Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Channel Swim

Why are MSNBC’s ratings so low?  Well, as Alex Parene at Salon suggests, it’s not because of Rachel Maddow.

“Morning Joe” is the lowest rated of the big three cable news morning shows in both total viewers and the younger demographic. Fox News’ Red Eye — a show Fox airs at 3 in the morning — had more total and 25-54-year-old viewers in April 2013 than “Morning Joe” did. “Morning Joe” in April 2013 was down, from its April 2012 numbers, in total and in young viewers by a greater percentage than the rest of the network as a whole.

I’m not harping on “Morning Joe” because I think the show is representative of everything wrong with contemporary political elite thinking, though it is, but because it illustrates MSNBC’s larger problem: It’s a political talk show. Every other TV morning show is mostly fluff and weather. “Morning Joe,” instead of entertainment news updates, has a former member of Congress wave a newspaper at Mark Halperin for a while. MSNBC’s target audience may just be much less interested in listening to people talk about politics in spring 2013 than they were during an election year.

What would you rather wake up to: a perky news anchor shitting rainbows about traffic, weather, and the latest on Justin Bieber, or Joe Scarborough ranting to Mark Halperin about Benghazi! and the socialism of Obamacare?  Granted, the morning crew at Fox and Friends isn’t exactly Mensa in the Morning, but at least they’re sitting on a couch.

MSNBC’s biggest problem is that their target audience — progressives or at least those who don’t care for Fox’s rabid partisanship — aren’t a mass communication major market.  They don’t listen to talk radio unless it’s interrupted by a pledge drive.

MSNBC is actually making some good decisions, lately, from the point of view of someone who’d like (talking head) cable news to be better. And anyone who says the network’s failing because of liberalism should probably have to account for the fact that the channel’s highest-rated show remains Rachel Maddow’s. (Followed by O’Donnell, who really is the insufferable smug self-satisfied liberal caricature everyone thinks all of MSNBC is.)

But do you know who watches cable news all day? And at prime time? When there’s not an election on, or a war, or some terrorism? Older conservative people. If MSNBC wants better ratings, it’ll either have to train a generation to want to pay attention to political years all the time, or it’ll have to produce a scripted show about zombies.

Maybe that’s why they run “Caught on Tape” all weekend.  Add in some undead and you’ve got a hit.

6 barks and woofs on “Channel Swim

  1. I fear that MSNBC is trying to sell vegetables when the majority of the audience craves steak. Most of MSNBC’s veggies are very good vegetables indeed. Rachel Maddow, despite her left leanings, is still the most insightful, thoughtful and polite of the talking heads. O’Donnell may well be an “insufferable smug self-satisfied liberal caricature” but he has the added value of being “wicked smaat” and also often being correct in his insights. Melissa Harris-Perry should open up a small, but hopefully growing, demographic of non-white intellectuals whom Fox ignores or constantly defames. Chris Hayes is also both smart and engaging.

    On paper, MSNBC has what I consider to be a great lineup of talent who can actually argue their way to a conclusion using knowledge and logic, rather than ad hominem attacks and appeals to fear. Unfortunately, they have to compete with Fox’s “All Fear-all the Time” and CNN’s “All Arias-All the Time” now transitioning to “All Zimemrman-All the Time.”

    Don’t get me started on Nancy Grace…

  2. I avoid Morning Joe because he is an a##hole and got Markos M. banned from the network. I go out for my morning walk while that guy is on and do the dishes, mow the lawn and anything else but watch that guy.

  3. I’ll bet smart people aren’t watching morning TV at all period. They’re on the train to work or they’re in the shared car lane, or they’re jogging with the baby carriage. They read, believe it or not. Often they read the morning papers with the second cup of coffee. At least the latter is what the smart people in our house do since retirement. We gave up Today and its clones when we had to get out of the house to open the doors to our little business. Never looked back.

    • NPR Morning Edition works in my house – at least until the move and something that’s actually news comes across from Pandora.

      • When I’ve read the local paper and much of the Times I go directly to Diane Rehm. All the news you need until Science Friday with Ira Glass. I’m even getting a bit bored with All Things Chewed To Pieces.

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