The Death of CNN+: Legacy News Media’s Failed Quest to Stay Relevant

It seems that any hope the mainstream media had of regaining audiences has been dashed by the recent and rapid collapse from CNN’s streaming service, CNN+.

For the last decadeviewers and listeners have gradually moved away from legacy broadcast media, i.e. news media institutions established before the digital age, such as ABC, SCSCNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR and NBC.

Audiences have instead turned to fledgling media creators who got their start on platforms like YouTube, Substack, Spotify and TikTok. Popular programming on these platforms — which includes “bad faith,” “Breakpoints,” “The Katie Halper Show,” “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “The Jimmy Doré show,” “Empire Files,” “Useful idiots” and “The Realignment Podcast” – collectively, and sometimes individually, attract an audience as large as CNN’s Prime Time Audience.

Since the 2020 election, the decline in ratings for many of the major networks has been particularly acute. Old media coverage of the Trump presidency had successfully reversed a trend decade-long decline their audience size. But after President Biden’s inauguration, cable news ratings plummetedwith Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN losing 49%, 37% and 35% of their viewership respectively between June 2020 and June 2021. CNN lost nearly 70% viewers in the key demographic of 25-54 between January 2021 and May 2021.

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Cable news organizations’ The response to cable’s declining viewership has been to supplement their basic cable offerings with spin-off streaming services. MSNBC offered additional content existing news personalities on Peacock, a streaming service launched by its parent company, NBC. Additionally, MSNBC launched a podcast version from the Rachel Maddow Show.

But as a media specialist, I see these efforts as futile exercises, fueled largely by a lack of self-awareness. In my view, the shrinking audience size of traditional media has more to do with their reporting style and misguided assumptions about what viewers want than with the medium itself.

CNN+ shuts down

After nearly a year of hype, CNN launched its digital streaming service, CNN+, on March 29. The cable news juggernaut planned to pass $1 billion on the adventure for four years. In addition to existing CNN personalities as Kate Bolduan, Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and Fareed Zakaria, CNN+ featured Chris Wallacethat the network had poached from Fox News Channel.


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The CNN+ project did not address polls that show less than half of Americans trust legacy mediaincluding CNN. In fact, a 2022 study found that Americans had more confidence in the Weather Channel and BBC than cable news channels.

Instead, on CNN+, the network offered audiences what amounted to a digitized version of many of the same personality-driven content found on CNN, with new offerings such as “Jake Tapper’s Book Club” and “Who talks to Chris Wallace‘, hosted by the former Fox News anchor.

It’s no wonder that a few weeks after its launch – and after spending $300 million on the streaming service — only 10,000 of 100,000 the subscribers he had attracted used the paid service daily. This makes CNN’s one-year goal of 2 million usersand its four-year goal of 18 million users, seem outlandish.

Less than a month after launch, the production and marketing CNN+ budgets were cut and CNN’s CFO was fired. Then, on April 21thit became official: CNN+ was suspending its operations.

The lure of new media

In announcing the closure of CNN+, the network said the service was “incompatible” with the plans of the new management after WarnerMedia, the former parent company of CNN, merged with Discovery At the beginning of April.

But in my view, the crux of CNN’s problem is that the network has failed to understand that audiences gravitate towards new media platforms precisely because they are not legacy media.

A part of the most popular alternative content is programming that includes personalities that seem more authentic – and

Some topics widely covered in new media — like corruption and corporate malfeasance — barely get mentioned on legacy networks like CNN.

less scripted and robotic – than the hosts who appear on corporate news media programming. Unlike corporate media, these shows often avoid a supporter managementamateur feature film, present sincerity debates and stream long, in-depth segments on important the subjects that corporate media electrical outlets rarely cover.

Some stories that are widely covered on new media outlets are barely mentioned on legacy networks. Take Chevron surveillance and legal action against human rights lawyer and environmentalist Steven Donziger, who a decade earlier had successfully won the greater judgment never done against an oil company.

Often when cable news covers corporate misdeeds — like the collusion between Big Tech and the National Security Administration exposed by a whistleblower Edward Snowden — we often talk about it in brief, banal, inclined segments. Conversely, new media personalities like Crystal Bullet, Halper, Kyle Kulinski and Rogan devoted several hours of interviews to whistleblowers such as Snowden.

The success of new media platforms contradicts many of the assumptions under which traditional media, including CNN, have operated to justify their approach to news coverage. For decades, mainstream media advocates have argued that the public has short attention span and are too ignorant for complex ideas. In new media spaceshowever, audiences seem eager to access programs that spend hours deconstructing a single subject.

I believe there was also a overconfidence on graphics, flashy scenography and distinguished guests to attract and retain viewers. In fact, ordinary people’s low-budget content has proven to be extremely popular. For example, Dore and his partner, Stefane Zamorano, host the hugely popular “Jimmy Dore Show” from their garage.

Jimmy Dore hosts his popular political talk show from his garage. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

For decades, cable media has grown accustomed to airing the majority of their stories as part of an eternal struggle between Republicans and Democrats. The repeated use of this frame not only misleads, but also unnecessarily divides the public. Fox News is considered conservative, CNN is liberaland viewers must choose sides, swing wherever their favorite network lands on a problem.

But both networks are out to make money, and culture war issues like immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage have proven useful for attract and share public.

New entrants lack this baggage and seem more eager to rise above worn-out partisanship.

The lack of credibility

Most new media consumers are sophisticated enough to recognize that traditional media spread lies. To be clear, there’s a litany of lies in new media and conservative institutional media.

Despite all of CNN’s claims that he’s more trustworthy than Fox News, his unforced errors keep piling up: Hunter Biden’s laptop, Nicholas Sandmann, and Russiagate, for starters.

But despite all of CNN’s claims that it’s more trustworthy than networks like FoxNews, his unforced errors accumulate. In the past five years alone, CNN has erroneously suggested that Hunter Biden’s laptop story was either Russian or right-wing propagandaset a several million dollars prosecution for reporting an incident involving student Nicholas Sandmann and was charged with spreading false stories about allegations Russian activities, including piracy from a Vermont Power planta prime on American soldiers and control over Donald Trump through compromising information.

His credibility was further undermined in 2021 and 2022 when he was revealed that CNN chief Jeff Zucker and main on-air host Chris Cuomo were to advise Chris’ brother – then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – on how to respond to accusations of sexual harassment and political corruption. Meanwhile, when the governor appeared on CNN, he was not faced with any tough questions about these alleged scandals. Instead, the siblings engaged in light teasing.

When it comes to growing its audience, CNN has tried everything but transform its content. CNN+ was simply CNN’s last failed attempt to win back a significant audience. To me, the evidence is pretty clear: if CNN is to remain viable, it’s the content, not the medium, that needs to change.The conversation

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