trading and more frenetic trend surfing is as old as the stock market. But I deeply believe that holding positions in stocks, bonds or other vehicles for 10 years and more is a much more likely way to increase the value of your investments than jumping from one log to another. Eventually, people who do that - from me to hedge fund giant John Paulson - get rolled.

So, if I had a moment to think against that big CNBC rostrum, I might have said that. But thinking isn’t always synonymous with 3 minutes of colorful air time. The lack of patience that is probably the greatest single risk to most American portfolios is there in full force in our media.

Hopefully, in the longer form moments I’ll get over the next few weeks (speeches today at Microsoft, and the Seattle World Affairs Council, later this week at Google, the Booksmith in San Francisco, and then Columbia University J school and WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show on April 23), there will be more time to think.

But if CNBC calls again, I’m there. There’s room for both in my portfolio at the moment.