In recent weeks MSNBC ratings have slipped, and “leaning forward” may be a cause. MSNBC markets itself as a place for discussion and community. Yet when bombs explode at the
Marathon or unrest shatters Egypt,
viewers want information first, and analysis — even solutions — later, if at
According to Variety, For the week ended July 7, MSNBC’s primetime programming captured 14% to 15% fewer viewers between the ages of 25 and 54 — the demographic coveted by sponsors of news programming — than a year earlier, according to Nielsen. In May, MSNBC , which usually plays second only to Fox News, saw its ratings fall behind those of CNN and HLN, too.
MSNBC’s top executive, Phil Griffin, thinks the shift is short-lived. “There has been an inordinate amount of big, breaking news, and that is, honestly, when CNN does well. It’s pure muscle memory,” he said. MSNBC’s performance is bound to suffer in comparison with that of 2012, he added, when a presidential election drew political junkies and casual viewers alike.
Sounds plausible, but could MSNBC’s recent ebb suggest something more seriously amiss? Jerey McCall, author of “Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Infl uence,” believes so, saying that the newsie generated its initial momentum by riding the optimism of President Obama’s rise to prominence.
“MSNBC’s problems might be more than just a hiccup,” McCall maintained. “Now that the Obama administration’s fortunes have apparently declined with various challenges like NSA, IRS and
Benghazi, previously (enthusiastic) news
consumers on the left might find it hard to keep tuned in.”
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with opinion-making. But MSNBC offers an awful lot of it. An analysis by Pew Research of 108 hours of cable-news programming during three days in November and December found opinion and commentary overwhelmed straight news on MSNBC by 85% to 15%. Fox News content included 55% opinion and commentary and 45% factual reporting, Pew said, while CNN content consisted of 46% opinion and commentary and 54% factual reporting.