Tag Archives: FOX News

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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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.

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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.

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.

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.]

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

If I were the CEO of CNN… (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was stuck in traffic so I flipped on NPR. As it was the 6 o’clock hour, Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal was on. To my delight, they were talking about the impending shift at CNN. That is, earlier this summer, the current CEO of CNN announced that he’d be stepping down at the end of the year. Recently, CNN announced that Jeff Zucker would be replacing Walton as the President of the company.

Anyway, on the Marketplace broadcast, Ryssdal was speaking with someone who argued that CNN was going to redefine itself:

But that may be tougher than it sounds. With Fox News cornering the political right, and MSNBC owning the political left, the question is, says Sherman, “How do you define yourself, if not by politics?”

Indeed. Fox News is most certainly known as the network that favors the opinion of political conservatives and MSNBC certainly seems to favor the opinion of political liberals. In today’s cable TV marketplace, that certainly leaves little room for CNN. It would be silly of CNN to try to compete with MSNBC in its market (liberals) and it would be foolish of CNN to try to compete with Fox News in its market (conservatives).

Since I just finished up a course on strategy, I thought I’d use some of the tools I learned about to analyze CNN’s current situation. Keeping in mind that this is meant to be a cursory or 30,000-foot view, as I didn’t do a great deal of research, (which is what would need to be done to have a thorough analysis).

The first thing that comes to mind is one of CNN’s resources: international journalists. I remember hearing at one point that this was one of CNN’s distinct advantages (over MSNBC and Fox News): they have a number of journalists worldwide, whereas the other two networks don’t. This allows them to compete in other markets than the US and probably helps lead to CNN’s extensive name recognition worldwide (over MSNBC and Fox News). This is certainly a resource that CNN should try to incorporate into their strategy moving forward.

Though, I have also read that while this is a key resource for CNN, it doesn’t necessarily help them with the US market. Why? While Americans know that it’s good for them to know what’s going on in the world, a great deal of the population doesn’t care. Since the US is the most coveted market, CNN’s going to have to do something to try to pull away viewers from Fox News and MSNBC — or attract new viewers.

After reading about some of the things that Zucker has said, it certainly seems like he doesn’t want to continue to compete just with MSNBC and CNN. It seems like Zucker might also consider other cable networks like Bravo and TLC competitors of CNN.

I tend to agree with some of the critics who think that CNN should return to the kind of programming that made it successful: “hard-hitting investigate reporting.”

But more than that, I think there’s a real opportunity for CNN to create a new market or at least add-value to a different market: fact-checking. As can be seen from Google trends, searches for fact-checking really seem to peak around the time of a presidential election. My thought: CNN could try to capitalize on this by creating programming (not just around election season, but all the time) where they fact-check other news organizations. That is, they could almost do what Jon Stewart and The Daily Show do, but without the satirical/comedic element. That is, CNN could inform viewers how the other two networks are distorting the facts. I remember seeing some programming like this on CNN recently, but my idea would be for more of this programming. Maybe the majority of its programming would be fact-checking.

It’s possible that the networks have already market-tested this idea and found that it won’t work, so that might be why we haven’t yet seen a plethora of this kind of programming, yet, but it’s also possible that no one had considered it or that it was considered and top management didn’t like it.

Maybe my naïvety and wish for this kind of a public service is clouding my strategic thinking, but something tells me that this could work.

[Author’s Note: When I read through this post just now after having written it a couple of days ago, I realized that I didn’t really talk too much about some of the fundamentals of strategy. Look for Part 2 on Sunday.]

When the Data Don’t Match Your Beliefs

By now, you’ve no doubt seen (or at least heard about) Karl Rove — noted Republican strategist — challenging the decision of the network for which he is a contributor (Fox News) to call Ohio for President Obama. If you haven’t, it’s worth checking out. This example is a good display of the data not matching one’s beliefs. While Rove has had experience with networks calling states prematurely, based on the data, all the networks were pretty confident in awarding Ohio for President Obama.

Cognitive biases are not unique to Karl Rove — we all have them. Similarly, there is also a tendency to discount data that does not fit one’s previously held beliefs. This past week, I finally cracked Jim Collins‘ new book: Great By Choice. I really liked Good to Great (and even included the story of the Stockdale Paradox a few months ago!)

Within the first 10 pages of the book, Collins’ writes about “entrenched myths” and “contrary findings.” That is, as part of Collins’ (and his team’s) research, they found that some previously held beliefs did not hold true when looking at the data. In case you’re interested, I’ve included them below. Take a look:

Entrenched myth: Successful leaders in a turbulent world are bold, risk-seeking visionaries.
Contrary finding: The best leaders we studied did not have a visionary ability to predict the future. They observed what worked, figured out why it worked, and built upon proven foundations. They were not more risk taking, more bold, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons. They were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid.

Entrenched myth: Innovation distinguishes 10X companies in a fast-moving, uncertain, and chaotic world.
Contrary finding: To our surprise, no. Yes, the 10X cases innovated, a lot. But the evidence does not support the premise that 10X companies will necessarily be more innovative than their less successful comparisons; and in some surprise cases, the 10X cases were less innovative. Innovation by itself turns out not to be the trump card we expected; more important is the ability to scale innovation, to blend creativity with discipline.

Entrenched myth: A threat-filled world favors the speedy; you’re either the quick or the dead.
Contrary finding: The idea that leading in a “fast world” always requires “fast decisions” and “fast action”—and that we should embrace an overall ethos of “Fast! Fast! Fast!”—is a good way to get killed. 10X leaders figure out when to go fast, and when not to.

Entrenched myth: Radical change on the outside requires radical change on the inside.
Contrary finding: The 10X cases changed less in reaction to their changing world than the comparison cases. Just because your environment is rocked by dramatic change does not mean that you should inflict radical change upon yourself.

Entrenched myth: Great enterprises with 10X success have a lot more good luck.
Contrary finding: The 10X companies did not generally have more luck than the comparisons. Both sets had luck—lots of luck, both good and bad—in comparable amounts. The critical question is not whether you’ll have luck, but what you do with the luck that you get.

 

You Need To Seek Out Ideas and Opinions That Are Different From Your Beliefs

[Editor’s Note: This post’s title was changed on September 16th from “if you’re a conservative, tell me which liberals you read: if you’re a liberal, tell me which conservatives you read.”]

I was born and raised in Canada and really didn’t start paying attention to politics until I moved to the US, so most of my understanding of politics comes through the lens of American politics. Watching the Democrats and the Republicans fight (bicker?) year after year starts to get intolerable. As , many American agree with this sentiment.

Part of this is a result of our to seek out opinions that confirm our own previously held beliefs. That is, if one is more liberal, they are probably more inclined to watch MSNBC and/or read the New York Times. Similarly, if one is more conservative, they are probably more inclined to watch FOX News and/or read the Wall Street Journal. There’s no “good” or “bad” here, though I would .

So, if we know that we have a tendency to seek out opinions that confirm our previously held beliefs, it would behoove us to intentionally seek out opinions that we know are counter to our own! That sounds a lot easier than it actually is — especially in today’s world of RSS, Twitter, Facebook, and personalized news.

Not to pick on Facebook, but the friends you have on Facebook, more than likely, share your political affiliation. It’s just natural for us to befriend those and even if you have a few friends from the “other side,” the news that they share on Facebook will most likely: a) get drowned out by all your other friends’ sharing news; or b) won’t be elevated to the top of your newsfeed because you tended not to click on the links provided by these friends.

While I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with it, I do think that there’s something that we should be doing about it. If you’re a conservative, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. If you’re a liberal, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. What are you doing to try to understand why they think your opinion is wrong?

And yes, there are things that you can do.

Lifehacker proposed to do this:

  • Get random reading content delivered to your inbox
“The easiest, no hassle way to get a random selection of news is to have it delivered right to your inbox.”
  • Automatically get different points of view for articles you read
“When you’re browsing the news it’s easy to stick with the sites you know. Sometimes that means you’re missing an entirely different point of view.”
  • Randomize your start page
“Your browser’s home page is a great place to dump interesting and random content for your accidental and automatic discovery. Obviously you don’t want to do this on your work computer in case you get distracted, but it’s a good way to discover new things when you have the time.”

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Head on over to the for more details and specific suggestions (for your start page). There’s one more suggestion I want to make (as it’s something that I do): Twitter. Instead of just following/reading news from people/accounts that I know are similar to my previously held beliefs, I have sought out those accounts that often discuss the issues from a perspective that is not native to me. This way, I’m able to read about the news from an entirely different perspective and from one that I may not have considered were it not for someone giving words to it.

So, I ask: if you’re a conservative, tell me who are the liberals that you read — if you’re a liberal, tell me who are the conservatives that you read.