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CNBC plunges as indexing soars


(MoneyWatch) Active mutual funds aren't the only casualty from the surging popularity of index investing. According to Vikas Shukla of, CNBC viewer ratings have fallen to the lowest levels since 1994 in the all-important age group of 25-54.

The two programs with the largest rating declines in this age group for the second quarter of this year, versus the same quarter of 2012, are Jim Cramer's Mad Money with 50 percent, and The Kudlow Report with 60 percent. Total viewership reflects less of a decline at 39 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Clearly, the entire decline isn't attributable to the rise of indexing: ValueWalk notes that Fox Business ratings have increased during the same period. The report also reveals that a leaked NBC memo touting the network's successes doesn't even mention CNBC, formerly "one of the centerpieces of the NBC/Universal empire."

My take

Now it will be no surprise to any of my readers that, based on financial ideology, I've been a consistent critic of the network, especially Mad Money and Cramer's often costly recommendations. His flip-flopping on Hewlett Packard recently, which swung from sell-sell-sell immediately to buy-buy-buy after a 119 percent gain, gave me whiplash.

But Cramer may have actually made a very good call last week. While appearing on the show Squawk Box, he said something to the effect of "if doubling your money over ten years were as simple as buying the index, you wouldn't need shows like ours." Well, to be exact, the Vanguard Total Stock Index Fund (VTSMX) more than doubled over the past ten years -- it rose 113.9 percent.

Source: Yahoo Finance

In my view, the surge of indexing and decline in CNBC ratings is good news for investors working to achieve financial independence. And though I have my own opinion on whether investors "need shows like ours," CNBC and Jim Cramer are here to stay, which is also a good thing -- for indexers needing markets to remain efficient.

Author's note: My thanks to Jack Otter, former MoneyWatch executive editor for making me aware of the article.

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