Sunday, January 23, 2005

The News is Broken

Yesterday was a busy day and we’ve been having problems with the phone line, thus no posts. But during lunch I did happen to catch a few minutes of “Fox News Watch” on FNC, hosted by Eric Burns. Among other things, his panel discussed the Philadelphia Inquirer’s new practice of calling ex-subscribers to find out why they are ex-subscribers. Specifically, they were worried that their 21 anti-Bush editorials during the ’04 presidential campaign may have driven away some of their readers.

On the panel was “media writer and author” Neil Gabler, who clearly has a problem with what the Philadelphia Inquirer is doing. He said the media “shouldn’t treat the news as a product.” He believes this practice will somehow lower the quality of the news. Gabler couldn’t be more wrong in his analysis. But, sadly, I fear much of the MSM share his views. Until they figure out that the news is indeed a product, and their customers (viewers and readers) are going away because they are dissatisfied with that product, then we will continue to see this (hat tip, Matt Drudge):

CNN LOSES 63% OF AUDIENCE OVER INAUGURATION 2001 Fri Jan 21 2005 23:52:24 2005

CNN hemorrhaged more than half their audience from the 2001 Inauguration, overnights show. The troubled news network only averaged 779,000 viewers during yesterday's Inauguration coverage from 10am-4pm with just 168,000 of those viewers landing in the coveted 25-54 demo.

Like CNN, MSNBC also suffered major losses, only averaging 438,000 viewers throughout yesterday's coverage (141,000 in 25-54), down a whopping 68% over 2001 and faring even worse in primetime with just 385,000 viewers.

In contrast, Fox News averaged 2,581,000 viewers from 10a-4p (up 30% over 2001) and their 25-54 demo average of 705,000 came close to CNN's total coverage ratings yesterday.

FNC -- 2,439,000 (up 57% OVER '01)
CNN -- 1,353,000 (down 14% over '01)
MSNBC -- 385,000 (down 47% over '01)

If I lost 63% of my customers, I’d be out of work. If any business lost that much market share, their CEO should be not only sacked, but sued for gross negligence and then publicly beaten by the company’s shareholders.

CNN is in big trouble if Drudge's figures are correct. MSNBC is on the ropes. The L.A. Times is taking a small step in the right direction. CBS is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, by considering Katie Couric or Jon Stewart as Dan Rather’s replacement. And ABC hasn’t figured out that they too have a problem with biased reporting.

The bottom line: MSM is no longer the only game in town. They are becoming increasingly irrelevant, because they are in many instances slower than the blogosphere. And they don’t understand that undisclosed bias has also seriously damaged their credibility, perhaps beyond repair. Self-proclaimed MSM “objectivity” is simply a farce. I believe these reasons, speed and bias, are why the traditional news outlets continue to lose customers.

The L.A. Times and Philadelphia Inquirer may just now be beginning to realize that their products are broken, but the major TV outlets haven’t even gotten that far yet. Nor has the Democratic Party, by the way, but that’s a rant for another day.

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