Zero Sum News

Responding to a Roger Simon report that cable news is losing viewers, Glenn Reynolds observes,

I used to be a cable-news junkie. Now I get most of my news from the Internet. I wonder if a lot of other people have made the same shift?

Could be. Outside particularly captivating events, there’s a finite appetite for news. Clearly, more people are reading news on the Internet, especially weblogs which have grown from essentially nothing a couple years ago to, well, something at least. Broadband access is rapidly becoming a necessity and people increasingly expect to be connected 24/7. The bite has to come from somewhere.

If it weren’t for TiVo, I’d hardly watch television at all. A side effect of the Internet is that my patience for sitting through information being fed to me is dwindling. I want to be able to skip stories that don’t interest me and get right to the information I want. This applies beyond news programming, even. For example, I once again “watch” Saturday Night Live, usually some time Sunday. I watch the opening skit and then fast forward until I hit either a political/pop culture satire skit or Weekend Update. I then fast forward until I hit either another political/pop culture satire skit or the end of the show. I now “watch” all of the major Sunday morning talk shows, but skip through the boring parts. If the same talking head is doing all the shows, I skip him after the first show. But I get to see all the roundtable discussions this way, and that’s usually the part I most enjoy. Indeed, even This Week is worth the effort if you skip through the lousy parts, since the show is reduced to fifteen minutes.

Clearly, television is going to have to adapt to this new consciousness to survive. With more channels drawing fewer viewers, competition is stiff. The old business model, where people were just happy to get to see anything that happened to come on, is dead. It hasn’t really been replaced with anything yet.

Update: Spoons has some thoughts on this as well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Clearly, a lot of viewers are moving to the net. I’ve commented on this myself, just recently. But I’ve also commented that Fox News is also picking up viewers from the supposed mainstream outlets like CNN…mostly because they’re starting to understand what a one-sided view CNN, CBS,NBC,and ABC are giving them.

  2. I try to watch local broadcast news a few times a week, but nothing from the networks. There’s no reason, since most broadcast reports are old news to the blogosphere. Cable news is not much better because they get their news from the same sources as bloggers but don’t report it as quickly.

  3. Moe Lane says:

    I’m trying to think of a reason besides C-Span to bother with getting cable news again, and I’m drawing a blank.

  4. Idler says:

    Hey, first time visitor to this site…. good stuff, good layout. You’re on the favorites list now.

    Cable news- I don’t think so. As I.P. stated above, by the time most of the blowdried newsreader monkeys get their paws on stuff it’s three days old in blog land, and far too often spun into near fable quality nonsense in addition to being dated.

    The one thing I continue to watch on the eejit box is the panel shows- Brit Hume’s bunch, lil’ Steffie the dwarf’s show (due to George Will), Dennis Miller now and again, the dude on MSNBC with the show called Scarborough(?) country, and Tim Russert when he has an interesting victim on. I consider these the raw feeds for a lot of the commentary on the blogs (i.e. clarke the error free lizard on russert last sunday), so it’s interesting to compare and contrast my impressions with various bloggers.

    Think the current election cycle will be an incredibly interesting one- for the first time, blogs have enough readership and credibility to affect the public debate on the worthiness of the respective candidates… the arrogant “king makers” of the traditional media outlets no longer hold a monopoly on information, so their egregious distortions of reality won’t resonate nearly so much this go around. The concept of “fact checkin’ yer ass” comes to mind here. Ah, Capitalism in the marketplace of ideas- what a grand thing.

    Right then- apologies all for the bloviating blather… it won’t happen again.

  5. Jim says:

    TV news is going through a shift. I want to know how many people have CNN or Fox News on in the background at work. 90% of the time unwatched except for breaking news items. CNN/Fox is the perfect cueing device to see what the next emergency is before looking on for details.