Americans like to know what’s happening. We cherish at least the illusion of being meaningfully informed. “Wuzzup?” might well be our national motto. To this end we have become a nation drenched in data. Television and the Internet provide instant access to information. But in the ubiquitous welter of satellite images, opinions, and talking heads, we depend upon the morning news to learn what happened while we slept.
In the midst of sweeps season, the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index surveyed four TV morning news shows (on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC) for audience attitudes. Four drivers — Good Hosts, Entertaining Features and Interviews, Trustworthy News Reporting, and Credible and Expert Guests — were identified as the attributes that get viewers to turn to one channel over the others.
Here’s how they fared:
Apparently Katie Couric really earns all that loot. NBC wins by a knockout in this prime dimension, Even beating the Ideal News Show. CNN and ABC tie for second-place charm. But what does it tell us about audience sophistication that the presenters rather than the information presented are the key elements in choosing a news service?
Entertaining Features and Interviews
Although none of the four networks surpassed the Ideal, once again NBC leads the pack, closely followed by ABC and CNN, and not so closely by CBS. It’s interesting to note that “entertaining features” should be more important to news viewers than trustworthy news reporting, although it’s further confirmation of the melding of news and entertainment in the viewers’ consideration set.
Trustworthy News Reporting
Here CNN whacks not only the competition, but also the Ideal. This pioneering news service is widely considered within government circles to represent what Americans know about unfolding world events and “breaking news.” Perhaps CNN is trusted because its on-the-spot 24/7 international coverage has produced scoops such as “Desert Storm Live From Baghdad.” Although there is a “live drama” entertainment aspect to all reportage, and all good professional reporters know how to deliver it, CNN is perceived as doing it a little better than the three big networks.
Credible and Expert Guests
All of the shows beat the Ideal, probably because most people, knowing they are not experts themselves, take TV’s word that the guests are competent. It seems to confirm the viewers’ preference for showmanship and personality over content. We are already accustomed to “happy face” local morning news shows, starring cheery, coffee-sipping yuksters who represent the same ethnic balance as their audience’s demographic. But are we now witnessing the dumbing-down of all news, even at the national and international level?
Robert Passikof, Ph.D, is president of BrandKeys, a loyalty research and consulting firm.