Posts Tagged ‘CNN’

On a recent post I commented about CNN’s updated news crawl being a shill for their Twitter and other online efforts. Turns out, I was more right than I knew. Not only were they in the midst of a heated competition with their worthy opponent Ashton Kutcher to see who could reach a million followers first, but they were simultaneously reeling from the news that they were now, for the first time in their existence, ranked THIRD in viewership behind Fox and MSNBC!

Ashton beat them to the mil, but as Rick Sanchez so magnanimously said, “If you counted everything we do on Twitter we really beat him, but it’s all good.” or something empowering like that.

Normally I’d ignore his good sportsmanship except that I also read an article in Variety that said nearly the same thing. CNN spun their 3rd place finish in prime time into an ad for their multi-channel capability:

“Primetime is most meaningful to entertainment networks,” says CNN U.S. prexy Jonathan Klein, noting that his channel sells its commercial time in a more bundled, multiplatform way that differs from most cable networks, which deal more in the typical currency of primetime ratings points.

And that’s why, no doubt, during the middle of the day the other Friday, they actually showed Ed Henry interviewing somebody on CNN-Radio on CNN cable TV. There he was, boom mike dangling in front of his face, CNN Radio sign strategically positioned, except he was on the TV.

Multi-Channel is as multi-channel does. So CNN aims for the Twitter stratosphere,  creates partnerships with Facebook, takes on Talk Radio (“We’ll fight them on the fields, we’ll fight them on the shores, we’ll fight them in the air!”).

Or, to quote a more controversial character than old Mr. Churchill, “Get ther the fustest with the mustest.” (Be the first to guess who said that one and I’ll send you a Claxton Fruit Cake!)

We are watching CNN, the people who transformed television news by replacing the tyrannical scheduled reporting cycle (anybody remember the 6:00 News?) with getting their cameras wherever news was happening as it was happening (and using local network reporters when they didn’t have one of their own in place) transform news again. This time, they’re replacing the tyranny of platform exclusivity with the freedom of device. Klein continues:

“We sell against all of our platforms — TV, online, international — and it’s hard to say there’s one particular daypart or hour of the day that matters more,” says Klein… Our competition doesn’t have the resources to cover the news the way we do. They’ve actually ceded news coverage to us.”

Convergence doesn’t just happen. CNN is using their core platforms to advertise and drive their customers to their other platforms including Time Magazine. It’s a massive multi-channel marketing effort, it’s intrusive, and apparently, it’s working:  Follow us on Twitter — over a million Twitterers can’t be wrong!.

Recognizing, as CNN’s John King said, that they are “in the word business”, CNN is stuffing those words wherever they can … and monetizing their words along the way. Newspapers should take note:  you’re all in the “word biz” — not the dead tree biz or the radio wave business or the cathode ray business or the pixel business.

Of the last twenty or so articles I read from the NY Times, none of them were on newspaper, and I found them via Digg, Google News, and in emails from friends. The last radio program I listened to was on my computer. The last time I got a story from CNN I read it on my phone.

CNN won the first digital news revolution. They overthrew the powers that be and changed everything. Now that they’re the underdogs again, it looks like they’re sticking it to the man one more time — only this time, the man is Rupert Murdoch.

So, with CNN working hard to become the multi-channel newsroom of the next great era in journalism, with all their vaunted commitment to new media and the instant-dissemniation nature of Twitter, can someone please explain to me why in the last 24 hours, CNNBRK, their twitter account with 1,339,599 followers, had only two breaking news stories?

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?

Have you seen the new commercials that look and feel like cable news programming?

I’ve seen at least three different variations for three different advertisers. The one I see the most is the most innocuous:  it’s for the “Mucho Money” show, a Jim Cramer “Mad Money” rip-off selling Optimum Online and related services. I say innocuous because nobody with half a brain could mistake it for a real news show. Not with the stock ticker at the bottom of the ad tracking the price of Mango Chutney and Waffle Irons.

But then there’s the “Breaking News from the TMU FHA Hotline” commercial that I think  sets dangerous precedents and needs to be taken off the air.

At the start of the commercial, the screen shouts “TMU” in huge type, then “Breaking News” in slightly smaller type. This is on for a a while, and then, in tiny print at the bottom of the screen for all of maybe 2 seconds, it says “The following is a Paid Advertisement brought to you by Topdot Mortgage.”

The rest of the commercial plays out just like a breaking news story on a cable news station. The ticker at the bottom of the screen says “Breaking News – Federal Government raises FHA Loan Limits…” and continues with newsspeak about loan rates, limits, etc.

The commercial ends with the “newscaster” saying “We’ll have more on this story and other developments on the next edition of the TopDot Mortgage Update.” This is followed by a screen that features TMU and a phone number and half a screen of incredibly fine print that’s up for all of maybe 5 seconds.

This isn’t the worst of these I’ve seen. The worst was one I saw on CNN one day while I was working out on the exercise bike in my gym. It started with the words “Special Report” and looked in every way like a cable news show and had absolutely no mention of an advertisement whatsoever. Unlike the comedic “Mucho Money” it was a serious attempt to come across as real news.

Having forgotten to stuff a fountain pen in my shorts, I couldn’t write down the name,  and I’ve been unable to find it since. (I think it said Investor Link Special Report, but I’m just not sure. If you’ve seen it, please let me know.)

I don’t do TV, so I don’t know whether these DRTV (Direct Response TV) ads are actionable or not. But I do create direct marketing print advertisements, so I have a standard to compare them to.

When we create print ads that take on an editorial look and feel, we add a slug to the ad that says “Advertisement” or “Advertorial” or “Paid Advertisement.” Even if we didn’t want to, the publications demand it or they won’t accept our ads. Some publications won’t accept an ad like that even if it does say advertisement clearly, just to avoid any potential confusion on the part of their readers.

But where was CNN when the “Special Report” ad ran? Don’t they bear some responsibility for airing a misleading ad that attempted to fool their viewers into thinking it was a CNN Special Report? Did USA think that the cursory notifications on the TMU “Breaking News” ad was enough to avoid confusion or worse in the minds of their viewers?

And more importantly, what was going on in the minds of the ad agencies that created these ads? Are they proud of their work? Did they beg their clients to clearly identify that these were ads, but failed to convince them?

Or did they tell their client, “Don’t worry, we’ll run it until we get caught, if we even get caught, then pay the minor fine and laugh all the way to the bank?”

We’re pretty safe in assuming that their clients don’t have a problem with taking advantage of gullible or vulnerable consumers. The greed and lack of moral responsibility exhibited by mortgage lenders and financial institutions is a big part of the reason the entire world economy is tanking right now. As one of the victims of the mortgage meltdown said on CNBC’s “House of Cards” said, “I may be stupid, but they’re guilty.”

But I really do want to know what the creatives were thinking. Can someone from the agency that created these ads please explain to me what you were hoping to achieve by running these misleading ads, and more importantly, how you sleep at night?