Stock market coverage: Are the continuous updates too much?


There’s the initial story, with two to four paragraphs. Then there’s the first update that adds more context, the second update and closing the story once the stock market has shut down for the day.

The standard for stock market coverage, in the age of media saturation, is to continually publish updates with the most recent numbers and information. And business networks cover stock market fluctuations in a more frenzied manner.

Updating a story three or more times in one day and getting maybe only 20 views on a single update or having only a few people care about the stock that is flashing across a business network begs the question from some of whether covering the stock market in this manner is overkill, as people who care about a single stock or the Dow Jones Industrial Average are a minority of Americans.

I have days, particularly when I’m in the middle of writing a seemingly unimportant update that might take away the time I would be using to write a longer story, where I believe that these stock market updates are too much and that no one cares about my story update aside from my editor.

But, just as technology has enhanced the ability to deliver news in a timely manner, it has also made stock market trades that much faster and easier. A trader on Wall Street can buy and sell stocks almost instantaneously. It’s fascinating to track how much a stock price can change in just a few seconds in reaction to some piece of company news or even just speculation about a company.

Because of technological advances in both the stock market and in the media, it has made it imperative to deliver continuous updates and news about a company and its stock price. It’s true that the majority of Americans don’t care about the stock price of Performance Technologies or some other company, but the reason that business journalists, publications and networks exist is specifically for the people who do and who are highly invested in the most minute change in a stock price.

Wall Street traders and other investors can lose or gain millions of dollars in a series of quick trades, and they frequently depend upon business news agencies and television networks to provide them timely, accurate news to provide them they need to decide whether or not to buy and sell stocks.

Several months ago I spoke to a business journalist who had inaccurately published a headline about the stock price of a company and was contacted later by a gentleman who had made a trade based on the incorrect information — and lost thousands of dollars because of it. Scenarios such as this one remind me in the moments that I think my story update is pointless that at least one person is depending upon the information I am delivering to be completely up to date.

Bloomberg has developed news delivery systems such as First Word and Headlines to publish the most important nuggets of information in the quickest manner possible. Other news organizations do the same. This type of delivery system, just as the banners scrolling across the bottom of business networks, makes the most sense to me. Even though a few people will click on the story, busy bankers and traders only have time to consume the most relevant parts of the article for their job and don’t read through the rest.

The only type of stipulation that I have to believing in the importance of continuous stock market coverage is whether the constant coverage fuels the stock market frenzy of trading or whether this would happen without the information delivery system of business news outlets.

My inclination is that, even if CNBC didn’t have someone on the trading floor covering stock fluctuations as if they were a sports commentator, the trading would still happen in this manner, and that ultimately the business journalist is there to serve the consumer of the news.