Friday, September 09, 2005

Who is winning , CNN or FOX

Who is winning the ratings battle? CNN or FOX?

Frankly, at the moment CNN has clearly made gains. But, that happens during every disaster. And in the end, FOX continues to win the war.

The recent Pew Report, which includes a question about where people get most of their information about Hurricane Katrina, is creating a bit of a buzz across the blogs.

The OPINION Poll shows CNN as the leader among news organizations with a significant gain over a similar poll in June. That of course collides with ratings information that shows most Fox News shows beating out CNN.

Why the difference?

An opinion poll is a phone call, made unannounced to people asking them a multiple-choice question. That kind of research works well for political issues. Ratings are a different animal, user’s actual viewing habits are monitored for a period of time, those monitored activities record an actual activity, rather than an opinion or memory.

In this battle, CNN has a few advantages. They’ve been around for many more years, and when the major networks decide against wall-to-wall coverage of a crisis, the people who don’t normally watch cable news go to unfamiliar territory.

Those folks know CNN by name if not by channel number. Fox, being the new kid on the block doesn’t tap that wandering audience in the initial phases of a disaster as well as CNN. (Though long term ratings for Fox have improved after every disaster)

In the ratings war between CNN and FOX there is an interesting question that has circulated through the blogs this past year –“If Fox has higher ratings, why does CNN have more viewers?”

Both statements in the question are true. At any given moment, according to most of the ratings over the last few years, there are more viewers watching Fox. But more people tune in to CNN at some point in the day.

Fox viewers stay with the channel longer than CNN viewers and apparently watch more of the individual shows. One rating is Average Quarter Hour, the other is Cume.

Simply put, people sample CNN but don’t stay long. And that’s why CNN is losing the ratings war.

I’ve lived and died by ratings. And I would take a winning quarter hour rating over a winning cume every day if I could get it. A high cume told me that I was doing something wrong. Our programming couldn’t hold an audience.

In the case of CNN, they have a high value reputation as a news source to turn to when big news is happening, but when people get there – they don’t hang around.

I’m one who will turn on CNN in major news events, and circulate across other news organizations eventually landing on FOX. Lately, I’ve started with CNN less.

CNN has driven me away.

Here’s why:

CNN takes an autocratic approach to its news delivery. Declaring itself an authoritative news source. Fox News takes a more populist or "democratic" approach. “We report, you decide?”

After the initial coverage of real news (First day of aftermath coverage) CNN turns to the effort of educating us. Giving us context filtered through their analytical process.

Fox puts a couple of “experts” on the screen, lets them argue for five minutes and leaves us to be satisfied that the person who more closely represents our political thinking won the argument.

CNN’s coverage evolves from brilliant journalism into preaching. And that’s when they lose me.

Fox’s appearance of a “power to the people” approach wears a little better and makes it easier to stay longer.

I don’t think of Fox as more conservative. I think of it as populist. And the conservative movement in America today has strong populist leanings. For better or for worse.