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Is the Financial Media Biased Against Tesla and Elon Musk?

Also notable is the way many in the media have downplayed the catastrophic UAW strike, shutting down production at these legacy auto factories.

Rick Schultz



A photo of the interior of a Tesla

On Sunday, September 10th, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas released a detailed, 66-page report, which raised his price target for Tesla stock from $250 to $400. The report gave an extensive accounting of the company’s projected market opportunities and areas where they will lead the competition in the near future. So, at the precise time some of the country’s biggest legacy automakers are being targeted with a debilitating union strike, Jonas thinks Tesla is ready to blast off in the areas of AI, data, and compute power.

“I think this is a long time coming,” Tesla analyst and supply chain expert, Jeff Lutz, told Herbert Ong on his Monday episode of Brighter with Herbert. “A lot of the Tesla folks that really study the company have seen this coming. We’ve been talking about it in spaces, on various videos, and in our community. I believe this is Morgan Stanley getting out in front of that Nvidia Chat GPT moment.” 

In fact, Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted on X after the report that “Almost all of Tesla’s value long-term will be from AI & robots, both vehicle & humanoid.”

In other words, if one is to believe Musk, the massive and profitable car company up to this point will pale in comparison to what is expected from the organization in the future.

But as car enthusiasts, climate change believers, Tesla bulls, and Musk fans celebrated the report, many in the mainstream media took the opposite approach. At the same time, they seemed to downplay the effects of a potential strike by the United Auto Workers Union against some of the leading American car manufacturers.

“There’s 180,000 people, we don’t know if they’re going to strike all three,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said last week. “They don’t have enough money to go more than five weeks, even if they do a $600 payout per week. So I’m just not saying the strike’s going to be that important. I think they’re more likely, if they’re going to pick on ’em is Stellantis. So I just think it’s not a big focus.”

“He doesn’t think a union strike is a big deal for the three auto folks, ok,” Herbert said.

“If you play the other video and just look at the change in the face and demeanor,” Lutz said, previewing the next clip of the analysts discussing Tesla. “These are just a few minutes apart in the same show, by the way.”

“There are any number of his reports I can remember that have very exciting titles,” CNBC’s David Faber said, seeming to throw shade at Jonas’ report.

“I mean honestly, do you think the Giants are that bad? This is like a one-hit thing,” Cramer responded angrily, connecting the New York football Giants’ surprising week one loss to what he seems to be calling the anomaly of the Morgan Stanley report. “He’s been fighting this stock. So suddenly, no! You know why he doesn’t have to fight it any more, because he’s been fighting it as a car company!”

“He’s angry, and we’re going to have a couple other clips where the face really changes,” Lutz said. “They’re basically saying there’s corruption going on here with a 66-page report with data, facts, numbers, graphs. And just versus let’s send a couple reporters in. Let’s try to understand the Tesla AI effort better ourselves. This thing’s going to be this big. They send crews of people out to Meta. They send crews of people out to Microsoft and to Apple. And maybe there’s something going on on the Tesla side as well. But I think Tesla would be pretty open to telling the AI story that they want to share.”

It’s impossible to know for sure why most of the mainstream, corporate media was so upset with an analyst painting such a rosy picture for Tesla’s immediate future. Some say it may be that they are financially incentivized to promote legacy combustion engine gas vehicle companies, such as Ford and General Motors. Also notable is the way many in the media have downplayed the catastrophic UAW strike, shutting down production at these legacy auto factories.

Statistica says Ford is expected to spend $150 million on advertising with CNBC/NBC Universal this year, while General Motors is predicted to spend $130 million. 

“It just shows that there’s real money going from these companies to CNBC and NBC Universal. So first off, why would they want to run overly negative stories about GM, Ford, and Stellantis? They wouldn’t,” Lutz said. “What you’ll see in this video is them saying, look, this strike thing is probably not going to be a big deal. And that’s what you would want to do if somebody is paying you a half a billion dollars between those three automakers, a year. That’s probably how you’d want to get on air and say it. And when you’re Tesla and you’re giving them nothing, and Tesla is going squarely up against these companies.”

“Like you say, they really are angry,” Herbert added. “There may be more than just the ads, Jeff. There’s something else here.”

“He’s been equal weight for a very long time,” CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla said on the next clip. “And there’s a large disclaimer in the note, that Morgan Stanley does and seeks to do business with companies related to Tesla. It may alter or imply a conflict of interest in Morgan Stanley.” David Faber then said he bets Morgan Stanley wishes they could get out of some of the money they lent Elon Musk as part of his Twitter purchase.

“They’re connecting it to the Twitter deal,” Lutz added. “Again, they’re not focused on what’s in the report. What does it mean today? What does it mean for the future? They’re literally just focused on conspiracy theories. Again, there’s opinion people on that desk. And then there’s reporters on that desk.”

Some think this is yet another example of the mainstream media allowing their extreme views to overshadow objective reporting. They remain irate because Elon Musk has opened up Twitter/X to allow all viewpoints, rather than promoting radical liberalism while hiding traditional, conservative opinions. Liberal media voices simply cannot tolerate a level playing field where all opinions get a fair voice, allowing users to formulate their own opinions. So say some of those who have criticized the media’s coverage of the Twitter takeover. 

There have also been many who think most in the media remain upset with Musk for the unforgivable act of unabashedly supporting causes related to freedom and traditional values. Along with – GASP – some Republican political candidates.

In his inimitable, sarcastic style YouTuber Steven Mark Ryan began his Monday program by saying, “For some strange reason, some folks in the mainstream finance media don’t seem particularly happy to see Tesla stock surging ten percent today. I don’t know why that would be. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or maybe I’m just imagining things.”

On Thursday’s airing of Cyberbulls on Herbert Ong’s YouTube channel, Tesla analyst Alexandra Merz offered her thoughts of the media’s pile-on approach.

“I was actually very surprised about a couple of things. First, how the market, or at least the big voices of the market, CNBC and some others, were quickly ready to dismiss this Jonas report. I mean, they felt so uncomfortable about this and made it very clear that it had to be dismissed. And they brought the strangest reasons for it. But there was always a good reason to not look at it in detail.”

Merz pointed out that the network had still not had on the author of the report to discuss his reasoning. 

“Yet they had analysts of much lower standing than Jonas come on the channel and comment on it, yet they’d never really discussed it. Absolutely crazy,” she said. “Absolutely crazy, and shows you how crooked this market is.”

“The second thing I’ve found surprising is this is a 66-page report that we’re handing out to our friends because people ask us for it. But it’s actually quite difficult to get. None of it really filtered into the press,” Merz said. “There seems to be a common understanding to not make passages of it public.”

“They were dismissive before any details were even looked at,” Lutz said on the Cyberbulls program. “And that’s what kind of was very strange to me. And they were actually angry. It was visceral. And again, it feels like there are other forces working, but who knows? I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist. But the reaction was bizarre.”

Lutz went through his opinion that the reporting on the Tesla report had very little even balance from the media.

“And then for Morgan Stanley to come out with some, like I guess Jonas wrote like a page and a half a day or so ago, almost like apologizing for the report and then telling us all the things that could be wrong with Tesla in the short term. I don’t get that. We don’t know,” Lutz said.

“He may have been invited on CNBC and refused to come on. Maybe Morgan Stanley, maybe James Gorman said hey, look how these guys talked. They basically accused us of being corrupt on Monday morning. That’s what they said. They said that Morgan Stanley has clients that are connected to Tesla business and read what you want into that. So it was kind of a really super low blow by the media. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Morgan Stanley is actually refusing to even go on that network.”

In his report, Jonas upgraded his Tesla rating to overweight, and said $TSLA is now their top pick. Still, none of this seemed to matter to the most vocal swath of financial media on the mainstream outlets.

“This gave me really political vibes,” Merz said. “And I know Herbert, you don’t like to talk politics here and I don’t want to go there. But usually what you had on news channels was that they had one story and they ran with it – all had the same titles, all had the same keywords, those buzzwords, and whatever. And you could see that certain stories were just manufactured the same way and thrown out on multiple channels.

The reaction the media had, both print but even more visual, be it Yahoo Finance, be it CNBC, whoever had a screen on Monday said the same things. You just had a feeling they were fed. It was the first time I realized this happening for a stock. I mean, I may be ignorant. It may have happened to other stocks before.”

Similar to the manner in which the news media as a whole covers a wide array of topics, Merz and others felt that only one side of the story was receiving any coverage. In this case, it was the anti-Tesla/Musk side that was dominating, without any rebuttal from those who agree with Tesla or Musk and have a positive outlook for the company’s stock. 

“You had this feeling, first time I was sitting here in disbelief, how everything was concentrated.  How everything was the same wording. And it really bothers me. It really, really bothers me,” Merz said.

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With Nielsen, Is There Life After 54?

If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers.



A photo of a laptop displaying the Nielsen logo

There’s been some discussion of late about whether it’s time to change the standard demos that Nielsen uses for reporting radio audiences. 

Dan Mason began the debate a couple of months back with an argument for three demos: 12-19, 20-40, and 41-64. Steve Allan at Research Director has added his thoughts with the suggestion that Nielsen drop persons 6-11 and 80+. Beyond the lack of buyer interest in these demos, he sees it as a backdoor way to increase the PPM sample. Perhaps because more discussion is a good thing, I’ll offer my two cents.

There is likely no way that Nielsen will ever remove the 6-11 and 80+ PPM panelists even though the data are essentially meaningless for radio. PPM is now used for both audio and video. In the latter, PPM measures out-of-home audiences for local TV in the metro areas of DMAs. Remember that TV measures down to the age of two and while Arbitron never dropped that low (can you imagine a three-year-old with a PPM?), the design was that PPM would measure both radio and television. Because video likes a big number, the 80+ issue is probably off the table as well.

Let’s move on to Dan Mason’s suggestions. Radio has been battling with the “you’re dead at 55” issue for decades. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I was the operations manager of WSPA-FM in Spartanburg, South Carolina which ran the beautiful music/easy listening format. I clearly remember Ted Dorf at WGAY in Washington (same format) starting a 35-64 committee, the goal of which was to show the value of the older audience and bring dollars into that demo. That was more than 40 years ago and nothing much has changed. 

Even with the lack of dollars for older demos despite the incredible spending power of the boomer generation, why can’t Nielsen offer more “standard” demos? In the “old days”, there were limitations based on processing software and even the size of the printed ratings report (remember the horizontal Arbitron books?). Today, the E-book is barely used and processing power is essentially unlimited. 

The limitation may reside in the systems used by Nielsen to process the local markets. The old Arbitron processing systems were somewhat limited and rebuilding the system was usually behind other priorities. I do not know if Nielsen has updated the processing system, but if they have, it shouldn’t be hard to offer more “standard” demos, whether Dan Mason’s suggestions or others. If Nielsen has not updated the systems in the decade since the Arbitron acquisition, then we’re back to my recent column asking the paraphrased Ronald Reagan question of whether you’re better off now than you were ten years ago.

What about the third-party processors: other companies that use the Nielsen data, for example, agency buying systems? Nielsen can require certain data to be made available as part of the future licensing agreements for data access. Still, the companies would also have to make software changes that will take time.

Let’s make the generous assumption that these changes will take place. Who wins? It seems that most radio formats would do well if at least one buying demo went up to age 64. And yes, I know 35-64 has been available for decades, but let’s consider Dan’s 41-64 for the moment. News/talk will be helped along with classic rock (how many classic rock songs were recorded after the mid-80s?). 

Those of us who are older don’t act like our parents (full disclosure: I do not fall in any of Dan Mason’s new demos) so I can see Adult Contemporary, Country, Urban AC, and other formats doing well. Public radio has also been aging so it may be easier to sell underwriting and their outside offerings that can carry spots. The various commercial Christian formats should look good, too.

Where does this leave us? If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers. Assuming Nielsen can make the software changes in a reasonable period of time, it’s up to the industry to convince agencies and advertisers of the value of these new demos over the ones they’ve used literally for generations. That will be no easy task, but making the data easily and readily available will help.

Let’s meet again next week.

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The Latest Example of How to Not Produce a Debate

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening.



A photo of the Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy in the 2nd debate
(Photo: Sachin José)

As if it couldn’t get any worse, it did. For the first time since it’s been my job to watch a Presidential debate for a living, I turned one off. After 82 minutes (9:22 p.m. CST, not that I was watching the clock or anything), I had enough. I couldn’t subject myself to the torture that became the second GOP Presidential debate on Wednesday night from the Reagan Library.

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening, and there are multiple reasons why, beyond the usual bemoaning of “the candidates won’t stop talking over each other.”


The debate was overproduced. In the opening there were videos of Reagan (nice and well done, don’t get me wrong), each anchor had various lines they were reading between each other, which felt forced and unnatural, and as a result, it took over three minutes from the opening of a debate to a candidate finally speaking.

I understand TV isn’t radio, but in a PPM world, imagine taking three minutes to get to your content, when people are tuned in at that moment to consume the content you’ve been hyping up and promising for weeks. Time is a zero-sum game. Every minute a candidate is not speaking, because a moderator is, or a pre-produced piece is playing, can’t be gotten back.

Give people what they came for. A 15-second welcome, a 60-second introduction of the candidates, if that, and dive into the questions is a 90-second process. Keep these things moving and give the viewers what they came for. And that’s the candidates.

No Direction

The debate lacked direction and clarity. Anchors spent far too much time asking long-winded questions with ridiculous and unnecessary details. As a viewer, it came across like the anchors were trying to impress us, rather than asking a question, getting out of the way, and letting the candidates — you know, the people running for President — try to impress us. They’re the ones who I want to be impressed by because they’re the ones we’re being asked to vote for.

Also, the topic direction had little flow and was disjointed. On certain topics, only one to three candidates would get to answer questions on the issue. I’ve laid out the case for keeping the flow of a debate and moving it along, but only giving half the stage the chance to answer questions on the most pressing issues in the country is a disservice to the voter who is there to here what everyone had to say.

At one point in the debate, Chris Christie was asked about a looming government shutdown, which was followed by a childcare cost question to Tim Scott and then it was an immigration/dreamers question back to Chris Christie. And that was in a five to seven minute span. Huh?

Rather than finding the six to seven big topics and diving into them with each candidate, while letting the candidates then organically and respectfully spar, it was like watching an ADD-riddled teen try and bounce between topics with no clarity or purpose.

And Yes, the Candidates

Of course, there were plenty of these moments that typically derail debates, notably primary debates, where multiple people are talking over each other and no one is willing to give in to be the first one to shut up. Then, the debate begins to inevitably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher and suddenly the obnoxious noise even makes your dog look at you and wonder what in the hell you’re watching.

There were too many candidates on stage and then the moderators also ended up losing control, like what happened last go around.

But as I wrote last month, this debate format is a broken system. But for some reason, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. 

Ronald Reagan was rolling over in his grave watching that debacle last night. It’s too bad he’s not still here to try and help fix it. 

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3 Ideas to Turn CNN Max Into a Streaming News Juggernaut

The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight.

Jessie Karangu



A photo of the CNN Max logo

It is so easy to find a gamut of stories and opinion pieces within the past year or two criticizing many different aspects of CNN and the way it operates. Many of those evaluations have been absolutely fair. 

Now though, it is time to give CNN credit where it is due.

This week marked the launch of CNN Max and it has been as seamless as a fresh glazed donut coming straight out of the oven. The stream’s video quality is crisp. Commercials are inserted properly. Most of the exclusive programming feels exactly like something you would see on linear CNN.

But the most fascinating thing Warner Bros. Discovery has been able to pull off is the ability to stream most of the same programming that airs on domestic CNN via Max. It is a stroke of business genius and puts the company and network ahead of its counterparts when it comes to offering a quality streaming alternative. As has been mentioned in the past, the network has been able to bypass MVPDs and stream their primetime anchors without permission from cable operators because CNN Max is mostly a direct simulcast of CNN International which airs U.S. programming live overnight while Europeans are in bed. 

Despite the successful launch, there are still some tweaks that could improve the product exponentially. One major benefit would be to have replays of programs that viewers may have missed from earlier in the day. Each show on serves a specific purpose and although similar coverage of news is told throughout the day, each anchor has a unique way of stringing the narrative together. Viewers deserve to get the chance to see how a story develops throughout different parts of the day and see specific segments in its entirety that may not get clipped for social media.

Viewers also need a chance to fully sample CNN Max’s exclusive programming and at the moment, if you don’t watch it live you’ve missed it forever.

Speaking of clips, it’s important for highlights of the day to be available quickly within the Max ecosystem. On CNN Max’s first day, Kasie Hunt scored an exclusive interview with Sen. Joe Manchin that made headlines.

Unfortunately, the only way a viewer could see it if they missed it live was if they scoured the network’s website for it or waited for a clip that the social media team would eventually put out. Part of being a modern-day news organization requires accessibility to be at its best at any given time of the day.

If viewers have a difficult time finding out the major highlights of what’s been on air, it may be harder to convince them to try a new product.

Viewers also deserve the opportunity to subscribe to alerts. News breaks on a consistent basis and unless you’re scrolling through your social media feed all day 24/7, it is almost impossible to follow everything that’s happening. Max needs to provide an option for specific types of alerts dealing with breaking news or major storylines that have developed live on air on CNN Max with the option to tune in now or to see clips or full episodes that deal with a specific headline. Alerts will increase engagement and maintain a relationship with the consumer they may not be able to get at another major entertainment app that streams similar programming as Max.

Promotion within the app is also important. While Max did an awesome job of showcasing the various shows that are live at any point during the day, it used the same graphics of the same hosts with the same descriptions every day. Viewers who read promos on entertainment apps are used to seeing different plot lines and convincing pictures showcased once a week whenever a new episode of their favorite show is ready for viewing. Max needs to treat news stories in the same fashion.

As stories break throughout the day, Max needs to promote their live programming with information blurbs containing new developments and questions that viewers might get answered by tuning in. Show previews could also promote featured guests. Using the same stale graphic of a host, show name, and generic show description will eventually become stale and annoying for viewers. Viewers will unfortunately train their minds to ignore the static messaging.

Warner Bros. Discovery also needs to take advantage of CNN Max’s predecessor. CNN Plus was able to maintain a decent amount of followers on social media – at least 35,000 on Twitter. Turn that page into a promotion spot for CNN Max that aggregates clips, promos, and previews of what viewers can expect on Max or what they may have missed.

As the brand develops a presence on social media, it will also develop name recognition among future cord-cutters who are deciding between Max and other services. The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight. CNN Max can be additive to cable ratings if people have an understanding of where and how to access it. 

CNN Max is creating a direct relationship between the consumer and CNN. It’s a relationship that has always had a middleman. Unfortunately for the cable industry, the middleman is slowly dissipating away.

With this newfound bond, the network should take advantage of the digital real estate it has access to and create real interaction with viewers. Optional polls, factoids, written descriptions of stories on screen, or even biographies of the guests on air at any given time could provide viewers with an extra reason to stay tuned in. It keeps viewers occupied and helps elongate the amount of time viewers spend on the stream and the app as a whole. 

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