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Fixing MSNBC

May 13, 2002  •  Post A Comment

MSNBC didn’t ask for any advice from the peanut gallery on how to get out of third place, but Electronic Media did. Here are the highlights from discussions with a few news junkies who happen to also be masters of branding, marketing and entertaining.
Phil Rosenthal, executive producer, `Everybody Loves Raymond’
“Anyone with a brain in their head doesn’t watch anything because there’s a flag in the corner.
“You’re looking for the person who tells the story best. You’re looking for the most interesting presentation, for lack of a better word, of that information. If it’s a physical event, you’re actually looking for a different angle than you’re seeing on every other channel as you’re flipping by. You’re looking for the person that they will interview who is the most relevant to the story [or] the people who are capable of getting the most interviews or who have access to the most camera coverage.
“I’m happy with MSNBC the way it is. I don’t see a problem. I like what they provide. The problem is there are so many stations. If somebody doesn’t like what a station is doing … they’re just going to flip to another one.”
Julie Hoffman, executive VP and chief marketing officer, World Wrestling Entertainment
“Certainly if promotion and brand were all that is necessary to build a brand, MSNBC would have won that game because they certainly had the resources, between Microsoft and NBC. But I don’t think that’s the game.
“Create a hybrid … simple, direct, easy-to-digest, quick news for the non-news junkies.
“You have to understand your product and the competitors’ product and create a real point of differentiation and then move to that point of differentiation. That means being willing to let go of an audience. News is, by its very core, an old [-skewing] category. NBC and Microsoft tend to be [young-skewing] consumer brands, so there’s a conflict there immediately.
“Particularly in the news category, you can’t be all things to all people, and I think that’s what `America’s NewsChannel’ is trying to do. Fox and CNN are saturating that news audience. By being different, you have to give up the traditional news audience. Don’t go for share. Create your own audience. [Don’t] try to share-shift. There’s just not enough share to shift from, except in times of crisis-but you can’t build a business on times of crisis.
“If all else fails, put [Phil] Donahue and [Larry] King in the ring and see what happens.”
Madeleine Smithberg, co-creator and executive producer, `The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’
“[MSNBC] is definitely the classiest looking of the bunch of them. I think it’s pretty. I think they have the most soothing color palate. Maybe what they should do is … market themselves as a screensaver.
“It was a step in the right direction when Ashleigh Banfield climbed the Brooklyn Bridge. It was really fun seeing her out of breath. I think it was a mistake to do that as a one-off. Have Ashleigh Banfield climb some more national monuments. Do it as a travel series.
“Have more plastic surgery. I think it worked really well for Greta [Van Susteren]. MSNBC is not paying attention to what’s working for Fox.
“Quite honestly, I think the void that they can fill at this time is stick to covering stories as a newsgathering organization and keep your nose clean.
“To me, the entire thing right now is embodied by the media cluster outside [former California Congressman] Gary Condit’s house. Why don’t you guys pool your resources? Why do we need 80,000 cameras taking the exact same shot? If MSNBC really wanted to do something, couldn’t they smarten it up and not go to the lowest common denominator … become a thinking person’s news source, the moral equivalent of The New York Times or National Public Radio? Then there’d be a reason for it.”