CNN's ratings slipped to a 10-year low last month, renewing concerns that the channel, which has positioned itself as nonpartisan, can't compete against its hyper-ideological cousins to the left and right. Liberal-friendly MSNBC is the greatest beneficiary of CNN's decline, and consistently enjoys double the number of primetime viewers. Fox News, the favorite cable network of conservatives, outpaced CNN long ago, and its primetime audience is four times as large as CNN's. Does CNN need to get in on the partisan shouting game?
Partisanship certainly worked for MSNBC: While CNN is sticking to its original vision as a nonpartisan channel, MSNBC "has hosts with clear political points of view at key times of the day," says Brian Stelter at The New York Times. Viewers instinctively flock to CNN "in periods of major breaking news," but "only a small fraction stick around after." CNN has to give viewers a reason to tune in outside "elections and explosions."
"CNN ratings decline stirs worries"
CNN hosts are the real problem: CNN is certainly losing out in a "hyper-partisan media culture," but it also has a problem with brand identity, says Dylan Byers at Politico. Conservative viewers "fall in love with Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity," while liberals identify with Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. With the possible exception of Anderson Cooper, CNN hasn't found a host "who really appeals to independents, or the independently minded liberals and conservatives out there. They haven't found ways to get people to 'identify' with the CNN family."
"CNN hits ten-year ratings low"
CNN needs to rethink its whole approach: If CNN was a truly independent news source, it wouldn't be in such "disastrous shape," says Current TV host Cenk Uygur at The Huffington Post. The truth is, CNN has plenty of opinion, but it's "'he said, she said' crap that doesn't actually deliver the news to anyone." An independent brand is useless if it does nothing more than report what a liberal says followed by what a conservative says. Instead of just letting partisans sound off, CNN should try challenging them by doing original investigative work. "Something amazing might happen — people might actually watch you again."
"Friendly advice to CNN — change everything"
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