As someone who spends more waking hours on the Net than almost anyone else, by virtue of my lifelong aversion to sleep and my love of computers, I have to admit that I should have seen the travesty of NBC Internet (NBCI) coming. I should have known to short it. In many ways it was everything that I hate in the Net: communities of people I don't want to talk to, combined with business-to-business sites that I don't need and a search engine that was simply like dozens of other search engines out there. In fact, the only thing I needed from NBCi was an occasional schedule of who was on CNBC. I couldn't get that though because CNBC.com, for some reason, has nothing to do with NBCi.
Nothing has anything to do with NBCi. Nothing except for all of the analysts who supported it until yesterday when even they couldn't handle the lack of numbers -- and the arrogance of management, for that matter, as NBCi barely acknowledged the shortfall on the conference call. "This is no shortfall, this is a strategy shift you morons," I was waiting for them to say.
So why didn't I short it? Because one of my big blind spots is that I have categorically refused over time to allow my interests and my judgments about what I think is good necessarily dictate my stock market picks. I would page through, desultorily, the "sites" of NBCi and think, "Man is this stuff ever worthless, but somebody must not think so because, well,
is involved and
was involved; these guys wouldn't have formed a business and raised all of this money if
there weren't a business
!!" I bought the marquee stuff! I swallowed the imprimatur!!!
Maybe I am too parochial, I thought. Maybe some small business person really thinks this stuff that NBCi paid hundreds of millions for is worth it. Maybe I don't know how to use it. Maybe I don't shop enough? Maybe since I don't watch a lot of infomercials -- call me time-constrained -- I didn't get this giant Web infomercial. Somebody had to like
didn't they, I mean after all of that advertising I sat through while watching sports on
This was, and by the way, "was" is the right verb -- passive and lifeless as it is -- a case where my judgment was spot on and I let the acolytes dictate my tastes. I shoulda banged this one to kingdom come. Oh well, dumb and dumber I guess.
It bothers me immensely that this stock took the whole group down again. But this cohort is now the cohort with no clothes, and until someone can prove his company is wearing some, they will all go begging.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at