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CNN Continues Ratings Tailspin
By: Jeff Louis
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Cable News Network's (CNN) ratings slide continues, according to newly released ratings for March. Unlike the economy, CNN's numbers are getting worse. 

CNN will celebrate its 30th anniversary in June, but there won't be cause to celebrate. According to MediaBuyerPlanner, nearly half of the broadcaster's audience has fled elsewhere. 

While CNN had one of its worst quarters to date, Fox News experienced its best quarter ever, topping all other cable news programs. Once dominant, CNN can't seem to figure out the mix of personalities and programming that will push them back to prominence. Thankfully, they didn't blame their poor ratings on others. In June 2009, CNN's co-founder Reese Schonfeld wrote the network's poor ratings were due to Republicans and "Obama detesters."

"Why is this happening when the country still seems about 58-42 in favor of Obama?" Schonfeld asked. "My best guess is the passion of those who detest Democrats, liberals, and in particular, Barack Obama."

That Republican juju must be strong if it can cause half of CNN's viewers to switch networks. I'd think that a network accused of being pro-Obama and pro-Democrat would gain ratings points, not lose them. Although reports exist to support and deny media bias, it seemed to me there was more positive coverage of Barack Obama than any of his rivals.   

According to a joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, it was found that the three major cable networks were disparate in their coverage of the two parties during the primaries in 2007.

The report stated: “CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates—by a margin of three-to-one."

After the report was released, CNN worked to position themselves as the neutral, intelligent choice for political-news coverage.  

While you'd think that Americans would want news without opinion, the opposite seems to be true. Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Centre's center for excellence in journalism, is quick to note the line in the sand.

"One of the few questions left about cable news is whether a channel attempting to build its brand around neutral reporting and balanced conversation can succeed," she said. "The medium became noticeably more partisan in tone in 2009, adding ideological talk-show hosts to primetime and shedding dissenting voices."

The numbers are rough; "The Larry King Show," the prime-time leader for CNN, lost 43 percent of its viewers. Anderson Cooper, whose show follows King's, lost 42 percent. Surprisingly, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" fared better in March, which must have surprised CNN's executive management, as Olbermann was out the majority of the month, hosting the show for only a single broadcast.    

Lots of variables can cause television programs to lose viewers, but one of the largest contributing factors is most likely the availability of real-time news online. People aren't turning to cable news shows for breaking stories; instead, they're going to Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, and Buzz. 

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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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