Obama Inauguration Demonstrates Changes in News Consumption

Jan 20, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th president of the United States turned out to be more traditional television than a showcase for broadcast technology.
That made the story of the day less what the coverage looked like, but how the coverage was consumed. Early data indicated that a record number of viewers turned to the Web to watch the ceremony.
CNN’s Web site received record-breaking traffic, and non-news-media Web sites including Major League Baseball’s MLB.com and cable network BET increased distribution. Other sites including social network Facebook also carried the proceeding.
Part of the traditional news broadcasters’ approach to the telecast was driven by the nature of the event itself.
Industry observers said that unlike an Election Night where broadcast technology can add significantly to viewers’ understanding, the basics of an inauguration haven’t changed.
“What strikes me is all the things that people think about modern television is not what this is,” said Aaron Brown, a former CNN and ABC anchor, and now a professor at Arizona State University. “The technology is almost completely irrelevant.”
He said high shots give a sense of the crowd size, but that’s a technology that hasn’t changed since the 1960s (with the exception of color television and HD broadcasts).
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, also said that TV coverage of the Obama swearing-in appeared very similar to the past.
It wasn’t that the networks didn’t offer different techniques today. Besides high shots, there were cutaways from Washington to locations in other cities where people were watching the inauguration. CNN was trying to get a picture from space of the throng on the National Mall.
While coverage didn’t appear tremendously different, the way people saw it went through some changes.
Mr. Brown said he found the fact that TV had to tell the inauguration story in a traditional way—by letting it unfold—somewhat reassuring.
“There was this kind of simplicity. This was pointing the camera and letting things play out,” he said. “One of the great things is that TV does great is to step back and let things play out.”
Mr. Brown said that while the network and cable anchors all did admirable jobs, he missed the presence of the late ABC anchor Peter Jennings.
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. It is MLB.com, not MVB.com.

  2. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  3. Great stuff, though there are a few points I would query.

  4. WATCH OUT! THOSE ADS ON TOP OF THE SITE LEADS TO MALWARE!! I enjoy your blog but please do something with it :/

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