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Media Watch Home Page --> April 2009

Sun Setting Over Baltimore?

The Tribune Co., already in bankruptcy, continued its bloody purges to reduce cost. After trimming 300 jobs at the Los Angeles Times earlier this year, the axe now fell on the Baltimore Sun. On Wednesday, 61 newsroom employees were dismissed, including 21 senior editors and managers who were immediately ushered out of the newsroom by security guards.

Though the management personnel eliminated were not members of the newspaper guild, the union voiced strong reaction to the mass layoffs.

"Tribune, through careless management practices, has saddled itself under $13 billion in debt and now Baltimore is paying a price," said Cet Parks, Executive Director of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. "Tribune is siphoning good jobs from Baltimore and sending work that talented editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors and designers have done here to its home base in Chicago. That is not right."

In January, the Sun entered into a cooperative arrangement with the Washington Post to cover the Beltway area. At the time, both papers insisted that there would be no newsroom reduction as a result. It took the Tribune Co. exactly four months to renege on that pledge. (The article on the "no reduction" pledge also conveniently disappeared off the Sun's web site.)

But leave it to the Tribune Co. to spin its latest move as a "plan for success, not just survival."

Biased or Not, Fox News Still On Top

In spite of (or, perhaps because of) the perception that the Fox News Channel is hyper-critical of President Obama, it continues to dominate cable news ratings. In April, Fox News' viewership in fact grew from the previous three months, with an audience that exceeded the combined total of both CNN and MSNBC.

For prime time, (8-11 p.m.), Fox News averaged 551,000 viewers in the target 25-54 demo. MSNBC has jumped past CNN, though still finished a distant second, with 271,000. CNN is third with 248,000 and its little sibling HLN fourth with 231,000. In addition to the growth of Fox News (a staggering 63%) and HLN (47%) over April 2008, MSNBC was up 16%, while CNN was down 12%.

Fox News had the top 11 cable news programs in total viewers and 12 of the top 15 in the demo. The phenomenal success of Glenn Beck's program, at 5 p.m., has helped that growth. In fact, every program on Fox News from 9 a.m. and on has seen at least a 60% percent increase in the demo, led by Beck's 212% over the same period in 2008.

Despite Obama's robust approval ratings, at least one pundit thought Fox News' soaring ratings are a cause for concern for the left:


That most new cable news viewers are turning to Fox, rather than to CNN or MSNBC, is what's scaring the hell out of me. Fox anchors, particularly in primetime, preach a brand of ignorant negativity that will never help us get out of the economic mess we're in. They seem to hope that Obama will fail, while most of the rest of us hope that he will succeed. But, if I'm right when I say "most of us," why is it that more people are watching FoxNews in primetime than CNN and MSNBC combined.

I've written before that I believe what people watch on television more accurately reflects their true feelings than what they tell pollsters over the telephone. If that's the case, it would seem there are more haters than there are hopers, and we are in for a very hard time.

Fox News Too Hard on Obama

Fox News has run up unprecedented ratings numbers since the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Beginning in January, Fox News has dominated cable news rivals and reached No. 2 in overall cable ratings, behind only USA.

It seems like being Obama's No. 1 critic has been a winning ticket for Fox News. And a recent Pew Research Center survey appeared to agree with that observation.

Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed from April 17-20 thought Fox News was too critical of Obama, including 44 percent of Democrats and 25 percent independents. Even 18 percent of Republicans thought Fox News' coverage of Obama was too harsh.

On the flip side, all three major networks, CNN and MSNBC received about the same amount of complaints about being too easy on Obama, between 13-16 percent. Republican dissatisfaction went across the board, with between 22-28 percent believing these five networks were too easy on Obama. About one-sixth of independents also thought so.

One interesting side note on the survey: While Fox News stood out as the one that's most critical of Obama, a majority of independents thought multiple networks were too easy on Obama (to go with 62% of Republicans). You may even suggest that while being critical (or too critical) of Obama has been good business for Fox News, none of the other networks has reaped much benefit by appearing to be easy on Obama.

Troubled Times Not Going Private

The New York Times Co. released its first quarter earnings. And it's not a pretty picture. The company is fast running out of cash. And given the severe decline in advertising revenue, an immediately turnaround appears unlikely.

Facing the shareholders this morning, NYT Co. Chairman Arthur (Pinch) Sulzberger Jr. made sure to trumpet the paper's five Pulitzers before being forced to answer a few difficult questions. He insisted that there are no plans to take the company private, but dodged inquiries about the fate of the Boston Globe, which could be on the chopping block.

Sulzberger did make it seem that it's all but inevitable that the Times will be installing a paywall for nytimes.com, the leading newspaper web site in the world:

As we chart our course toward a sustainable digital future, we have come to recognize with increasing clarity that online success will require substantial re-conceptualization, thoughtful execution, and a great willingness to take full advantage of the Web, an amazing laboratory for entrepreneurs, technologists and, of course, journalists.

As our history amply demonstrates, we are not adverse to change. ... Today, in the face of the economic downturn, we are renewing our analysis of how paid content can augment our core advertising business. The goal, of course, is to garner incremental revenue from the user without significantly cannibalizing our high rate ad pages.

Recently, we analyzed the business models of more than 30 different organizations to determine which are the most effective in generating revenues online. What we believe is that the advertising model we have used at NYTimes.com has generated more revenue than the vast majority of other organizations, including some that are much larger than our site.

That said, we continue to take a fresh, hard and deep look at various subscription, purchase and micropayment models. We will have more to say on this subject at a future date.

That future date will be sooner rather than later. According to the latest financial reports, the NYT is down to its last $294 million, with $260 already committed to pay off a debt due next March, leaving it with a scant $34 million in the bank.

Facing such a crunch, it's of little surprise that the NYT's charitable arm, the New York Times Company Foundation, is suspending all grant-making as of May 22.

Newspaper Bailout? Don't Bet On It

America's troubled newspapers are getting a lot of attention these days. But the last place it should be seeking assistance from is Capitol Hill.

For the record, newspapers have not asked the government for a bailout, even in these the worst of times for the industry. That hasn't stopped Congress from talking about them.

The House Judiciary Committee called a meeting yesterday, at the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to examine what ails the industry and what might be done about it. Pelosi (D-Calif.), no doubt, is trying to score political brownie points by lending a hand to her hometown San Francisco Chronicle. But her colleagues instead used the meeting to bash the media business - from the left and right.

For those that showed up, that is. Most of the subcommittee members weren't even there. The ones that were took out whatever personal grievances they had against newspapers, starting with chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.):

[Conyers] countered with his contempt for Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch "telling us how important it is that the media remain free and viable." He recalled his own "hard feelings" about once being arrested while protesting outside one of the Detroit newspapers. "I'm going to ask their editors if I should meet with them tomorrow," he said bitterly. "Now that they're in bad shape, maybe I should help them?"

Conyers, who has collected his share of less-than-favorable headlines over the years, went on. "Newspapers remind me of automobile corporations," he said. "All of a sudden they need help, they need a lot of help and they need it fast."

Keep in mind that Conyers' beef with newspapers is deeply personal. His wife, Monica Conyers, is the president of the Detroit City Council and also frequently in the news for her thuggish behavior. Her brother just last week was arrested for drunk driving - and a probe of how she got him (a convicted felon) a city job is ongoing.

The show, er, meeting would've been comical if it wasn't so sad. At one point, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) asked if there were any "spies" in the audience.

Meanwhile, in the same building, former presidential candidate John Kerry is on a mission to save his own hometown paper - the Boston Globe. Kerry (D-Mass.) wants the Senate to call its own hearing to see what can be done to stop the newspaper hemorrhage.

In a letter to the employees of the Globe, whose parent New York Times Co. has threatened to shut it down if new labor deals aren't reached by May 1, Sen. Kerry wrote:

America's newspapers are struggling to survive, and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount. ... I am committed to your fight, committed to your industry and committed to ensuring that the vital public service newspapers provide does not disappear.

While there may be some truly noble sentiments among the elected representatives to "save" the business, newspapers are best advised to seek solutions of their own. After all, having a free press is all about not getting in bed with the government.

Pulitzer Prize Winners - 2009

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced Monday afternoon by Columbia University and listed below. Click here for the complete press release.

JOURNALISM:

Public Service - Las Vegas Sun (for its reporting on construction deaths on the Vegas Strip)

Breaking News Reporting - The New York Times Staff (coverage of Eliot Spitzer's demise)

Investigative Reporting - David Barstow of The New York Times (retired generals on the take to drum up support for Iraq war)

Explanatory Reporting - Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times (western wildfires)

Local Reporting - Detroit Free Press Staff (demise of mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) and
Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, Mesa, AZ (exposing a popular local sheriff)

National Reporting - St. Petersburg Times Staff (fact-checking initiative over the 2008 presidential campaign)

International Reporting - The New York Times Staff (Afpak coverage)

Feature Writing - Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times

Commentary - Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post

Criticism - Holland Cotter of The New York Times

Editorial Writing - Mark Mahoney of The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY

Editorial Cartooning - Steve Breen of The San Diego Union-Tribune

Breaking News Photography - Patrick Farrell of The Miami Herald

Feature Photography - Damon Winter of The New York Times

LETTERS, DRAMA and MUSIC:

Fiction - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

Drama - Ruined by Lynn Nottage

History - The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company)

Biography - American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)

Poetry - The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction - Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)

Music - Double Sextet by Steve Reich, premiered March 26, 2008 in Richmond, VA (Boosey & Hawkes)


The big winner this year, without a doubt, is the much-maligned New York Times, taking five Pulitzers after winning one and sharing one last year. St. Petersburg Times, which last won a Pulitzer in 1998, is a multiple winner for the first time Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker became the first finalist for an online-only publication.

The Washington Post didn't fare as well, with columnist Eugene Robinson as its lone winner for commentary. In 2008, the Post won six Pulitzers in public service, breaking news, feature, commentary and both national and international reporting. Wall Street Journal is shut out for the second consecutive year, its reporting on the financial crisis losing out to the St. Pete Times.

Fox News Having a Grand Tea Party

According to the Drudge Report, Fox News had a banner day on tax day, particularly with its coverage of the various Tea Parties across the nation protesting taxes.

The numbers from Wednesday night - (prime-time viewers from 8-11 p.m.)

Fox News - 3,390,000
MSNBC - 1,210,000
CNN - 1,070,000
HLN - 909,000

And Fox's programming also dominated viewership among cable news shows -

Fox News O'Reilly - 3,980,000
Fox News Hannity - 3,239,000
Fox News van Susteren- 2,947,000
Fox News Beck - 2,740,000
Fox News Baier - 2,401,000
Fox News Smith - 2,185,000
Comedy Central Stewart - 1,777,000
MSNBC Olbermann - 1,499,000
Comedy Central Colbert - 1,446,000
HLN Grace - 1,336,000
CNN King - 1,292,000
MSNBC Maddow - 1,149,000
CNN Cooper - 1,021,000

In fact, Fox News' viewership beat the combined total of CNN, MSNBC and HLN in every hour beginning at 5 p.m., except the the 7 p.m. slot.

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz complained that how the TV networks covered the day's events also became news in itself. He thought Fox News had gone a bit over the top:

The media coverage even became a factor in the reporting. At a Chicago demonstration, CNN's Susan Roesgen started arguing with a protester over why he referred to President Obama as a fascist. "I think you get the general tenor of this," she reported. "It's anti-government. Anti-CNN. This is highly promoted by the right-wing conservative network Fox." Fox anchor Shepard Smith later laughed off her words.

On the other hand, this brief rant by Fox Business Network anchor Cody Willard, posted by a Daily Kos contributor, didn't meet my definition of fair and balanced. Speaking of a young girl, Willard says: "Now she has to pay for the $800-billion Republican-Democrat fascist stimulus package . . . Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"

Guys, what happened to we're-just-covering-the-events?

But where Kurtz stands on this is somewhat debatable. After all, he works for CNN on the "Reliable Sources" and his network made a conscious decision to either shun or downplay the Tea Party events. Fox News definitely had a great day - but it simply made a smart business decision.

Coming Soon: Universal Pay Scheme

Amid the continuing fiscal meltdown for print media, a group has come up with a pay scheme that would make paying for reading a little less painless - at least a lot less cumbersome than the absurd mirco-payment method.

Though no one has yet signed on, the idea is quickly gaining currency. In essence, a reader can go to a central site and make a payment, which allows him access to numerous affiliated publications.

(Why didn't I think of this first?)

There's much heft, at least in terms of name recognition, behind the venture at Journalism Online LLC. Among the principals include Court TV founder Steven Brill, former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, and Leo Hindery Jr., who has headed communications companies like Tele-Communications Inc., Global Crossing and the YES Network, and now runs InterMedia Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in media.

Brill, who said the system will be up and running by the fall, thinks the fee should be around $15 per month for the readers. He said the venture streamlines the paying process and facilitates easy access:

"The most important thing is it's simple to use. Much of the barrier to charging online is the transaction friction, as opposed to the actual cost. With this system, you'd have a single password, give your credit card number just once."

Beyond getting money from the readers, the venture is mulling over charging search engines and news aggregators for royalty. This, without a doubt, will be met with some pushback, especially from dominant Internet entities such as Google.

A pay scheme seems inevitable in the near future as newspapers continue to flounder with sharply decreasing ad revenues. In 2008, newspapers reported a 16.6 decline in ad revenue, coinciding with the recession that began in late 2007. This year, ad revenues are down by as much as 30% in the first quarter, as a few papers have folded with a number of others also teetering on the brink of extinction.

New York Times on the Brink

Cash-strapped with rapidly declining readership (at least of the print variety), the New York Times faces an uncertain future, and its plight has been well-documented in recent months.

The Times' latest money-saving scheme has hit a snag. Trying to extract significant concessions from the unions of the Boston Globe, instead the Times Co. has met resistance. Essentially, the unions are calling the company's bluff. The Times, in turn, now threatens to put the Globe under bankruptcy protection.

Whatever the Times decides to do with the Globe, it's probably not going to completely turn around the fortunes of the company. It has too much debt, too many assets it can't divest and too few ideas to regain its footing, at least for the time being.

In January, The Atlantic ran an alarmist "End Times" piece that raised the specter of the Times' shutting down its print edition, as early as this year. The Times dismissed it out of hand. Now comes Vanity Fair's epic "The Inheritance," in which Mark Bowden chronicles the Times' inexorable decline under the stewardship of the scion Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, Jr., in a somewhat sympathetic portrayal.

It's quite lengthy, so you'd best go buy the May issue or get your printer to work. But here's a bit of a highlight:

Here, in a nutshell, in the words of a veteran Times staffer, is what is supposedly wrong with Arthur: "He has no rays"--rays, as in the lines cartoonists draw around a character to suggest radiance, or power. In the comics trade these lines are called "emanata." The emanata deficit is a standard insider lament about Arthur, although most Times people need a few more words to make the point.

No one can plumb another's depths. Arthur certainly seems clever enough, but try as he might, he fails to impress. He comes off as a lightweight, as someone slightly out of his depth, whose dogged sincerity elicits not admiration so much as pity. While no one blames him for what is clearly a crisis afflicting all newspapers, he has made a series of poor business moves that now follow him like the tail of a kite. He has doubled-down on print over the last two decades, most notably with his own newspaper but also spending more than a billion dollars to buy The Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Google Bites Back, But Gently

Talk about awkward.

One day after AP Chairman Dean Singleton kicked up a maelstrom, threatening a war between newspapers and aggregators, alluding to but without naming Google, Eric Schmidt had to address this same "mad as hell" crowd at the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) convention in San Diego.

In his keynote speech, the Google CEO claimed he was "confused" by the brouhaha, and pointedly mentioned his company's multimillion dollar deal to host and use AP's content. But more critically, he echoed the thinking by anyone who's seen the handwriting on the wall - blow up the obsolete business model:

"It's obvious to me that the majority of the circulation of a newspaper should be online, rather than printed. There should be five times, 10 times more circulation because there's no distribution cost. It doesn't cost anything to read it online from an end user perspective.

"I would start with -- My diagnosis is: how do we get to 10 times more readers online? What do they want to see? What is their style? My own bias, by the way, is a technology one: I think the sites are slow. They literally are not fast. They're actually slower than reading the paper, and that's something that can be worked on on a technical basis."

(His entire speech may be heard here)

Schmidt's other suggestions included - don't "piss off" the readers, think of the next act and still look to advertising as the primary revenue source.

While Schmidt was busy making nice with the NAA, his charges up north in Mountain View wasted little time in defending Google's legal position against the AP's challenge over fair use. But one media critic really took the gloves off.

Jeff Jarvis, a former New York Daily News Sunday editor who now considers himself more of a blogger, wrote a scathing commentary on his blog BuzzMachine, excoriating the newspaper business. The point in "The Speech the NAA Should Hear"? You blew it:

The public should be angry with you for the poor stewardship you have exercised over the press and its service to society. Your journalists are angry at you for losing their jobs. Your pressmen and drivers and classified-ad takers are angry at you for the same reason (and at the journalists for paying attention only to their own plight). Your advertisers were angry at you for using your monopolistic power to overcharge them and for providing inefficient platforms and bad service for so long. But they're not angry anymore because they left you for better advertising vehicles and better prices in a competitive marketplace.

But you're the ones who are acting angry.

Yesterday, you delivered a foot-stomping little hissy fit over Google and aggregators. How dare they link to you and not pay you? Oh, I so want Eric Schmidt to tell you today that you're getting your wish and that Google will no longer link to you. Beware what you wish for. You'd lose a third of your traffic overnight. If other aggregators (I work with one) and bloggers (I am one) and Facebook all decided to follow suit, you'd lose half your traffic. On most of your sites, only 20 percent of the audience in a day ever sees your homepage and its careful packaging; 4 of 5 readers instead come in through search and links. In the link economy - instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate - Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. You should rise up today and give Mr. Schmidt a big thank you for not charging you. But you won't, because you've refused to understand this new business reality.

You blew it.


AP Readies for War with Aggregators

At the Associated Press annual meeting, a new battle cry was sounded for the woebegone newspaper industry:

"We're as mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"

That came from William Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews and AP chairman during his keynote speech in San Diego. Singleton made it clear that the AP, a cooperative formed primarily by U.S. newspapers, will vigorously protect its content and demand revenue-sharing from web portals where it sees fit:

"(We will) work with portals and other partners who legally license our content ... and seek legal and legislative remedies against those who don't. We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories."

Neither Singleton nor anyone at the AP named their potential adversaries, but it's reasonable to surmise that their potential targets may range from Internet behemoths Google and Yahoo to news aggregators such as the Huffington Post. One of the contentious issues involves the use of excerpts; the other, on the portals' use of snippets of newspaper articles to generate ad revenue.

Google was quick to respond to this potential challenge, saying that any confrontation over fair use would be misguided.

"We believe search engines are of real benefit to newspapers, driving valuable traffic to their Web sites and connecting them with new readers around the world," Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker told the New York Times. "We believe that both Google Web Search and Google News are fully consistent with copyright law -- we simply link users to the site at which the news story appears."

Singleton was light on details as to how the AP plans to pursue what he termed "new rules of engagement." But he insisted that print media isn't dead, it just needs to do better - particularly by protecting its most valuable assets - in order to maximize its earning potential:

"I think our industry has been very timid about protecting our content, probably because we've done so well in the past few years that we didn't recognize that misappropriation is as serious an issue as it is. As we're now relooking at business models, it's become clear that we must protect the rights of our content.

We perhaps have been timid about enforcing [those rights]. No more. We own the content but we've let those who spend very little, if any, get the most advantage from it. (But) I am very confident that we will develop new models that help us get more."

Boston Globe on the Ropes?

The cash-strapped New York Times Co. is looking for more ways to get out from its mountainous debt. Its latest move appears to be extracting substantial concessions from the unions at the Boston Globe.

Failing that, it may shut down the paper altogether.

The Times Co., which purchased the Globe in 1993 for $1.1. billion, is seeking paycuts, a freeze of pensions and other concessions from the 13 unions of the paper, its second biggest after the flagship New York Times. Founded in 1872, the Globe is still the dominant paper in New England, though its circulation has dropped precipitously over the last decade, to its current 324,000.

With over $1 billion in debt, the Times Co. in recent months has sought to raise cash aggressively. It sold its Eighth Avenue headquarters and rented back the office space; it received a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim; and it continues to shop its 17.5% stake in New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park.

The Times has been shopping the Globe as well, but with an estimated worth of $20 million, there has been no takers. Just two years ago, the Times rebuffed inquiries for the Globe, at the time valued at $500-$600 million.

The Globe's crosstown rival Boston Herald has long been rumored to have an interest in acquiring the paper. But late last year, Herald publisher Pat Purcell denied that any discussions were held with officials from the Times Co. Jack Connors, a Boston advertising executive who did try to buy the Globe in 2007 - along with former GE CEO Jack Welch - also claimed there wasn't any renewed interest on his part, saying "sometimes in life, you're lucky for the deals you don't get."

Times Co.'s threat may very well be a tactical move to force the unions to play ball in order to cut costs, similar to what the Hearst Corporation engineered with the newspaper guild of the San Francisco Chronicle. But it has nevertheless gotten the union's attention. Said Ralph Giallanella, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 259, which represents about 200 drivers who deliver the newspaper:

"We all know the newspaper industry is going through great transition and loss. The ad revenues have fallen off the cliff. Just based on everything that's going on around the country, they're serious."

Fox News Continues Reign with Big Three

So far, the Obama Administration has been great business for Fox News.

Led by the trio of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and newcomer Glenn Beck, Fox News maintained its hold as the leading cable news network for March, as well as the first quarter of 2009. Fox News' primetime viewership of 2.3 million was more than the combined total of No. 2 CNN (1.1 million) and No. 3 MSNBC (957,000). HLN, formerly Headline News, is fourth (330,000).

O'Reilly celebrated his 100th consecutive month as the leading cable news program, dating back to 2000. Hannity, sans his former lefty sidekick/punching bag Alan Colmes, is No. 2, up 36% from the same period last year. Overall, Fox News has nine of the top 10 cable news programs in viewership.

The phenomenal growth of Glenn Beck's 5 p.m. show has been a boost to Fox News. A self-proclaimed "rodeo clown," Beck switched from HLN to Fox News two months ago and has increased viewership for the same time slot by nearly 100% from a year ago. Beck's show is now a solid No. 3 overall.

While Fox News' hold on top is unchallenged, CNN is desperately trying to fend off MSNBC for second place. Among primetime viewers, CNN has fallen behind MSNBC in the most desirable demographic category of 25-54 year-olds, and with only about half of Fox News' audience.

With the addition of Rachel Maddow in the 9 p.m. slot, MSNBC has siphoned off considerable number of viewers from CNN. Once the dominant cable news show, Larry King Live is on the verge of being pushed into third place for the time slot behind both Hannity and Maddow.

The slide of Larry King may be symptomatic of the struggles at CNN, which is trying to entrench itself as the "middle ground" between Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left. The problem seems to be that there's not a lot of audience for that in an increasingly polarized political landscape:

Over time ... King's show has become the home of criminal mysteries, and entertainment conversation. For viewers who want political talk, either FNC or MSNBC is the place to go. It is really is only a matter of time until Maddow starts beating King on a nightly basis ... King's slide is another symptom of CNN's inability to keep up with the times.

Meanwhile, network news continued its inexorable decline. NBC, with Brian Williams, maintained its hold on first place with modesty growth in the first quarter. ABC's Charles Gibson came in second while Katie Couric and CBS languished in third, with nearly 3 million fewer viewers than NBC.