CNN’s Public Editor: Why Web Video Divides More Than TV


This is a warning to anyone relying on free internet content. for their news. If CNN on air is compromised (as i told it), then the network videos uploaded are even worse.

Let me explain. Cable companies like CNN cannot publish all segments of programming online due to restrictions imposed by cable companies who do not want the content to be distributed for free. So at CNN, a team of more than 100 people dedicated to digital video select the TV clips that they think will generate the most traffic online to increase their ability to sell digital ads on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. . This means that online you will probably get the most polarizing content from CNN.

To test this, I compared the content on CNN TV to what it posted online during the same 24-hour period, October 26-27. At CNN’s YouTube channel, a fairly good facsimile of what’s posted elsewhere online, he released thirteen clips on a range of ten different topics. I was delighted to see an online segment on COP26, the climate change summit, and another on China and Taiwan. But the topic mostly reflected prime-time TV content: Donald Trump, GOP antics, market politics (not politics), and COVID controversies.

Seven of those thirteen clips, such as “Haberman on Trump Letter: He Doesn’t Care If He Looks Desperate” and “GOP Senators Break Out at Garland at Heated Audition” – were, to my mind. opinions, more polarizing or conflict-based than informative.

By comparison, what was on the air was much more expansive and informative (outside of prime time anyway). During that 24-hour period, the network broadcast over 170 segments covering at least 45 different topics.

And while the prime time leaned heavily towards the set on the set of the movie Rust, and political and polarizing content overall, by my calculations, only about a third of TV segments (62) leaned toward polarization (compared to over half online).

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There were segments on China’s possible nuclear test, inflation, the coup in Sudan, the Taliban, and two useful discussions on the proposed billionaire tax. Without surprise, none of this was broadcast in prime time. To benefit from it, one would have had to watch during daytime working hours or in the middle of the night. Overnight, most hours started with Sudan or the risk of COVID at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

CNN’s digital audience is massive, so these disparities make a significant difference in the information people consume. The network recently boasted Ranked # 1 in “Unique Visitors to the US for more than five consecutive years … with more unique video viewers and minutes spent than any other news editor.”

In total, CNN recorded 100 million unique visitors last month, the eighth month in a row. While CNN’s homepage is packed with useful content, most people prefer to watch news than reading them, even those who cut the cord, so printed articles are less likely to be consumed.

Based on recent notes (although they are probably not correct), CNN’s linear television audience averaged 735,000 prime-time viewers per hour and a total of 516,000 per day. And the video posted online also endures over time, increasing its influence, unlike the experience of watching or missing it on old-school TV.

Audiences should be aware that producers don’t necessarily think about what’s best for viewers when deciding what to post online. They choose what is most likely to get a click and so, once again, the content that divides is magnified.

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Ariana Pekary is CJR’s public editor for CNN. She was an award-winning public radio and MSNBC reporter for two decades. Now she is focusing on the systemic flaws in commercial television news. She can be contacted at [email protected]

TOP IMAGE: Adobe Stock

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