CNN on the Web outshines TV

June 18, 2007

Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons made news last week by publicly that CNN’s Web site is out performing the network’s television broadcasts. “I worry about CNN more than I do about,” Parsons said.

Speaking at a London media conference, Parsons expressed pessimism about the state of the cable news operation, whose ratings have been in steady decline since 2003. On the other hand, traffic continues to increase.

Unique users on the Web site were up nearly 25 percent to 26 million visitors in April compared with the same period a year ago. That, coupled with the 90 million worldwide subscribers to CNN Mobile, suggests that CNN’s breaking-news model fits in better online among sit-forward viewers than it does in the sit-back environment of America’s living rooms, according to “Ad Age.”

“We’re all pretty convinced that news doesn’t break on TV anymore,” Eric Bader, senior vice president and managing director of digital connections at MediaVest, told “Ad Age.” “Almost everybody across pretty much every economic and age demographic learns of breaking news online, increasingly on mobile.”

CNN built its reputation on its ability to deliver breaking news 24 hours a day and essentially trained its audience to tune in for headlines, the report said. The Web has taken away that core mission, and CNN has since struggled to find a new approach for its television broadcasts.

Where the audience goes, the ad dollars follow. Since 2003, CNN’s cable revenue has dropped 11 percent, from $424.2 million to $378.5 million in 2006, while digital revenue has nearly doubled, from $34.8 million to $71.4 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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