Saturday, April 30, 2005

My Magic Wand CBS Fix

Years ago I learned a valuable business lesson from my father: you can't make people buy what you're selling. You have to make whatever it is people want to buy.

H2 has challenged bloggers to come up with ideas that might help fix the CBS Evening News brand/image problem. This is a Herculean task, given the gaping wounds left by Rathergate, the increasingly hostile and biased 60 Minutes, and the lack of a trusted, recognizable anchor. Personally, I haven't watched CBS Evening News in, well, forever. B-O-R-I-N-G.

I agree with others who've said that by the time 6:30 has rolled around, many people have gotten their news from the internet, the 24 hour news channels, and talk radio. So what to offer those that still tune in? We can work with the assumption that in order to attract viewers, CBS will need to offer both flash and substance. Give viewers a reason to tune in. It's a fine line, but keep them just a little off balance. Report the day's news, and throw in some surprises. Have a host that smiles every now and then! I like the idea of doing the show from somewhere other than New York, LA, or Washington. This shouldn't be too difficult, given today's satellite technology. Most important is the idea that CBS needs to work under the assumption that their viewers are smart. Talking down to viewers will insult them and drive them away. A smart broadcast will attract smart viewers.

For a host, I like Larry Kudlow. He is a sharp guy, and will keep things moving quickly. What a difference compared to Rather! Kudlow is center-right, and has no problem disclosing this. He has had many bloggers (including Hugh) on his CNBC gig, and clearly understands the blogosphere (though I think it would signal an immediate departure from the past, I admit CBS would never hire someone who's pro-blogosphere, given the circumstances around Hurricane Dan's exit).

I like the daily panel discussion on FNC's Special Report, so why not copy it? All TV does these days is recycle ideas, so it's not a stretch. I have no problem with a 2 on 2 battle (liberal/conservative) with Kudlow moderating. Let everyone get their ideas out, then let viewers decide. Let's face it, we all have our opinions, so let's toss out the notion that CBS has been "objective." Similarly, toss the notion that all viewers want "objective" news. FNC's success proves this point.

Make the total broadcast an hour long, starting with 20 minutes of the days headlines. Give the panel the middle 20 minutes. End with a 10 minute segment with a blogger du jour, and wrap up with an honest representation of viewer feedback. Above all else, keep things moving. And give people a reason to laugh now and then.

I've outlined my CBS dream above, and I recognize fully that it will never happen. CBS is starting from scratch. They can continue their ratings slide by force feeding their news to liberal blue hairs, or they can embrace the future and start attracting middle America, younger and center-right viewers with a new approach. I hope for the latter, but expect the former.

UPDATE: 05/01/2005 @ 12:00pm: Special thanks to Hugh Hewitt for linking to this post. I appreciate it and welcome all H2's readers!
great suggestions. an anchor with a lighter peosonality, and a location other than the norm would be great. i would also like to see stories that don't have anything to do with people being killed, or maimed, or molested. it would be nice to hear news that wasn't just sensationalism. sort of like the color pieces on npr news. i'd be entertained...but i don't have a tv anyway.
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