Mad man adds insight to CNBC money news

Every weeknight at 6, the usually staid CNBC gives its air over to a guy who made millions in the hedge-fund business and exhibits decidedly un-CNBC-like traits.

During any Mad Money hour, you'll find a balding, goateed man waving his hands, pointing his finger at the camera and moving about the zone talking, pushing buttons, and yes, even yelling. As the Dr. Phil of Wall Street, Jim Cramer is always telling viewers his own version of "get real."

"I'm a shouter. There are people who are low talkers. I'm a high talker," says the 51-year-old Cramer, who came to CNBC after a lucrative hedge-fund career and founding The Street. "I'm someone who is boisterous by nature. I've got an enthusiasm problem."

Not that anyone, least of all CNBC, is complaining.

Mad Money has brought some buzz to CNBC's traditionally lackluster after-market-close lineup. In the year since its debut last March, Mad Money has improved upon the viewership of Bullseye, the show it replaced at 6 p.m. Mad Money averaged 252,000 viewers and 82,000 in the adults 25-54 demographic at 6 p.m. for the quarter, compared with Bullseye's 99,000 viewers and 36,000 in the demo. It's a somewhat similar story in its repeats at 9 p.m. and midnight EST.

That's still far below what's on Fox News Channel and CNN, and it falls behind such CNBC shows as Closing Bell, Power Lunch, and Street Signs. And it has even shown weakness in recent months with a 24 percent decline year-to-year in March in total viewers and a 29 percent drop in the demo in March compared with the same period last year.

But Susan Krakower, vice president of strategic development at CNBC who cocreated the show with Cramer, thinks it's a start.

"My job is to bring the volume up at CNBC," Krakower says. "You want to be listening to Jim."

Cramer and Mad Money has certainly done that, with stock picks and analysis mixed with jazz and literary references. And Cramer's not above the cornball: During a segment a few weeks ago, he donned a kimono and ate a bowl of noodles.

"It's a high-energy, high-risk, one-man-walking-a-tightrope act every night," Cramer says. "In the end, that camera is on me every night and I have to deliver."

There have been criticisms of Cramer's technique, and endless sniping about the accuracy of his picks and whether anyone can make money off his approach. Cramer himself acknowledges his record and points to his own history as a hedge-fund manager--gaining and losing millions of dollars in that high-pressure environment--as qualifications. He also emphasizes that it's not just about making money.

"This is a show that is about education, entertainment and making money. And I think that people should recognize that you need all three components going forward if you're going to be successful because the stock market is no longer the way it was," Cramer says. "It's not a 'build it and they will come' situation. There are many people who think that it is and I think that they will be continually surprised to the downside with that view, as we say on Wall Street."

Says Krakower: "This show is about making money and educating you while we entertain you. There's no bones about that."

There's also no bones about the way Cramer feels about the direction of CNBC under president Mark Hoffman.

"The place had lost its way, the leadership had lost its way and it was a very unfortunate thing," Cramer says.

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Mar 29, 2006
I never watch any of the big news channels, but good for this one!!!
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