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Cable News: Bad News Saying This and That

by John on 10/28/2014

The great line from Happy: “Here comes bad news saying this and that.”


Well here’s the bad news for cable news. People are not watching as much anymore.


Here’s why.


The first reason is the creative destruction by the new digital media. People can get their news from mobile on the Internet much easier and quicker than watching Fox, MSNBC, or CNN. You watch and consume on your time; not when the networks tell you. This is the democratization of news.


Second, people are using news for news, mainly breaking news. The audience realizes that cable news has become more about entertainment. Sure, CNN’s ratings have gone up recently, but that’s because of their new non-news shows like Mike Rowe’s new show. However, with all due respect to my friend Mike Rowe, his show is not news; it’s entertainment. Still, CNN also sees a ratings spike with major breaking story such as the recent school shooting in Washington State and the influx of new Ebola cases.


Who’s covering breaking news? Local TV, local newspapers, and bloggers are tweeting when something happens. In my book, I instructed people to always watch morning TV news. That’s because broadcasters are very good at getting warnings out immediately. And rightly so, that is the main responsibility of local broadcasters to alert you to danger. Now these local broadcasters have even more tools with social media. As a result, most people – and I suggest you do this – follow the Twitter feed of the local TV news station; namely the Assignment Manager/Desk; and a reporter who seems to be on top of breaking news.


Third reason: it appears the majority of people are tired of the partisanship of MSNBC and Fox.


Fox ratings are down year over year. Their audience is older so they are not getting the advertiser-needed demographics of Adults 25-54 as much. Still, like conservatives who are more passionate and myopic about their politics, Fox News still has a strong base.


However, this disgust with partisanship is really hurting MSNBC’s ratings which are in the toilet. In addition, liberals are not as passionate about politics. To better understand the psychology of American voters, read The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. The irony: Republicans call Democrats bleeding heart liberals, but it’s the Republicans who wear their partisan, and often nonsense, non-scientific politics on their sleeves.


You also understand why the Golden Era for MSNBC ratings was Keith Olbermann. Olbermann is on ESPN now. But when he was on MSNBC he was a liberal with a conservative GOP delivery. MSNBC does not have that today. And for the same reason that Fox is getting older, MSNBC is losing viewers who are becoming more nuanced in how they look at politics. The majority of the US public is becoming socially liberal but fiscally conservative because that is the only way to solve our problems and grow the country in the coming decades.


Fourth reason is that MSNBC and Fox are really mouthpieces for the Democratic and Republican parties respectively – offering no real choice for sensible TV viewing – where the new digital media offers much more choice. MSNBC and Fox, since they represent the rejection of the free market in ideas, are suffering and seem to be on the road to oblivion. That oblivion won’t happen for a while since special interest money control our politics and our media. MSNBC and Fox would change drastically if Citizens United was struck down.


Over the next weeks, around the mid-term elections, MSNBC and Fox ratings will increase. Don’t be fooled. This is a dying business. I am happy to see them decline. You should too.





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