As an analyst and business leader, Luming Yang has established a sterling reputation through her impressive work covering US-China financial investment news and analysis.
Yang spearheaded the implementation of the paid newsletter business model in China on behalf of MarketWise (Nasdaq: MKTW), and in the process, she has set a precedent for the expansion of US financial media companies into the Chinese market.
However, in our recent interview with Yang, we focused on another major aspect of her career, namely her status as a frequent onscreen commenter on major Chinese networks and platforms, including CGTN, CCTV, and Phoenix TV.
In particular, Yang has been sought after as a commenter for her expertise in millennial and Gen Z investing trends, i.e. meme stocks, cryptocurrencies, and growth stocks.
In this interview, Yang shared the story of how she initially got into commentary and discussed the value she offers to these shows and platforms. You’ll find the full interview below.
You’ve been a news commentator for a while now. Can you tell us how you first got involved with onscreen commentary?
I got involved in onscreen commentary by accident, or at least it wasn’t something I’d planned for. I’d been hired to do research. But when a reporter writing an article on the US-China trade deal, a topic I was familiar with, reached out to our company for commentary, our CEO tossed the request to me.
I guess the reporter was satisfied because he continued to stay in touch with me after that. When the meme stock craze was at its peak, I happened to own GameStop and happened to be familiar with the phenomena and also happened to have a good “resume” with the platforms and China-based networks such as CGTN, CCTV, and Phoenix TV from prior print interviews, so things just picked up from there.
When serving as a guest commentator, how important is efficient communication?
Being relevant is more important than being efficient. That’s true across any communication, whether TV appearances, articles, or instructions for assembling a dresser from IKEA. People are moved more by emotions than by facts, so even when discussing a “boring” analytical story, the secret is to find an angle that connects with the audience’s emotions, or at least the angle they care most about. This sounds like Journalism 101, and it is, although when communication failures happen, I’d say 80% of the time it’s because someone forgot this rule.
Efficiency is hard because we’re not taught it in school. Think about it: papers, projects, and presentations invariably come with minimum length requirements. The intention is noble enough, but the collateral damage is legions of college graduates conditioned to add rather than subtract, to ramble rather than make their points succinctly.
If you can pull yourself out of this hypnosis, you’ll stand out.
Have you always been passionate about sharing your insights with large audiences?
It makes me feel like I’m contributing to the world. That’s slightly aggrandized, but would you rather have a few people see and potentially benefit from your advice, or millions? The printing press first made mass communication possible. Then the radio, broadcast TV, cable TV, and the internet moved the needle further. But social media has been a mixed bag: it’s wonderful that anyone can post and get noticed, and certainly plenty of talent that may otherwise have gone unnoticed has bubbled up through Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or a blog, but there’s also a lot of chaff that users have to sift through to find the wheat.
Algorithms are getting better at this, but one benefit to speaking on traditional television is that the production quality is high, the stories and guests are chosen for their relevance, and the overall credibility is higher. When people say that editors and producers act as gatekeepers, it almost takes on a negative connotation, as if the system’s main intention is to hold good people back, but that’s really a false narrative.
No system is perfect, and we’re already seeing social and traditional media hybridize, but gatekeepers help keep production standards up and the content relevant. There’s a lot of garbage out there on social media. It’s a time suck and still not very efficient to use.
What are some of the most important points you’ve shared across multiple news shows/appearances?
There’s a recurring theme to investing: investing is a part of finance, and finance is a part of economics, and economics is a social science. That means that at the end of the day, everything related to investable companies, every earnings release, every partnership announcement, every data point, gets filtered through the lens of group psychology. And that psychology is a double-edged sword.
For example, the GameStop frenzy showcased both sides of this sword, and fairly quickly. Shares went from $6 to almost $450, and then down to $100 in a fairly tight time period. That’s an extreme case, but it’s just as easy to talk about the economics and dismiss the psychological piece to investing as it is to talk about the energy of the crowd and miss the underlying economics. In the end, both pieces matter in virtually every investing context, so if I have one “signature” perspective that I try to bring to every appearance, it’s that.
Do you think more people are starting to educate themselves about economics and investing?
When people are making money, or fear losing money, they want to learn. Although we’d had a bull market decade before the pandemic, the combination of government stimulus checks, ultra-low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, and free time really supercharged the markets. It’s fun to play a game when you’re winning, and for a few years, nearly everybody was winning. The thrill of quick money woke millennials and Gen Z people up to investing, although their learning centered on social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Reddit.
These young investors are feeling a lot of pain so far in 2022, as cryptocurrencies, meme stocks, and growth stocks have been hit the hardest. It’s true that many of these young investors have never seen a bear market and were unprepared for their losses. It’s also true that many of them eschewed traditional investing analysis in favor of whatever the crowd seemed to be buying and are now paying the price. But hopefully some will stay with investing and migrate their learning toward the more tried-and-true methods of analysis to which the market is now reverting.
In the markets, what’s painful in the short run is often healthy in the long run.
Do your public appearances influence your interactions in business/professional spaces in any way?
Absolutely. In business, your reputation is usually your most valuable asset, and media works synergistically with reputation.
Media appearances help both in a “hey, I saw you on TV”-type way as well as by providing credibility-building excerpts and screenshots that can be added to a dossier or other presentation materials when making a business development pitch.
My appearances helped us build partnerships with the largest platforms in China, literally: Tencent, Sina, ByteDance, Baidu, as well as investment-specific ones like 36Kr, Futu, and Tiger Brokers.
China is big on livestreams and online conferences, and I quickly became our company’s most requested analyst. For the online conferences, views were typically north of 200,000 per event. Perhaps partly from my media exposure and partly by virtue of content, I frequently received over 1,000,000 views per piece on my own articles and videos about stocks like Tesla, Nio, and GameStop.
Are there any upcoming television appearances that our readers can look out for?
Only if your readers are in China! Most of my appearances have been in Chinese, but I have done one English-language show and expect to do more, so stay tuned.