Tag Archives: CNN

Musings on the Future of Cable News

After reading Kelefa Sanneh‘s piece in The New Yorker that took an in-depth look at MSNBC, it got me thinking about what I wrote a few days about about the future of TV. In that post, I mostly talked about the idea of moving television programs to online streaming or mobile streaming. I didn’t, however, talk about the idea of unbundling TV packages and allowing people to choose which networks they wanted.

This is one of the the things that Sanneh briefly touches on in his article. In particular, he questions whether the unbundling of TV packages would hurt cable news programming. That is, would CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News keep their heads above water if they weren’t part of a bundle? For instance, Sanneh tells us that FOX News (the leading cable news network since 2002), gets about half as many viewers as the lowest-rated network news program. That’s significant. Would FOX News survive if it wasn’t bundled? Might it do better if it weren’t bundled?

Chances are that cable news — barring something unforeseen — would be in trouble if TV packages became unbundled.


About a quarter of the way into the article, Sanneh has a quote from the President of MSNBC that I find rather startling. I’ll include the lead-in, so the quote makes sense [Emphasis mine]:

“I’m building for the future,” Griffin said, not long after the switch. He was sitting in his office, reviewing a series of promotional clips that highlighted Hayes and the network’s other stars. “You’ve got a young guy who’s incredibly smart, who’s got a following,” he said. “We’re making a bet that this is what our audience wants.” 

The startling part is the bit that I’ve bolded. I don’t understand that a company as big as MSNBC would be gambling in the way that Griffin claims to be. They’re making a bet that this is what the audience wants? They don’t have the resources to find out if that’s what their audience wants? Maybe Sanneh hasn’t included the whole quote, but this to me makes it sound like Griffin is being a bit cavalier with the most important time slot.


FOX News consistently outperforms other cable news networks in an older demographic: 35-64. Take this past Monday’s cable news ratings, for example. FOX News outperformed all the other cable news networks in this demographic at every time slot. The closest any network came in this demographic was in the 9 o’clock hour when Hannity beat The Rachel Maddow Show by over 200,000 viewers. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I’ll say it like this: what happens when this demographic “passes on?”

Yes, FOX News still outperforms the other networks in the coveted 25-54 age bracket, but their lead is substantially smaller. The largest lead FOX News has is during the 8 o’clock hour and that’s a little more than 250,000 viewers (over the next closest show). If I were Roger Ailes (or the guy who was likely to replace Roger Ailes), this is something I would be thinking considering, in addition to the prospect of unbundling TV packages.


The last thing I wanted to talk about is this idea that those people who MSNBC is trying to reach may not like cable news or TV:

One explanation for MSNBC’s struggles is that the network is trying to do something nearly impossible: it is a cable news network for people who don’t like cable news, and may not even like television.

MSNBC, in its current format as I understand it, is still quite new. It’s only recently switched over to a more partisan-esque feel. I wonder if there’s still a bit of a lag before the viewers they’re trying to reach will show up. I also wonder if TV does start to move in a new direction (simultaneous online streaming), will this open up a new audience for MSNBC? I’m particularly interested in MSNBC because of this idea that the people who MSNBC is targeting are those people who wouldn’t normally watch cable news or TV. I wonder if these people had another avenue to watch these programs, would they?


Massive Miscalculation by GOP Chairman Reince Priebus: No Debates with CNN or NBC

Earlier today, I saw a series of tweets from the GOP Chairman, Reince Priebus:

At first blush, it seems like nothing more than some kind of a stunt to draw attention to the matter. It’s also a great way for the Chairman to do some interviews and bad-mouth CNN/NBC. As I thought about it a bit more, it seems like this can’t end well for the Chairman:

It wouldn’t surprise anyone that there are more Democrats who watch MSNBC and more Republicans who watch Fox News, but what about the people who watch CNN? Well, as it happens, this is home to the political Independents of the electorate. According to TiVo data (actually quite sophisticated):

CNN, which has branded itself as the cable news network without a partisan skew, has apparently made the sale among independent voters. The network’s biggest skew was among independents, 17 percent above the national average with that group.

So, the majority of Independents that watch TV get their news from CNN. Let’s play out this scenario for the GOP. Assume that CNN/NBC decide not to pull their “Hillary Programming,” then the GOP has two options:

1. They’re forced into reneging on their initial stance of no primary debates for CNN/NBC.

2. Or, Like they said, having no debates with those networks. I suppose there might be some unforeseen third option, but at this point, this is what it looks like.

If they pull they’re debates with CNN/NBC, they’ll be losing out on the largest concentration of Independents. For a party that’s currently not in power that wants to be in power, in what will be an “up for grabs” election with President Barack Obama joining the list of Presidents who’ve served two terms, it seems ludicrous that they’d want to remove “free media” of their candidates to Independents.

So, this would force them into reneging on their stance of not having any debates with CNN/NBC, right? Except that this may make them look weak with their base of voters, which usually wouldn’t matter. However, “Republicans like elected officials who stick to their positions.” From my vantage point, this ultimatum has backed the GOP into a corner for which there is no escape.


Revisiting that third option… it may just be that no one cares about any of this when the 2014 midterms roll around or the 2016 general election.

The Audacity of Hope: Obama’s Impromptu Speech About Trayvon Martin and Race

This afternoon, President Obama surprised everyone by making an appearance in the White House press briefing room. He spoke for approximately 17 minutes about Trayvon Martin, race, the law, and some other things. Part of the specialness of this speech was that it was impromptu (at least it appeared that it was unplanned) and was unscripted. [I couldn’t embed the video, but you can see it here.]

There were a lot of key things that he addressed in his speech, but what I thought to be the most important was the last few minutes. In the last few minutes, President Obama said that the younger generations are doing it much better than previous generations. The implication here is that the younger generations are less racist (or less unapproving) than previous generations. He talked about how he would listen to Malia and Sasha (his kids) speak with their friends and hear how they interacted. As a result, he thinks that the younger generations are doing it better than the older generations.

As I heard him say that, it made me think about how our countries are governed. Right now, the people who run the country (and by extension, the world) are older. I wonder what it’d be like if we had younger people who ruled the world. Maybe younger people would “get us there faster.” As a way to temper the eagerness of young people, maybe it’d be important to have some people from older generations to be advisors.

I wonder… are there any countries, states, provinces, counties, cities, or towns that are run by “younger” people? Are they more successful? Could we map this onto bigger populations with the same success?


For the first 14+ minutes, it seemed like there was an almost sombre tone to President Obama’s remarks. However, as he shifted to talking about the younger generations, I got the sense that he had hope for the future. I got the sense that he had hope for the future of the country because of the progress he sees in younger generations. While nothing is certain about the future nor are the implications, I’d like to think that it’s rather poetic that the leader of the United States believes in a brighter tomorrow. That President Obama believes that we are getting better as a society. As a people. That we are beginning to treat each other with more respect. More love. More kindness. And the hope is that this will continue with each succeeding generation. Hope.

Could Washington, DC, Use a Little More Selfless Service?

During a trip I took earlier this year, I happened to pick up a USAToday. I don’t often read the USAToday, but that has more to do with the way that I aggregate articles. As I was reading, I came across an op-ed about Tulsi Gabbard, the newest member of the House of Representatives from Hawai’i. In the context of what had just happened with the drama of the fiscal cliff, there were some important points that I want to highlight:

The problem in Washington today is that legislators almost always act based on how they think their actions will help or hurt their political careers. An antidote to our epidemic of partisanship can be found in the “great tradition of conciliation” in which American statesmen from Thomas Jefferson to John Kennedy put the good of the country above the interests of self, party, or region. This tradition could be revived, if only we would heed the words of George Washington, who warned against the “mischiefs of the spirit of party,” or of Patrick Henry, who exclaimed, “I am not a Virginian but an American.”

It could also be revived by an infusion of the Gita’s principle of selfless service. If Democrats and Republicans could learn to cast their votes without first (and foremost) calculating the costs and benefits to their personal careers, Capitol Hill would start to look a less like a battlefield between rival clans and more like the arena of compromise and conciliation our Founders intended it to be.

Selfless service.

How often do we hear that phrase used in the context of politics?

The irony of this op-ed about selfless service is that a day later, I heard this same point echoed on conservative talk radio. Dennis Praeger and his call-in guests were opining that politicians weren’t concerned about the big picture — they were focused on what was going to get them elected and keep them elected. How interesting, eh? While I don’t know that the author of the op-ed is liberal, the fact that he’s writing about diversity in Congress (and about a Democratic House Member, in particular) might lead one to believe that he might be. There’s also the fact that he wrote a rather pointed post for CNN around election day last year. So, it’s safe to assume that back in January of this year, we had people on both sides of the ideological aisle talking about how important it is for politicians in America to start thinking about what’s good for the country rather than their district, party, or reelection chances.

While I’m totally on-board with a bigger picture perspective, I would wonder how to reconcile not keeping the interests of my district in mind when voting. Isn’t that how people get elected in the first place? I’m going to represent you in Washington… I’m going to represent what’s important for our town when I get to DC… How could one turn one’s back on one’s district?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but it’s a conversation worth having.

Higher Education is More Like Telecommuting and Less Like Newspapers, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I looked at higher education in comparison to newspapers and to telecommuting. My conclusion was that higher education was more like telecommuting than newspapers (with regard to the introduction of technology). There’s one thing that I didn’t really touch on, but that I think is important: MOOCs.

With the development of massive open online courses (MOOCs), higher education can be broadcast to a wider net. That is, people who might not have otherwise had access to education will now have access to this education. I think that this is a great by-product of MOOCs and online education, in general. This even gives access to folks who might not have been able to take time out of their busy lives to attend classes to now be able to learn things (I’m thinking about working parents).

So, while online education seems like it might be disruptive to higher education, I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a hindrance to the current market of higher education. Of course, there will be some decline, but I don’t think it’ll be as big as folks are predicting. In fact, I think that these MOOCs will actually open up and create new markets for which higher education can then compete in.

We’re seeing some universities breaking into online courses. Heck, my first Master’s was through a hybrid program where most of the learning was done online! George Mason University seems to be taking advantage of MOOCs, too. I recently heard that the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship has published a MOOC in social entrepreneurship! Be sure to check it out.

Like I said yesterday: online education is sure to have an effect on higher education, but I don’t think that it will “end higher education as we know it.” I think for that to happen, it’ll take something like the technology I was talking about with CNN and the holographic presence.

Higher Education is More Like Telecommuting and Less Like Newspapers, Part 1

I came across an interesting article in The American Interest magazine a couple of days ago. It was by way of tweet (as it most often is). This tweet came from one of the professors at George Mason University, Prof. Auerswald. He’s done some really cool stuff, so be sure to check ’em out! The tweet which led me to the article:

Intriguing, yes? Well, it was to me, so I proceeded to read the article from the magazine. As for the argument that universities are going the way of the newspaper because of the internet — I don’t necessarily agree with it.

In fact, I think that higher education will go the way of telecommuting more than it will the way of newspapers. What do I mean? Well, telecommuting first became popular last century. It only existed as a possibility from about the 1970s on. By now, you’d expect that lots of people would telecommute, right? Depending on your definition of lots…

Total Number of US teleworkers

This graphic shows that there are only about 3 million total employees who telecommuted in 2011. If I were asked to guess in 1990s how many folks would be telecommuting in the 2010s, I would have guessed waay more than 3 million — as I’m sure most people would.

Higher education — learning — has, for the most part, been an in-person thing. People enroll in university and spend the next 4-5 years living on- (or off-) campus taking classes. In that time, they may also join student organizations, hold internships, and meet a whole bunch of new people. Some of those people become their friends for the rest of their lives.

MOOCs do not have the same qualities of in-person education. Learning online (or on your own) won’t necessarily reap the same benefits of attending university.

I understand the argument and the correlation between newspapers and higher education makes sense, but I just don’t buy it. I don’t believe that higher education will go the same way as Newsweek or other publications. Higher education is more than just the degree. That’s not to say that some consumers won’t choose to go the way of online learning, but I don’t think that it will pull enough folks away from wanting the in-person learning. This is why I think MOOCs and online education is more likely to go the way of telecommuting.

That being said, I do think that MOOCs present a major threat to the higher education market because consumers will perceive it as a shortcut to a degree.

And more than that, I think that advances in telecommuting could shift the way we telecommute — and by extension — higher education. In fact, I remember during the 2008 election, CNN had a “virtual presence” technology wherein one of their guests was somewhere else entirely, but there was a holographic representation of them in the studio (with which Wolf Blitzer was interacting). That was 4 years ago!

I don’t know what happened to that technology (if it’s being developed for commercial use, etc.), but I think that could seriously change the way we interact. I think if that technology were introduced on a larger scale, that would certainly increase the number of telecommuters. Similarly, I think that would have a chance at seriously changing the face of higher education. This technology, assuming it’s “just as good as being there,” would allow folks to be in the comfort of their basements (or virtual presence studio?), while still being at work or in a classroom.

Just as a closing: anything written about the future is inherently flawed. There’s no way to know (for sure) what will happen or won’t happen in the future. So, while these are some predictions or guesses I’m making about the future, they may turn out to be wildly wrong (or surprisingly right).

Note: After writing this, I realized that there were a few more things I wanted to touch on. Look for Part 2 tomorrow!

If I were the CEO of CNN… (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post (Part 1), I went down a bit of a tangent and really focused on CNN’s potential to become the “go-to” network for fact-checking. Today, I wanted to revisit the idea of being the CEO of CNN and take a closer look at CNN from a strategic standpoint.

Yesterday, I mentioned that one of CNN’s resources was its plethora of international journalists. This is certainly something that needs to be considered when developing a new strategy for CNN. Although, also as I said yesterday, Americans are known for not caring about what’s going on in the world.

Another one of CNN’s resources (intangible, mind you) is their brand. I couldn’t find any hard data, but my guess is that CNN has a better reputation for reporting impartial and accurate news than MSNBC or Fox News. (Aside from some slip-ups, of course.)

As some critics have said, CNN grew in popularity when it was showcasing, “hard-hitting investigative reporting.” One could postulate that this strength grew out of the two resources above. By having lots of international journalists, they’re able to report on the day-to-day news, while still researching/developing investigative reports. Similarly, their brand equity gives them an “in” because people around the world recognize CNN as a news organization that is watched by many people. As a result, someone may be more likely to tell CNN their story.

When examined from this perspective, it certainly seems that this kind of reporting is one of CNN’s core competenciesWhy is it a core competency? It’s certainly a unique strength and it is embedded deep within CNN. It also allows CNN to differentiate itself from its rivals. Unfortunately, it seems that CNN has strayed from this core competency.

So, in addition to yesterday’s conclusion about CNN expanding its “fact-checking” programming, it seems that CNN would be well-served to, as some critics have said, “get back to its roots,” and bring back the hard-hitting investigative reporting that brought it brand awareness.

[Note: I’ve barely scratched the surface on the tools that one can use to analyze/develop strategy. Notably missing are things like a SWOT analysis, Porter’s 5 Forces, the BCG Matrix, McKinsey‘s 7S framework, and the list goes on. This two part-series on CNN’s strategy was meant to provide a taste into some of the things that upper-level management would need to consider when developing strategy.]


If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.