With 24-hour media outlets clamoring for your constant attention, some believe the worst thing that could possibly happen would be for investors to lose interest in the stock market. Yet if your measure of success is reaching your financial goals rather than mere entertainment, a pause in sensationalistic financial journalism will help you focus your attention squarely where you should: on what it takes to find and buy the best stocks you can for the long haul.
The great disconnect
Last month, an article in the New York Times discussed how despite a huge recovery in economic indicators and the stock market, business-related periodicals were struggling. Staff cuts, bureau closures, and reductions in publication frequency were just a few of the measures that well-known financial media outlets plan to take to try to weather the apparent disinterest among the general public.
As possible causes of this phenomenon, the article cites two factors. Widespread disgust at Wall Street and the government's bailout programs have led many to become disgusted with business practices in general. Meanwhile, the fact that many mainstream Americans have yet to share in the apparent recovery that recently pushed stocks to their highest levels in over a year puts financial publications looking for news in the unenviable position of rubbing their readers' noses in their own suffering.
View from a helicopter
It's hard to argue with either of those points, especially since they blend together so well. Companies like Goldman Sachs
Moreover, on the economic front, it's hard to stomach seemingly endless compensation controversies at Citigroup
At first glance, a trend toward financial disinterest seems alarming. People need to pay attention to their finances in order to prosper, and ignoring your finances can lead to disaster.
If you're a dedicated investor, though, any reduction in the amount of unnecessary background noise is a positive thing. When the headlines are full of high-profile news items related to business, it's hard to keep your focus on the day-to-day minor events going on with the companies whose stocks you own. Distractions can threaten to overwhelm your discipline and push you toward decisions based more on emotions than on your own in-depth analysis of financial data and other company information. That in turn can lead you to make major mistakes, both in choosing the wrong investments and in making the wrong decisions about when to buy and sell stocks.
Conversely, although some might find calm, quiet financial markets boring, it's a whole lot easier to keep your eyes on the prize. For instance, with so much attention paid to financial stocks over the past two years, utility stocks like Duke Energy
Don't mourn the media
Mainstream business media may be struggling right now, but that doesn't mean that your investing will suffer as a consequence. If anything, the incentive to concentrate more on finding the best investments you can should be a net positive for you and other dedicated investors.
Forget the hype and get down to business. Here are four things you really need to get done this month.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger never finds investing boring, but he admits that he's a sucker for a great headline. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Duke Energy is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy does its part to keep things from getting more exciting than they ought to be.