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.