“It all looks fine to the naked eye but it don’t really happen that way at all.” — Pete Townsend
Before the days of Nate Silver and 538 there was Reader’s Digest. Readers Digest had accurately predicted every presidential election and then came the 1936 election. They proudly announced that Al Landon would be the next president of the United States. In fact, it wasn’t going to be particularly close. They did a simple poll of all of their readers that had a home phone. Oops.
CNN didn’t make as big a blunder as Reader’s Digest, but they are facing the same kind of cruel reality. See, they are beginning to rebrand themselves as a more conservative outfit. Obviously, they can’t outfox Fox News and they certainly don’t want to go crazy like OANN or Newsmax, so they will struggle to find their place in the landscape.
See, most networks focus their attention on the 18-49 demographic group. They are usually the group with the most disposable income, children in school, and make up a majority of the population. Fox learned a long time ago that they weren’t the key demographic to focus on. They focused on the 50+ crowd and that is why they made all their money and grew their influence.
Two things are happening that impact the traditional way that television networks look at news coverage. First, the under 50 crowd doesn’t watch nearly as much news under even old-fashioned conditions. We consume television differently. It’s hard to say whether that will change for us as we approach our fifties. Maybe we will somehow morph into the guy that wears his pants around his stomach and shakes his fists at the younger neighbors. Maybe we will be different from our parents. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that the second factor is one area where we will never go back. We cut the cord over ten years ago and is it turned out we were slightly ahead of the curve. As it turns, the under 50 crowd makes up a huge majority of those cutting the cord. Cutting the cord may or may not impact network shows. Essentially, streaming services like Hulu, Paramount Plus, and Peacock offer those shows after the fact. What they don’t do is offer full episodes of the news after the fact. Why would they?
So, CNN is learning the hard way that there are fewer and fewer people in that key 18-49 group there to watch their network. That leaves the over 50 crowd and the over 50 crowd skews conservative. So, of course they will try to do the same. It’s probably the same reason that talk radio has always been conservative as well. It’s simple demographics.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Watch the commercials on network television the next time you actually have access to it. During the day, it is focused at people that likely aren’t working. Why aren’t they working? Personal injury? Need more training? Let’s show a Jim Adler commercial or a ITT Technical Tech commercial. If it’s something like Fox then maybe it’s alternative investing options like gold or reverse mortgages. Maybe it’s one of those apparatus’ that puts on your socks for you. Advertisers have figured it out. It was only a matter of time for CNN.
This is both scary and hopeful at the same time. On the hopeful end, nothing will ever be as bad or scary as it seems. The mainstream media will seemingly have us believing that the world is more dangerous and more right wing than what we think. If the only real options are right wing news then that will be who gets to shape the narrative. The American public is actually more progressive than those sources want you to believe.
The bad news is that people do not remain stagnant. They will change based on the information they receive. If they only receive information skewed to the right then they will also shift to the right. MSNBC has cast their lot. Fox, Newsmax, and OANN have cast their lot. CNN will need to be creative to find their niche in the market. Fox unfortunately has a head start.