Thursday, April 10, 2008

Katie - Don't Bar The Door, USE The Door!

It looks like Katie Couric's days as anchor of the CBS Evening News are more or less officially numbered now, as it has become apparent she is never going to rise out of the basement in the ratings race against NBC and ABC. I say the sooner she leaves, the better, and that she never should have been hired to begin with. This is nothing against Katie Couric. I think she is a fine journalist. I must also confess to having a sentimental affection for her because, like me, she is both a DC area native and a former WMAL intern. But the fact is that no one, man or woman, would have brought CBS out of the ashes in the post-Dan Rather era, and handing that task to Katie Couric was simply a disservice to her. CBS would have been better off shelving the Evening News altogether, and that's what they should do now.

Look at the demographics - Very few people under the age of 60 faithfully watch network evening newscasts, and many of the seniors who do tune in do it out of habit. They're not going to change their routines. My 72-year-old mother-in-law watched Cronkite and Rather, and she watches Couric now. If Bozo the clown replaces Katie, she'll watch him, too. There's virtually no potential for building a new audience there, so why pay Katie Couric 15 million dollars a year to inevitably fail?

Between NBC, ABC and CBS, about 19 million people watch traditional evening newscasts, so there is still, for now, a viable market for that particular product. But for how much longer? The future is digital, not TV news. In a speech earlier this week, Disney chief Bob Iger waxed wishfully that ABC News had the same level of resources as CNN, so it could even the playing field in online news. Iger doesn't seem to be too occupied with the future of TV news, does he? Meanwhile, CBS is considering making a deal to outsource much of its news product to CNN.

Am I, a traditional media person, shooting myself in the foot by discussing all of this? Perhaps, but I'm adapting to the present. New blog... New website (coming soon).... New Facebook account... Social media is the future. What is NOT the future is the CBS Evening News. It, in fact, IS your father's Oldsmobile.

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