Commentary

What Is News Still Doing On TV?

Now, the only time I watch television all news networks is when big stuff happens, so I was perched on CNN watching the terrorism dispatches from Paris. It was not then that it hit me but it was then that I was convinced that the idea of three all-news networks (or four if you count Al Jazeera, or five if you count Headline News) is utterly ridiculous to me.  

There are so many other, better ways to get news, but mainly I’m talking online and video, of course. Even without going deep in the weeds to find relatively obscure sites, the old established news purveyors are now doing a credible, bare-bones job online.

As a matter of fact, what I like about CBSN is that its streaming news service is so unvarnished.  CNN’s Charlie Hebdo coverage on TV came with the big graphics, “Breaking” and lift out quotes blastered on-screen; CBSN, either by design or deliberate cheapness, just had voice-over-video mostly. CNN.com and CNNGo also work smarter, and offer more choices for users; you don't have to watch the same droning over and over.

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Anybody with a mobile phone or just a laptop can have a better news watching experience than they will on TV.

So the news watching equation is really just turned around. Where once I watched video news online only because a TV wasn't around, now, to me, the least efficient. least satisfying way to see news video is on a TV screen.

I read, on VentureBeat, that NBC’s BreakingNews.com is adding a video feature to its iPhone app. VB reports, without much noting the irony, “While many news aggregators already feature video snippets, NBC’s real-time Breaking News service has just introduced a new live video feature. . .”

So let’s see: There’s a news service, owned by a network, that has largely avoided video up to this point, at least on its apps. 

In fact BreakingNews.com refers to links like crazy; it’s Twitteresque like that.  “The new live feature taps video from NBC News itself and Stringwire, a user-generated video platform acquired by NBC back in 2013,” VentureBeat reports. “Breaking News will broadcast between 3 and 6 live events a day, covering things like press conferences, protests, and other major newsworthy events.”

It’s hard to say any of the online places could become favorites based on personality or charming quirks--or politics. But they’re efficient. News has become so thoroughly a commodity it’s almost as if that old wire machine sound effect the all-news radio stations kept using long after the wire machines were gone should be resurrected online, because the headlines just pop-pop-pop.

And as a consumer, I smoke most of the news, but inhale just a little.  

For thoughtful news, I’ll show my age and background and admit I still like the thought-out randomness and decorum of a newspaper. (You really should try one for a week or so.) But for every day, every hour, watching on TV seems so awkward you can’t believe the network news divisions, or CNN on cable, will exist much longer--not on television anyhow.  

pj@mediapost.com
4 comments about "What Is News Still Doing On TV?".
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  1. J S from Ideal Living Media, January 14, 2015 at 6 p.m.

    Good points.

    And yet, TV news still beats newspapers by 12 - 36 hours.

    I suspect that the 24 hour news cycle will be replaced with more news-magazine type content, produced by local media companies.

  2. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, January 14, 2015 at 6:20 p.m.

    Paula: "We will see on line news on the television before all news on line" is undoubtedly true if I read you correctly. Smart TVs should radically alter how and where people watching a large screen get their news. (Thanks for your comments...PJ)

  3. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 15, 2015 at 9:51 a.m.

    Analysis:
    Broadcast TV News on a linear feed is 100% curated.
    Younger generation and online/mobile audiences prefer un-curated content (news) with search/discovery.
    Those linear audiences will continue to shift to on demand as time goes on. It's secular not cyclical.

  4. Howard Homonoff from Homonoff Media Group LLC, January 19, 2015 at 11 a.m.

    PJ - I enjoyed your piece even while disagreeing with it. In fact, you inspired my own piece today on Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/howardhomonoff/2015/01/19/the-value-of-tv-news-should-cnn-just-run-sitcoms/

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