Ali Velshi, CNN’s senior business correspondent and host of In the Money, sounds skeptical about the Fox Business Channel’s audience.
“The average viewer will come and go to business news as markets move. There’s not that much migration amongst professional or institutional viewers, so where is Fox Business going to get its viewers?,” Velshi said in a TVNewser interview this week. “Advertisers pay big bucks for business news, but a business channel won’t provide a return on a $5 BILLION dollar investment for a long time. Murdoch’s strategy for Dow Jones is bigger than Fox Business.”
How did Velshi get into business news, how has he changed In The Money, and why does he podcast? Click continued and find out in the full interview…
TVNEWSER: How did you first become interested in business news?
ALI VELSHI: It was in the late nineties when markets were getting so hot that people who had no history or experience in investing were trading the market like pros. They needed information, and a local TV station in Toronto approached me to anchor and report on business. Until then, I had been a general news reporter. I had an excellent producer who basically told me to “shut up and listen to him.” He – and the internet – gave me a crash course in markets and economics. Not sure anyone who listened to what I said back then is still invested in the market.
TVNEWSER: How does the news that you package differ from the news that we can see on CNBC or maybe read in the Wall Street Journal?
VELSHI: We simply do less business, so we have to prioritize differently. There are many stories that I just canâ€™t tell, so my producers and I have to choose really well. And then we have to tell those stories in a way that makes sense to OUR viewer. The greatest challenge we face is telling stories about options back-dating, or private equity: things that don’t, on the surface, have direct impact on the average investor. Everything that happens in business has indirect impact, but some topics are sexier than others. If it were always Enron and Wal-Mart and gas prices, it would be easy.
TVNEWSER: How do you try and bring business news (which can sometimes be complicated) to the average consumer?
VELSHI: By explaining the concepts behind the story, and by making a connection between the story and CNN’s viewer, who is more likely to be an average investor and a consumer, than they are a professional investor. I always try to keep the story relevant, and give the viewer a reason to stay tuned.
TVNEWSER: Why should people tune into your show “In the Money?”
VELSHI: Because we interpret what’s going on in the world of money, and we’ll give you real ways to make money. In The Money is evolving. Since I joined the show about 6 months ago, we’ve experimented and recasted it to better suit our viewer. That could mean giving you the information you need to decide on your mortgage. It could mean investing in index funds or re-balancing your 401(k). It could mean hearing from a successful CEO about what the future holds. Or it could mean learning how to find out if companies you patronize or invest in are environmentally friendly. We’re soon going to start using the resources of CNN to follow-up on behalf of viewers who face endemic customer service problems. It’s the most common consumer complaint today.
TVNEWSER: You recently started a podcast. How important of a business decision was it for you to be on another platform, besides television and .com?
VELSHI: Digital distribution is where the growth is. There are people who get the majority of their information from blogs, from RSS feeds and from podcasts. So if that’s where people are going, that’s where we should be. I actually do 3 podcasts a week: 2 audio and one video. It’s a chance for me to take a little more time telling stories, and put them into context. They’re also a little less constrained than TV reports – I can cover topics in a way that wouldn’t lend itself well to TV.
TVNEWSER: There seems to be a lot of buzz these days in business news, especially with Dow Jones being up for grabs and the Fox News Business Channel about to launch. Why do you think there is such an interest in business news?
VELSHI: Business news is strong for 3 reasons:
1. Markets are hot
2. You’re not making money on your property, so you might as well invest in stocks.
3. Low interest rates means you have no choice but to invest in stocks if you want to retire well
4. The world is becoming a very small place; things like index funds and Exchange Traded Funds allow the average investor to participate in growth in different sectors, and different countries. Business news makes all of this accessible to the average investor.
TVNEWSER: How do you think the Fox Business Channel will do if it does not get Dow Jones?
VELSHI: The average viewer will come and go to business news as markets move. There’s not that much migration amongst professional or institutional viewers, so where is Fox Business going to get its viewers? Advertisers pay big bucks for business news, but a business channel won’t provide a return on a $5 BILLION dollar investment for a long time. Murdoch’s strategy for Dow Jones is bigger than Fox Business.
TVNEWSER: What do you make of some of your fellow business reporters, such as Jim Cramer who has been in the news recently?
VELSHI: Jim is brilliant! I LOVE watching him for his energy and his raw smarts. I love watching him and wish I had what he has. He’s little loose, sometimes (often), but he caters to a viewer who appreciates that; a viewer who, in my opinion, is underserved in this crowded business news market. The retail investor WANTS to feel the action of this market, and of global trends – and Jim makes you feel like you are getting inside information (the legal kind). The only thing I have to say about Jim is what Jim (and that remarkable disclaimer than runs on his show) says: caveat emptor! If you have the stomach for the sort of risks Jim enjoys, knock yourself out. Otherwise, get professional guidance on your investments.
TVNEWSER: Is there any talk now of bringing back CNNfn with you as the star!?
VELSHI: Maybe I can do a show like “Mad Money!” Funny you should ask. There IS such talk. In my apartment, at about 3 o’clock each morning when I wake up. And the conversation is between me and myself. If there are such plans, I don’t know about them. But I’m available.
TVNEWSER: Finally, how do you choose your wardrobe every morning?!
VELSHI: In the dark. I developed this whole stripe-on-check-on-pattern thing for a reason: nothing ever looks any more or less mis-matched than anything else! In truth, my dressing usually reflects my mood in the morning; if I didn’t get enough sleep, I’ll be more subdued. If I am feeling strong and well-rested, I’ll have a lot of stripes. If I am feeling particularly sophisticated, you’ll notice that, too. But that doesn’t happen all that often. The only thing that’s constant is the vest. There’s ALWAYS a vest.