The Biggest Loser in November? TV News.

It’s the end of broadcast television news as we know it.  From Deadline Hollywood:

Only 69% of adults turned to the tube first for election news last month, the lowest percentage in at least 20 years, according to the weekly surveys taken for the Pew Research Center’s News Interest Index. The latest figure is  down from 72% four years ago, 78% in 2004, and 86% in 2000. Broadcasters are seeing the biggest losses. Just 32% of adults cited local TV news as their primary source for election news, down from 40% four years ago. The national nightly newscasts were down to 26% from 32%. 

It’s the usual suspects, of course:

Pew researchers say that the change is largely due to the fact that young adults consume news differently than do older people. For example, 45% of people over 65 primarily watch local TV newscasts to keep up with politics — but only 15% of those between 18 and 29 do so. Conversely, 29% of the young group looks to the Internet first vs 11% of those above retirement age.

Young people, internet, blah blah blah.  And yet, from the Hollywood Reporter, we learn this:

Today Nielsen credits FNC with a 144 percent advantage over MNSBC and a 147 percent advantage over CNN in total daily viewership — with slightly softer margins in primetime. In news’ coveted 25-54 demo, FNC bests CNN by 92 percent and MSNBC by 101 percent.

Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes sounded off on the event in a statement. “We are extremely proud of the phenomenal achievement created by the hard work and talent of the FOX News Channel employees and recognize how difficult it is for a cable network to sustain this level of dominance for a decade,” he said. “America has clearly embraced fair and balanced news.”

Known for its more conservative stable of commentators, Fox News has enjoyed particular success during the Republican primary stages of the 2012 election cycle. The net has topped cable competitors in caucus and primary coverage and has hosted two of the five most-watched debates, a statistic it only shares with ABC.

It’s true that the internet has taken a bite out of the television news business, and the newspaper business, too.  But both of those industries took a big bite out of themselves, by becoming increasingly removed from their customer, condescending to their viewers, and thinking of themselves as agents of “progressive change” rather than what they’re supposed to be, which is reporters of the facts.

I haven’t watched the network news in decades.  And — full disclosure — I don’t watch cable news, either, unless I’m on it and I want to see how fat I look on television.  I get my news from the internet, from news sites, and from three newspaper apps on the iPad.

In other words: why are they paying Brian Williams all of that money?

  1. Stuart Creque

     Why would anyone tune in to local news as their primary source of political coverage of anything other than local politics?

    Why would anyone tune in to local news primarily to see coverage of politics as opposed to local news and weather?

  2. DocJay

    “I haven’t watched the network news in decades.  And — full disclosure — I don’t watch cable news, either, unless I’m on it and I want to see how fat I look on television.  I get my news from the internet, from news sites, and from three newspaper apps on the iPad.”

    I was going to give you some dietary tips after that last Red Eye but I was too busy crying with laughter. 

  3. Stuart Creque
    Rob Long: In other words: why are they paying Brian Williams all of that money?

    The old Soviet era joke:

    Kosygin says to Brezhnev, “Why don’t we just let the Jews leave?  We don’t like them anyway.”

    Brezhnev says, “If we let the Jews go, we have to let the Georgians go.” “So?  Let them go.”

    “But then the Ukrainians will want to go, and the Kazakhs, and the Turkmen… soon, the only ones left in the Soviet Union will be you and me!”

    Kosygin winks and says, “Don’t be so sure about me, Comrade Chairman.”

    If some executive says, “Brian, NBC News just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re renegotiating your contract,” that executive’s boss is likely to say to the executive, “Steve, your news division just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re slashing your budget and renegotiating your contract.”  And then that person’s boss will say to him, “Jeff, NBC just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re firing you and rolling your operations into our cable group.”

    No one wants to be responsible for starting that cascade.

  4. EJHill

    Everybody obsesses on the 25-54 demographic. But they’re not just selling an age group. What they’re really selling is attentiveness.

    Whereas some 20-30% of the primetime audience prefers to time-shift their viewing, and therefore have the ability to fast forward through the commercials, 94% of news viewing is done live. And the three nightly news programs are still pulling in significant eyeballs:

    Numbers for the week of January 30, 2012:

    NBC

    ABC

    CBS

    • Total Viewers:

    9,315,000

    8,027,000

    6,524,000

    • A25-54:

    2,592,000

    2,089,000

    1,987,000

  5. C. U. Douglas

    I’ve long rejected the premise that the internet is killing tv and print news.  It’s simply that the old media has not adjusted to compete with the new media — or when they do, they do it poorly.  In fact, attempts to capture the ‘younger markets’ generally annoy me more than attract.

  6. KC Mulville

    I can’t help but comment on a topic that came up in the most recent podcast with Pat Sajak.

    • Do we get news only from our own side, or our own perspective?

    • Don’t we have some civic and intellectual responsibility to seek out the objective truth, instead of simply staying comfortable?

    Well, sure … but where I can find some objective source? I’d love to listen to St. Walter and St. Edward R., but everything we’ve learned about the media in the last fifty years is that, despite their occasional good intentions, the news media haven’t delivered anything close to an objective view. (Maybe they can’t, who knows?) But overwhelmingly, they haven’t delivered. 

    So, we try Plan B, and listen to both sides, as if we could settle somewhere in the middle. 

    But that strategy doesn’t work, either. Why not? You’ll know, the first time you hear Chris Matthews or Olbermann “report” that the reason why healthcare is expensive is because of Republicans. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Why listen to fools? And conservatives aren’t much better, if at all. 

    (…continued)

  7. KC Mulville

    Maybe … it’s the news business itself that can’t possibly deliver on the promise to inform the public adequately. Maybe the whole notion of being properly “informed” about a country with 310 million people and a world with six billion people is a silly idea to begin with.

    We can’t possibly “know” all of it, and anyone who assumes they can identify a minimum standard of knowledge is just shining you on. 

    I’ll argue that the notion of an “informed” public is a myth in the first place, never mind whether one side or the other comes closer to the truth.

    Instead, I prefer the dynamics of the marketplace … where you don’t presume to “know” what everyone else should think. The heck with that. Stick to what you do know, i.e., your own circumstances and your own surroundings. Listen for reasonable criticism, but don’t ever fall into the trap of believing that you can know a heck of a lot. We’re only human.

  8. EThompson
    Rob Long:

    I haven’t watched the network news in decades.  And — full disclosure — I don’t watch cable news, either…  I get my news from the internet, from news sites, and from three newspaper apps on the iPad.

    I’ve chosen to take personal responsibility for my news sources as well, however exhausting the vetting process may be. I look to two newspapers, three magazines, and two internet sites to provide me with some semblance of factual information.

    Network news has morphed into a plethora of reality shows starring overpaid and undereducated nobodies.  

  9. Not JMR

    Wait, I thought TV was bad and reading was good.

  10. ljt

    I think Bernie Goldberg explained why BW pulls in the bucks in  his book “Bias” but I can’t remember … Something about credibility etc

    So- since this came up, I was wondering  – does anyone else share my creepy loyalty to FNC? I don’t care for  O’Reilly as an anchor  and find Hannity a tiny bit empty?  (sorry – he seems really NICE but his show is really comfort food…) and I wish Fox & friends was that cool Morning Joe format instead of the fluff it is so…

    why do I react like a Lioness defending her cubs when I hear a word against them? Am I alone in this?  I NEVER get my news elsewhere. I don’t even put on CNN when channel surfing. Does this explain their ratings – folk like me? Should I seek help?

  11. WI Con

     I haven’t watched network news in years as well. As for searching out ‘both sides or views’, I’d argue that conservative media is very generous in inviting people that hold opposing views and are quite honest when relating or quoting the left in print media. My time is limited and feel that I’m given more than enough of the other side’s stances on issues to make informed decisions utilizing conservative media.

  12. Stuart Creque

    ljt, have you ever noticed that when you watch CNN or MSNBC you get treated every hour to some outrageous lefty statement that goes completely unchallenged? While on FNC you hear the anchors react to lefty AND righty statements with demands for proof or challenges to flat-out untruths? That’s why I don’t watch the other networks.

  13. Sisyphus

    They still do that? In the age of broadband Internet, in the time it takes to tease a story before the cbreak, take the cbreak, come back and introduce the teased story, we chuckleheads have swallowed the Drudge Report whole, scanned Twitter for what will be on Drudge later and broadcast and cable tomorrow.

    Even in the heyday of network news, I listened to news radio in the car and read the newspaper front to back. I never understood sitting and watching a news reader present the material, badly, in a geological time-scale presentation. 

    And the attitude! Oh sweet ludicrous bozos grazing free grown sripts on the open plain! When Ted Baxter first appeared on the Mary Tyler Moore show I thought, this is it!!! This is those bags of wind and how they comport themselves when they run out of script!!!

    And then! Then Rather lecturing us that the evidence was false but the Bush Air National Guard story was essentially true!!! And now Mollie intimating in a nearby conversation that, were I to call Rather a feckless crap weasel for betraying himself, his network, and his profession like a grade school schmuck, it would be bad.

  14. Sisyphus
    Stuart Creque

    Rob Long: In other words: why are they paying Brian Williams all of that money?

    If some executive says, “Brian, NBC News just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re renegotiating your contract,” that executive’s boss is likely to say to the executive, “Steve, your news division just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re slashing your budget and renegotiating your contract.”  And then that person’s boss will say to him, “Jeff, NBC just isn’t all that important anymore, so we’re firing you and rolling your operations into our cable group.”

    No one wants to be responsible for starting that cascade.

    Ooooh! Ooooh! Pick me! Pick me!