Does anybody else hate the new CNN news crawl?

Posted: April 1, 2009 in Branding, Business, Marketing, Media, PR and News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently shattered my right arm at the shoulder and spent two painful weeks on the couch. I mostly watched cable news, as the opiate cocktail I was on for pain precluded reading or anything else requiring actual concentration.

And while I’m normally a fan of the bloodsport that is cable news, merrily flipping between CNN and Fox with the occasional vacation to BBC, sort of like an endless intravenous drip of watered down news, CNN recently made an extremely annoying change that is so frustrating I’m even considering replacing them in the rotation with MSNBC. (Shudder!)

I’m talking about the “crawl” or “ticker” at the bottom of the screen.

I’ve always made fun of the crawl, riddled as it was with intriguing news tidbits that fly across the screen, tantalizingly brief and often never seen again — and sometimes not even retrievable online!  Short attention span theater, indeed.

As bad as it was, CNN recently replaced their crawl with something worse: a static parade of changing news items described in a maximum of 60 characters each, spaces included.

This leads to infuriatingly incomplete news bombs such as:

“Airline grounds 60 jets for safety inspections”

“Only 25 votes separate candidates in deadlocked election.”

“Investment firm charged in Madoff case.”

Which airline? What election? Which firm? C’mon, guys, you’re supposed to be delivering news, not vague murmurings worthy of Nostradamus!

Why would they do this? Branding? Innovation? To stand out from the competition? Is there some business purpose that I’m missing?

Perhaps the key to this change lies in the little “CNN.COM>>” that precedes each news bomb? Maybe it’s a cross-sell, and they’re trying to tease me into finding out more online. (I’d love to know how they would even track that.) This may be the likely purpose, since other CNN news shows sometimes use the space for fan tweets (Rick Sanchez) and newscaster tweets and teases (Anderson Cooper’s promise more at AC360.COM).

But what they’re actually doing is driving me into the clutches of the more informative news crawls on Fox and BBC. Because after all, if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s all about the crawl.

So can someone please explain to me what CNN hopes to accomplish with this new format, and whether it’s succeeding at anything other than increasing FOX’s ratings?

Comments
  1. Jen says:

    I don’t like the new crawl either (although it’s not so much a crawl anymore since it doesn’t scroll across the screen). This reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch from a few years back when Jerry Seinfeld was hosting. It was a series of news teasers like “There’s something in your kitchen that’s killing your kids! Tune in at 6 to find out what it is,” or “The President died today! But the president of what? Tune in at 11 to find out!”

  2. Oftenatangent says:

    Sorry JLS. I think you need to speak with your physician about dialing down the opiates if you’re looking for news on CNN.

    I stopped watching CNN about two years ago when I realized that what they had chosen to broadcast as “news” was 15 solid seconds of a grinning movie star standing motionless in front of crowd so photographers could capture her gown.

    Perhaps you’ll remember when the purpose of “the news” was to figure out what was important from the day’s events, gather honest information and concentrate it for my/our consumption. Clearly, CNN is failing on that first stage, and please, don’t get me started on the second stage.

    I think you’re looking for too much in the crawler. I think it’s just a way to put “flashing lights” on the screen, in the same way that web advertisers put obnoxious animated flashers around their ads that urge you to “click here” because you are the millionth person to visit their website. The flashing lights hold viewers’ attention, for another moment or two, and that takes us to the next commercial.

    • jlsimons says:

      You’re right on the mark on both counts, Oftenatangent. I remember the thrill I got when CNN was first on the air, and I actually watched events around the world unfold live. Now, cable news is like 1010 WINS: 20 minutes of content, endlessly sliced, diced and rehashed all day long, buried under the weight of shouting pundits. I also remember when I could attempt to derive the truth by adding up CNN and FOX and then dividing by 2. At least the crawl was unadulterated news, selective though it might be. All I really want is Google news, on my TV, with great videos of what’s really happening. Then I could be a happy, satisfied visual news junkie couch potato. (Because you see, my computer screen is too small and too far away from my couch, and I still do not have a jack into the back of my head.)

  3. Laust says:

    Remember when CNN headline news was actually that?

    • jlsimons says:

      Yes, I do… but I think they’ve conveniently forgotten. I also remember when a news anchor was a reporter, not a commentator, or worse, an “entertainer.” These days, it can be virtually impossible to tell the difference. You think you’re watching someone deliver the news and suddenly, they’ve injected their opinion, and then you’re left wondering, how much of what I’ve been listening to is actually editorial? Thanks for the comment, Laust.

  4. […] Does anybody else hate the new CNN news crawl? […]

  5. Rob Harris says:

    Count me in as one of the Haters! While CNN does present the ocassional
    decent documentary, most of programs
    are very annoying. All day and night, the yelling of the pundits is maddening. Far more than the crawling
    drivel, the constant need to adjust the
    volume gets to me even more!

    • jlsimons says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rob. CNN used to report the news. Now it seems to have joined the talking head heard: put 4 people on a panel with disparate views and call it cable news. But what it is is choral commentary, with verses neatly timed to fit into the tiny gaps surrounding commercials. The last straw for me was “All MJ, All the Time.” I just stopped watching and moved on to BBC News. (Talking to others, I found out I was not alone in this emigration, either.)

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