As reported in the NYT Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been replaced as MSNBC political
anchors. From a hard-nosed business standpoint this is a very strange decision.
MSNBC has been rising in the ratings because Olbermann and Mathew tell
political stories – not just dryly report spin-meister prepared data points.
What’s the difference?
A political story has a defined point of view. That is, it is told by a hero
who lets us know how they feel about the facts (stories are fact wrapped in
emotion) . If the hero’s point of view agrees with mine, then I stay tuned to
that channel. If not, I click my remote. It’s a free country.
Fox shot to the top of the cable
news pack by recognizing that the idea of a purely impartial “objective” point
of view was a paradigm whose time had long passed. Fox crossed the line by failing to report the facts
accurately (famously the largest common factor among people who erroneously
thought Iraq was behind 9/11 was that they got their news for Mr. Murdock’s
organization) but it was on to something. When political tastes started to
shift, people looked for a fresh set of news heroes. MSNBC’s stock began to rise
because Olbermann was willing to say how he felt about the facts he was reporting on Iraq. The audience shared his outraged point of view – and so his audience grew.
Mathews, for all his blow-hard faults, is clearly passionate about politics and tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. Both Olbermann and Mathews are powerful political story tellers and because of them MSNBC could claim
to be “THE PLACE FOR POLITICS”
But all that is gone now, and when
in a few months MSNBC gradually leaks away the loyal viewers it spent years
courting and sinks back beneath the waves becoming not a distinct brand but
just one more cable news mash up it will be the lack of guts of its parent
company NBC to stand up to a little heat from the Repub hit teams that will be
Once you loose brand loyalty it is
very, very hard to get it back. If I were a shareholder in GE I would be very
upset, because the NBC execs are clearly putting their political cowardice in
front of my cash profits. And that doesn’t seem very American to me.