Monday, February 24, 2003

So how successful is the endlessly self-congratulatory Fox News Channel? Not as successful as it wants you to believe, according to an article in today's New York Times business section:

But Mr. Walton has argued that CNN is in a different business, one that is heavier in news compared with its rivals at Fox and even the third-place MSNBC. Fox News Channel may draw larger ratings than CNN, but not higher ad rates, the theory goes. CNN is estimated to draw 15 to 40 percent higher rates than Fox News, though both sides agree that the gap is closing fast.

"The important thing for CNN is to understand who it is, and how it defines winning," Mr. Walton said. "It's not just about chasing the higher number. Quality matters."

Back in the 1980s, a department-store mogul was asked why he didn't advertise in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. He is said to have replied, "But, Rupert, your readers are my shoplifters." Maybe TV advertisers feel a bit that way about Fox News.

(Incidentally, the linked article strongly suggests that the conventional wisdom at CNN is that Walter Isaacson's tenure there was a diaster, and that the saving grace is that CNN never quite succumbed completely to the tabloid tendencies Isaacson embraced. It's nice to see a well-deserved thrashing doled out to the guy who tried to hire Limbaugh and who approached GOP legislators on his knees, begging them to like him, even if the article doesn't mention those embarrassing moments.)

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