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No Mercy No Malice

Twitter/CNN

November 20, 2020

8-min read

In March 2008, after raising $600 million, acquiring 18% of the outstanding stock, and threatening a proxy contest, I was elected to the board of The New York Times Company. The company was struggling to make the transition from print to digital. The stock was at $17 (down from $53 in 2002). Investors were fleeing the Gray Lady for hotter, younger online media properties. 

The Times is likely the most important media firm of the last century. At one point I had dinner with Bill Keller, executive editor at the time, who had to excuse himself to help negotiate the release of a Times journalist taken hostage by the Taliban. Our best and brightest were doing hostage negotiations while Google’s best were busy programming ways to steal and monetize the content of the hostage. In my first meeting, I urged the board to consider shutting off Google’s crawlers and got nowhere. 

I failed to establish a productive working relationship with Chairman Arthur Sulzberger. Striking a balance between being right and being effective is something I’ve struggled with my entire life.

My thesis was that the Times had the best brand in news globally, but that it needed to become a digital platform, monetizing traffic across an array of products. I lobbied the firm to sell its non-core assets (the seventh tallest building in America, the Boston Globe, 17% of the Red Sox, 16 regional newspapers, and about.com). I also lobbied to cancel the dividend (hush money for family members without overpaid jobs at the Times), double down on digital, move to subscription, and cease the idolatry of innovators (Google crawling our content for free, Apple distributing our content on poor terms). 

During my 24-month tenure on the board, my first son was born, Lehman filed for bankruptcy, Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture … and the Times company stock sank to $3.50. Yet the marauders breaching the gray walls did catalyze real change. Specifically every damn thing we lobbied for. The firm put its main content behind a paywall and built out verticals based on its famous crossword and its deep content in cooking, real estate, and health. This seems obvious now, but it was hugely controversial at the time

Undeterred by skeptics, the company launched podcasts, video products, and built a data journalism team that makes data sing with infographics that set the standard for all media. All without losing the DNA of the company, the most eminent concentration of great journalists ever assembled. 

History Doesn’t Repeat, It CNNs

A similar structural change is unfolding in television news. TV news organizations including NBC, Fox, and CNN are television stations that also have web sites. But the linear television business model is eroding, and they, like the Times a decade ago, need to double down on digital and make a move to subscription. 

This isn’t just a business story. Robust reporting of the news is essential to a healthy civic society. In our original letter to The New York Times Company in 2008, I wrote that the Times, like all great journalistic institutions, “is the world’s foremost evangelist for democracy, capitalism, and culture.” CNN holds a similar space. 

But news is also a sh*tty business. A robust news organization maintains hundreds of employees around the world, with a variety of expertise and experience, on the off chance that something important happens on their beat. They don’t get to schedule world events in a seasonal rhythm or promote breaking news stories in advance. Even if a media firm calls something “The Situation Room,” they still need to find the situation.

CNN has two main sources of revenue: cable subscriptions and advertising. Both depend on viewership, and both are in structural decline. 

25 million U.S. households have cancelled their cable subscriptions since 2012, and last month CNBC reported that the industry expects another 25 million households to cut the cord in just the next five years. There’s a reason two of the sharpest minds in media, Jeff Bewkes (who launched television’s second golden age as head of HBO) and Rupert Murdoch (tremendous damage to the world), both dumped their cable bundle businesses in 2016. Pro tip: when these two guys are selling an asset class, run from that asset class. 

News and sports are the last remaining anchors of the cable bundle, but the streamers have the deepest pockets. Netflix nibbled its way through reruns and lousy movies for years before taking a mammoth bite of first-run content. Amazon currently broadcasts an NFL game and a Premier League match each week on Prime. If Jeff Bezos will spend $6 billion to take his girlfriend to the Emmys (Amazon original content), imagine what he’ll pay to be on the field at the Super Bowl or the World Cup. Meanwhile, Apple is sampling news with News+, and HBO already has two news hits with Bill Maher and John Oliver. 

As subscribers drop, so too goes ad revenue. But it gets worse, because digital competition is eating linear television’s lunch. Viewers are catching on that advertising is a tax on the poor/lazy and can be evaded via subscription. And advertisers are flocking to digital products that offer more precise targeting and measurement. CNN is only able to garner 23 cents per viewer per hour interrupting Fareed Zakaria with constant reminders that getting old sucks. The cable bundle is built on the assumption that your time is worth less than $1/hour.

CNN and its ilk enjoyed a stay of execution these past four years thanks to The Trump Show, a four-year NASCAR race with a fiery crash every 15 minutes. Elections are generally good for television news, but the four-year sh*tshow that was the Trump administration was the gift that kept on giving. The inevitable Mar-a-Lago spinoff won’t pull anywhere near the same share. 

The good news is that CNN has extraordinary human capital (Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria, John King’s soft and loving hands). CNN also has the definitive brand in television news and an army of skilled journalists. And while the cable bundle ice cube is melting every day, it’s still a towering position for leaping across the digital divide — much like the New York Times had in the 2000s. The EBITDA that SVODs are fighting over is a fraction of the profits lamestream cable media expectorates.

The question is What’s the business model on the other side?

Could CNN replicate the Timesstrategy? Put the website behind a paywall and deepen its investment in verticals? It could try, but there’s already a dominant player in that offering. And the brand and its assets are different: CNN excels at live coverage and fast-paced, personality-driven analysis — at video, breaking live. 

Since we are saving a public trust entity, it’s worth noting that we face a difficult future if all great journalism goes behind a paywall. About 25% of the country cares enough or has enough money to pay, while ad-supported algorithmic rage-fests masquerade as news for the other 75%. Trump TV, the president’s likely third act, has the potential to be a massive force here, but I don’t think it will happen. Trump and his affiliates are great marketers but terrible operators (Trump steak, Trump vodka, Four Seasons Total Landscaping).

Then there’s the benevolent billionaire model. Part of my pitch to investors when I was raising capital for my Times adventure was that great media brands have a floor on their value, because if they get cheap enough, a billionaire will buy them as a vanity project. I was right — while on the board, I received several calls from them. Just down the Acela from NYC, the Washington Post’s financial future is secure, as long as Bezos doesn’t get bored with it. There’s no denying, Bezos has been a great steward to date, but relying on the kindness of billionaires is not a good business plan.

Still, it’s possible. My #1 draft choice is Marc Benioff, the founder & CEO of Salesforce, who could reunite Time (which he purchased in 2018) with Warner. Marc has the cabbage and, in a refreshing change from the owners of Fox or Facebook, appears to have taken civics in high school.

Next, there is a huge opportunity for someone to become the Spotify or Netflix of news. I had Tom Rogers (#gangster), who started CNBC and MSNBC, on my podcast. When I asked Tom what he would do if he were to start a new media business, this is the vision he articulated. If Netflix (or Apple, or Amazon, or a startup yet to be started up) wants to create that business, CNN would be a foundation to build on. Just as the luxury houses were anchored by an iconic brand (Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Gucci), CNN is one of a handful of iconic anchor brands.

Like Bezos personally, Amazon or another big tech firm could buy CNN and finance its operations more or less forever without even noticing the expense. I could see Apple deciding to take Apple News seriously and bringing CNN under its wing, or Google deciding YouTube needs its testicles to descend (26% of Americans turn to YouTube for news). If AT&T is looking for a buyer, their money is as green as it gets. But big tech doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to news, or caring about the commonwealth, and is likely in no mood right now to poke the antitrust bear. 

While Apple and Amazon are getting into media in order to sell more iPhones and toilet paper, there are also deep-pocketed buyers for whom media is the core business. Netflix and Disney lack a news property in their empires. A decent outcome would be for the Mouse to cancel its dividend to purchase CNN, and for AT&T to sell CNN, cancel the dividend, invest in 5G, and become the largest subscription-based tech company on the planet — shedding the distraction of $30 billion Time Warner assets that muddy the narrative of a better $150 billion business. I hope Disney and AT&T’s boards reread the last sentence.

The non-carbonated version would be a tie-up with Comcast’s cable assets. A decent outcome, and the bulking, as with any roll-up of declining assets, would be great for shareholders, as CNN are disciplined operators and would cut costs faster than revenue declines, creating shareholder value. In my experience, the premier risk-adjusted asset class is distressed investing.

Finally, there’s one major tech firm that presents a unique and compelling opportunity for a combination with CNN.

The Twitter News Network

Another underutilized, under-monetized news machine? Twitter. 

In spite of its incredible shrinking CEO, Twitter has massive potential and would register a 20% increase in value upon moving to a subscription model. After cleansing its platform of rage-generating bots, Twitter could acquire CNN and begin to command the space it occupies. This move would make CNN/Twitter the iOS of news (more expensive, but higher quality) and Facebook/Fox the Android. 

Similar to all CNN advertising, the semantics of a Twitter/CNN deal remind us how much it sucks to get old. Twitter would likely own 80% of the combined firm despite having roughly equivalent EBITDA. Youth and beards are wasted and unwelcome on the young, respectively. Twitter is the Murder, She Wrote of the digital age — you keep watching it despite it never changing. Mr. Dorsey confirms light (perception) is faster than sound (words). 

Twitter desperately needs to escape its advertising dependency and build up the value proposition to support a subscription model. It has experimented with packaged content, including airing NFL games. Despite my abundant criticisms of his part-time management style and facial hair, Jack Dorsey has a brilliant product mind, and Twitter’s platform is incredibly dynamic — there is opportunity here to invent the future of news. 

Over the past 48 hours I have proposed this idea to the CEOs and/or board members of each of these firms. My sense is all of them are smart and civic minded. They have the resources and skills to arrest the march of big tech tyranny in the perversion of news. When I was a younger man, I’d find a hedge fund, buy a ton of shares and lay siege to the wall (the boards of directors). This time, my sword is my pen. And, finally, I’m more interested in being effective, than right.

Life is so rich, 

P.S. My new book, Post Corona, hits the shelves on Tuesday. Preorder now and I will surround you with white light. And … join a global cohort of students to learn the fundamentals of creating a product roadmap. Deepen your learning through case studies and ongoing discussions. Sign up for the Product Strategy Sprint, running January 12-26, 2021.

78 comments

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  3. Rahul says:

    chuitya hai saala kuch bhi bolta hai

  4. Julian Pepper says:

    Twitter should buy Gannett and save our local newspapers! Better than the sensationalized garbage on CNN, real local journalists are the important ingredient in a healthy commonwealth.

  5. Mark Simon says:

    Here’s the problem. Galloway was not responsible for the NYT paywall. It was not an idea imported by Galloway. Paywalls were open topic in all news companies in 2009/10/11. NYT implemented in 2011, under Sulzberger. – The initial launch was a failure and in-fact nothing NYT did until 2014 was effective. None of Galloways ideas mattered. In 2014 NYT took an idealogical bent to news it always had and doubled down. Subscription journalism, already prevalent in cable, came to the NYT… –

  6. Jason says:

    “My thesis was that the Times had the best brand in news globally” Ever heard of The Economist?

  7. Chris says:

    A little late to this but excellent analysis. One of the firms mentioned should hire you. I wish I had known you were nyt while I was at about.com 2008-2009, I might have stayed.

  8. James Cole says:

    Prof G. After seeing Ms Dounda commenting on the obvious necessity For ethics with CRISPA development, I thought of your network and influence. Someone, with integrity, needs to step up and do something. Roughly similar to Dov Seidman’s LRN, but more focused on ethics. An advisory council if you will. I’m a 76 year old retiree that enjoys Lagom, but would like to be more useful. Don’t desire anything out of it but peripheral involvement. A.I. algorithm creators would benefit as well. Thanks.

  9. Heidi Legg says:

    Super imaginative and right. Can you teach me how you moved from being right to effective? Shock of recognition when I read that line. I see what you see on the Future of Media. Exciting.

  10. Brian Unell says:

    While your thesis makes perfect sense the one issue is that CNN (along with MSNBC and Fox) is (are) less about “news” and more about entertainment. Yes, they have the capacity to provide news but for CNN that changed when Headline News became HLN and news became Nancy Grace. These three channels are primarily full of opinionated talking heads who are entertaining, not reporting the news. If they bring back Headline News then I’ll dial the hedge fund for you until then it is a race to the bottom.

  11. Miles Thomas says:

    Similar arguments could be made for Sky News (UK/Europe, formerly owned by Murdoch but divested to Comcast to facilitate other mergers). Or maybe ITN (shared news service used by terrestrial commetcial tv in the UK and some UK commercial radio as well).

  12. vernon says:

    Here’s how I’d like to see the “Spotify of News” created, if I was a publisher and didn’t want to depend on Google, Apple or Facebook for all of my traffic: Merge Twitter + Flipboard into the world’s #1 independent news platform. Offer a $10/mo subscription to remove ads and to provide access to a limited selection of premium media from leading news sources including NYTimes, Barrons, WSJ, WaPo, CNN, Fox, ESPN, et al. Offer in-app a la carte upgrades for unrestricted access to your favorite publishers, news sources and channels. IMO, this combination would offer the best news platform & user experience in the market, hands down. It would also be the most publisher-friendly distribution channel – and a new source of paying subscribers for news publishers and content creators. Pertinent deal data… Twitter – $30B market cap: 340mm monthly users (80% ‘affluent millennials’) #1 social media platform for news #3 referral source for publishers (after Google & Facebook) contextual ads (CPC) best UX for discovering & discussing short-form content Flipboard – $?B market cap: best platform for curating & consuming the news 100mm monthly users (‘1/3 millennial, 1/3 Gen X, 1/3 Boomers’) #1 independent news app #4 referral source for publishers (close to Twitter) contextual ads (premium RPM) paid subscription option (recently launched) best UX for discovering & consuming long-form content excellent media curation & editorial tech (human + algo) It just seems natural to me that these companies should team up to help news organizations win, given their market competition (GOOG, FB, AAPL) and their dependence on monetizing the news. There is so much more value created for everyone in the news ecosystem with this kind of platform in place. Note: Analysts have said in the past there is too much overlap of users between Twitter and Flipboard to make a deal work… but I don’t think that’s true any more. Boomers make up 1/3 of Flipboard’s audience, for example. (Full Disclosure: I invested a small amount in a small tech startup that was acquired by Flipboard in 2010. But I have never had a relationship with the company nor insight into their plans. I am an active user, however.)

  13. Jose Araujo says:

    I do not disagree with subscription models but companies have to ask themselves what kind of value they are providing for their costumers and benchmark against competition. Spotify is probably the subscription model I use the most in my family and it costs me around 1,5 $ per member. Xbox game pass costs 10$ per month, Amazon prime which includes video, music, ebooks, twitch ,etc also is around the same ball park. What would be the right price point for NYT, I can assure you something not what they are charging now, which led me to cancel the subscription some time ago. Non integrated providers have to consider the price of membership because at current prices we cannot afford them, specially when content is now being divided by several providers. In the end I truly believe we are going to end in old cable subscription models, because its really painful to have to manage all possibilities, so content creators will end up has content creators and distributors will bundle content. and manage the relation with the customer.

  14. Steven says:

    Scott, really enjoyed this. Came over here from Seeking Alpha. Someone probably has mentioned this already in the comments, but in terms of New York Times, and maybe even CNN, but I’m thinking more the Times — is it time, perhaps, for that newspaper, as well as others, to begin publishing fiction on a regular basis? I assume that may already be happening already in some respects, but in addition to reporting the news (and I agree, the Times is the best at it), I feel a way to bring growth back to this industry is for it to think like Netflix. Get original content into the paper. Invest a little money in new authors, have columnists pen a story every now and then, and maybe invest a lot of money (a la Netflix) into the debut of a new short story by someone like Stephen King. NYT should then put together a production company to take some of those stories and make movies/episodic from them. (I think NYT may already have a prodco, or am I wrong about that? Or, if I am correct, is it only for documentary movies/episodic?) Every time I think of a movie like True Story or The Big Short, I wonder why newspapers can’t report on actual events and then make movies like that based on their own articles. Funding risk could be spread out to partners and PE investors if need be, but I think it is time for newspapers to explore such ideas. And let me say too, the Twitter/CNN idea is fascinating, as is the idea of T selling CNN to some other conglomerate concern. Again, interesting article, thanks for it…

  15. Luci says:

    The two premises of this post are subjective and also flawed. I am more inclined to believe CNN is one of our good professor’s clients before I believe he believes his comparison to the NYT. Let’s be real – CNN has been free falling in ratings and also digitally for some time. It’s the readers that eat this up that is more concerning.

  16. Michael Bush says:

    If the NYT, CNN and Twitter all ceased to exist tomorrow, I and millions of others wouldn’t even notice. There is no such thing as “news” anymore-only pot-stirring talking heads with opinions designed to get reactions and therefore ratings. The real question is whether they can even stay solvent once Trump bashing ceases to drive revenues. Expect a spike in unemployment in the media business.

  17. James Somers says:

    You wrote: “Robust reporting of the news is essential to a healthy civic society.” You’re right about that. But the subscription model you advocate is not a robust news reporting model. A subscriber model leads to being a news delivery outlet for a particular audience, not for the public at large. In the case of the NY Times, that audience is center/left, not the general public. That does not fit the definition of robust news reporting.

  18. robert says:

    Scott—a great classroom-style education !…a fascinating piece of writing…..well done !! bob h.

  19. Carla says:

    I love the way you think, but I’m not quite getting the Twitter News Network. I agree that Twitter could increase its value by moving to a subscription model, but why would they want to buy CNN, particularly given the recent Gallup/Knight Foundation study that found that nearly half of all Americans think the media is “very biased.” Why would Twitter want to lose its perceived neutrality (and probably half its users) by partnering with CNN? It seems potentially destructive to their brand, i.e., against their “universal commentary” positioning. What am I missing?

    • Charles Tchuinkwa says:

      I believe we all know what influenced the Gallup study. In hopes of a change moving forward, I believe the public will recover and the trust of reliable sources like; CNN will be restored. They are dozens of studies that also found out that that Twitter and other social media platforms are not trusted by the public as a reliable source for news… If anything, I believe CNN will be losing some credibility under the umbrella of Twitter News Network. It is also true that PR nightmare is bad for public trust and TNN will be dealing with a lot of that as a social media technology platform (hacking, trolls bots, Russian and other foreign government misinformationcampaigns and more), something that cnn has done well to maintain their image even in time of “Me too movement”. What we really need now is to restore the publics trust on reliable sources of news like CNN.

  20. Lucid says:

    Good read. Your post reminds me of a thought I had a few weeks ago as I watching CNN at the airport. The thought being; Who the hell is watching this? It’s all fluff because the anchors repeat themselves and their colleagues a hundred different ways every couple of hours. Worse, it’s just a single flavor of political commentary and completely devoid of other newsworthy topics and investigative reporting (besides relaying print reporting). Naturally, this isn’t an issue exclusive to CNN and it is pervasive across the industry. I used to enjoy watching CNN, years ago now. It goes without saying the atmosphere today is different and clearly the networks are desperately and not irrationally clinging onto what continues to draw their dwindling viewer base. I’m on a rant here, but I’ll finish. I think TV news is critical to a holistic society. Sure, you can hope on Youtube or a article aggregator, but immediately and without realizing it you’re in a thought bubble/ echo chamber (of-which is far more extreme than the likes of Fox and MSNBC). You don’t ask questions when you’re always hearing what you agree with and can rationalize. Personally, I am subscribed to the Washington Post and for balance I’ve tailored a very-conservative feed on Microsoft News. I get most international news from organizations that are headquartered aboard, generally Al Jazeera and South China Morning Post (international balance, as contrary to popular opinion AJ English is very Westernized). Balance is key, but few people have the time, energy and/ or interest to accomplish balanced news consumption.

  21. Duncan says:

    Smart stuff, as always, but the media you lavishly praise have become propagandists, made worse by Trump derangement syndrome, and there is no where left in this country to get just news.

  22. Dunner says:

    24 minute read if you read it 3 times!! Brilliant.

  23. Godders says:

    YouTube has the chops to become the Netflix of News. If they cut a deal with Twitter for distribution/discovery they’d very quickly own the space. News consumers don’t consider YouTube as a resource for news but with CTV YouTube could rapidly win the day.

  24. Michael says:

    Good argument. Like the Yellow Pages, they will hang on to long. The next political cycle will (hopefully) be boring and they will be up schitts creek

  25. Wenzel says:

    I’m pretty new to your newsletter, but boi oh boi, do I love it. Well written, great thoughts – what more can a person ask for. I’m certainly going to dig through your books and other stuff. Keep it coming! Greetings from Germany!

  26. CR says:

    Great points as usual. I believe cable news and NYT have one negative in common. They allow ideology to override reporting. The right has made CNN and NYT to be propaganda machines for the woke left, and neither is doing much to counter the accusation. NYT lost two senior editors recently, and both spoke of the unity of woke opinions and the scary anti-semitic comments they received. I am sure the left/DNC/woke do not care what the right thinks. Fine, but that leaves a lot of money on the table when you try to monetize content and establish credibility with advertisers. Lining up politically only pleases the small hard core groups. But it loses the middle. And, other than Crossword puzzle fans and cooks, NYT has lost them. CNN is now a farce, believing they need to tell viewers what to think, and is having to compete with MS/NBC rather than real news. The only Cable News show that dare have contrary opinions expressed is Tucker Carlson on Fox. THAT should worry the left.

    • Carlie says:

      What has really suffered in the whole painful bowl movement that the media is going through, is the basic integrity and competence of the news organizations. I blame the institutions themselves for failing to recognize that they have to maintain a basic quality of their reporting. I also lay blame equally at the feet of the journalism schools that have turned journalism into some sort of narcissistic ego performance. And, even though they are demonized almost as a instinctual response, Fox and Tucker and even Hannity seem to offer a more balanced and intelligent and even entertaining package.

  27. Simone Brunozzi says:

    Hey Scott. Fascinating and provoking read. Well written. On the “product strategy sprint”: Adam Alter teaches product strategy, but doesn’t have first-hand experience. What would you respond to that? Thanks.

    • HMSaid says:

      Well, written. Always worthwhile reading, but that first sentence sure kills cred. Easy enough to fix.

  28. David says:

    Scott you are a generous man with your thoughts. Really love it. You should move to a subscription model. It would get rid of the dumb trolls on the site and you can bundle it with your podcast.

    • Kate says:

      Existing in an echo chamber without hearing different perspectives (dumb trolls you call them) is not conducive to critical thinking on issues. It may feel good, but it is not good. Forcing ourselves out of our bubbles where everyone agrees with us is necessary for democracy to thrive.

  29. Mark L says:

    “26% of Americans turn to YouTube for news” YouTube as a source for “news” implies a very broad and generous definition of the word news. Absolutely terrifying statistic. Another 50% probably go to Facebook. We are doomed.

  30. 42 year old MBA Student says:

    Ah! This feels better than a gaanja hit – so many data points and enriching analysis. Thank you for cementing my belief that this industry is worth jumping into after spending my time @MIT MBA later next year

  31. Amy Drill says:

    brilliant, as usual. you anchor TNN with news, and specialize it with local “channels” and specialized “groups/interests/hobbies/passion points communities”. and you offer it to families first. with a school/education channel T-Charter.

  32. Richard Laska says:

    There’s also a systematic fix: Make the panderers liable for content and make Internet a public utility. There are plenty of rural areas for which any Internet-based solution is void. We don’t have high-speed Internet or cell phone service, ergo we vote for Fox.

  33. Neal Polachek says:

    . . . and aTwitter/CNN model could also deliver the BIG missing piece of news – LOCAL, COMMUNITY news at scale. . . the ad revenue, sponsorship and transaction revenue could be considerable.

  34. Todd Landfried says:

    You almost have it. There’s a whole other model that eliminates the need for chasing ads, subscribers, members or donors and throws out the standard news reporting/delivery model in favor of something much more attuned to digital consumption habits and streaming content type preferences. Without giving it away here, (because this is what we’ve been refining for a few years) let me say it’s where the money is. I’d love to talk to you about it.

  35. Nancy London says:

    These CEO’s definitely need to pay to pay you for your foresight!

  36. douglas pursley says:

    prof G money – i dont think i have heard your weigh in on Costco. didnt they just issue $10 dividen and generally slay retail for ……hmmmm decades? give media a break and go onto another retailer other than amazon. i mean $1.50 hot dog and coke (now thats the big dog) and i heard they have rad prices on zacapa as well

  37. Big Musing says:

    Wow… how is it, as an intelligent guy, Scott, you can be so blind…. CNN has declined in both quality and objective news REPORTING and has become nothing more than ‘the National Enquirer’ of evening ‘tabloid news’. It’s all opinion and clearly biased at that, so call it what it really is, entertainment television… it’s no longer a news station.. The sanctimonious preachings of liberal zealots such as Don Lemon are without pause, and the airtime given to him/them is a complete waste of life’s precious moments. There is nothing even closely resembling “news” espoused over their airwaves, and those not looking for blind reaffirmation of their existing political bias are turned off by CNN anchor and guests blatant partisan agenda … there is nothing objective about CNN. Those who are impartial and centrists are not only walking (running) from CNN, they are dumping their sponsors/advertisers as well. TimeWarner is a nothing more than a wannabe player, and CNN is a media joke.

  38. Tar says:

    I’m surprised you don’t know how Google makes money: “Google’s best were busy programming ways to steal and monetize the content of the hostage”. Google monetizes it’s users’ behavior via ads, obv. It’s entirely up to publishers if they want their free content to be found. Don’t shoot the messenger, Scott. That’s so Taliban.

  39. Mark says:

    I read this piece with great interest. I’m 77 and retired and one of my hobbies is keeping current on world plights and politics, but with an emphasis on the US. I’m a 10 year digital subscriber to the NYT and CNN is over 70% of my news input from TV. After reading your thoughts, I asked myself two questions… #1 If the NYT decided to broadcast their daily content on a free TV channel, would I watch and drop my subscription? Answer is NO! #2 If CNN offered a NYT type of digital venue online, for a dollar a week, would I subscribe? Answer, Yes, I’d definitely try it, but I’d still watch Anderson Cooper and maybe a little Wolf. And if they didn’t match the quality and diversity of the NYT, I’d bail. The big draw for me with digital is the table of contents so you can pick your poison. On Wolf, the meat is hidden between a lot of yadda-yadda-yadda. I’m a big fan of “60 Minutes” and their excellent cast of journalists. Since their content is not up to the minute, I DVR it and watch after it’s over. (Hint… Add 1 hour to the length of your recording since the NFL always goes over.) Click on the DVR… Watch the into, (table of contents), and pick out the stories you care about and FF through the rest. Keeping informed while staying sane is a science!

  40. Moe S says:

    Scott, I have made a decision to stay quiet and under the radar this year as I plan a new entry into the digital medium. I’m glad that you were able to get through with a $600M investment. I’ve been yelling that media assets should be doing this since 1999. My friend was one of the first executives to coordinate the digital archive for the Gray Lady…it was back then that I said to start the process to deep dive into digital. But hey, at least 10 years later you got their attention. Every media outlet & broadcast station has to transition (20 years behind). I hope to recover those old emails.

  41. RL says:

    Another great post Prof Galloway, always food for thought. Re: Dorsey… “The greatest product Jack Dorsey ever made was Jack Dorsey.” — Anonymous Twitter Employee/Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

  42. Nikita Amelchenko says:

    Disney owns ABC News and all the affiliates.

    • Noel Wade says:

      Hah! Came here to post this exactly. I think that rules them out for a CNN acquisition (not that ABC seems to be any great shakes right now, but owning 2 news/media orgs seems like it’d be twice the pain for practically zero gain).

  43. Aki says:

    Brilliant. Just one question: In a world where media outlets align themselves with political and other ideologies, wont the proliferation of walled-garden news sites only amplify the polarization that we see today? We may end up with a world where 50% of the population subscribes to Breitbart-like garbage and 50% to something else, except one hardly knows what garbage is being peddled on the other side. At least today, the disservice to society piled on by Fox is visible for everyone to take note.

    • Tar says:

      That’s what institutions like the BBC are for. But the US is not in the mood to build institutions right now.

    • Blaine says:

      Perhaps Americans should be convinced to get American news from non-American sources.

  44. Sam says:

    I agree with you on the business model for CNN. There is no reason while still on cable, they couldn’t do a subscription model for the content they would be putting on their web site (streaming, documentaries, international content, podcasts) and expand “à la vice news”. They have, as you said, plenty of journalistic investment that they can use to expand and monetize their offering. They could perfectly follow the NYT or Washington Post model. By the way, with the media offerings from NYT & WP, they are getting closer to get into some of the CNN business. However, CNN being under AT&T umbrella now, I am not sure how it will work out. Question for you Scott: Where is Trump landing in 2021 ? Newsmax or OAN ?

  45. S miller says:

    Can you unpack this sometime? “relying on the kindness of billionaires is not a good business plan” Because it seems to me that we have been doing that for a really long time, and there’s a huge push to do it even more in place of government and institutions. And I agree it doesn’t work, but would like to hear your breakdown.

    • CR says:

      Well, the Billionaires are making our lives better and enriching the entire society. Between the new businesses and product, and their massive contributions to charity and causes (Bill Gates, for example), they are fixing what Government cannot. Washington DC is truly a swamp. Ask yourself what crisis they have actually considered and planned for before it ocurred? Maybe the military, but none of the civilian agencies. They are too busy with gender sensitivity training….

  46. Cecelia says:

    these moves would be effective. But where in the world does this sort of solution empower fact-based journalism reaching everybody in the same way? Putting news behind a paywall only adds to the echo chamber effect. People will pay for what they want and the same way they watch what they want today. I would be interested to explore what it takes to create new brands outside of Fox or CNN and new delivery solutions outside of big tech that gets news and information distributed to a full spectrum of the population. Because that would be right.

    • cecelia wogan-silva says:

      I thought about this some more. Now I realize putting these editorialized biased news outlets behind paywalls makes perfect sense. They are entertainment and not news. I’m a bleeding heart liberal and my brother-in-law is a fringe right wing conservative. Neither of us feels proud to admit our news sources because even if we ideologically disagree, we are aligned that whatever good reporting happens under these brands, it’s buried in b*******.

  47. Neil says:

    The New York Times, CNN and Twitter – the 3 most ultra woke, truth-distorting media outlets on the planet. Together they represent a supernova of diarrhea.

  48. Kate says:

    CNN has become extremely biased and has lost its mission of reporting news. As a decades long avid follower of CNN, I cannot stomach what it has become the last two years. I am a middle aged white woman with a PhD from a university ranked in the top tier for my discipline. I do not want to be told I do not believe in science if I read scientific articles that counter CNNs propaganda that is frequently anything but science based. I believe I am fairly representative of many viewers who are leaving CNN behind. This is their problem – extreme bias and selective reporting. While the other issues are relevant, a back to basics in reporting news would likely help no matter what platform they use. Combining CNN and Twitter sounds terrible to me as the bias will only double dividing the country further as the echo chamber of the illiberals grows through requiring subscriptions. I currently watch one show of CNN a day to see what they are saying in order to understand that portion of the country’s mood, but I would not pay to watch that hour. Only those who want their biases confirmed will pay for the experience, which will divide the country even more. How is that civic minded?

  49. Matt says:

    Big fan of you Scott, but you dramatically overstate what CNN is/has become (sure that has nothing to do with you being a paid contributor). CNN had a major opportunity to be a reasonable, balanced source of news for the middle 80% of citizens that aren’t on the extreme left/right poles over the last 4 years. Instead, it became a caricature – the Cuomo Brothers Comedy Hour, the pretend video of Chris Cuomo “emerging” from his basement post-COVID, Don Lemon calling everyone and everything racist, reporters telling us that protests are peaceful (while buildings and property are literally bursting into flames on screen), and falling into the Russian disinformation scheme for anything that was even mildly critical of the DNC or Democratic Party. I’d argue CNN is the least reliable source of news between them, Fox and MSNBC, which is really saying something

  50. Kate says:

    CNN has become extremely biased and has lost its mission of reporting news. As a decades long avid follower of CNN, I cannot stomach what it has become the last two years. I am a middle aged white woman with a PhD from a university ranked in the top tier for my discipline. I do not want to be told I do not believe in science if I read scientific articles that counter CNNs propaganda that is frequently anything but science based. I believe I am fairly representative of many viewers who are leaving CNN behind. This is their problem – extreme bias and selective reporting. While the other issues are relevant, a back to basics in reporting news would likely help no matter what platform they use. Combining CNN and Twitter sounds terrible to me as the bias will only double dividing the country further as the echo chamber of the illiberals grows through requiring subscriptions. I currently watch one show of CNN a day to see what they are saying in order to understand that portion of the country’s mood, but I would not pay to watch that hour. Only those who want their biases confirmed will pay for the experience, which will divide the country even more. How is that civic minded?

    • Isaac Frank says:

      Hear hear!! “Saving a public trust entity” ?? Let’s talk about a public trust when ONE Republican voter is permitted to be employed by either CNN or NYT and it’s oh-so-tolerant woke-ists… let us have honest discourse representing the shy ~48% of voting Americans… blue checkmark virtue performance art may have value for a publisher or purveyor of information or entertainment, but it is not a public trust by any stretch. For me, and as a resident in flyover country who tries to find balance and truth, I would never want any so-called news media organization to ever be lapdogs for any party—THAT is one way that this experiment in democracy ends…

  51. John says:

    Disney does have a news division…ABC News.

    • Derek A F Scarzella says:

      OMG Thank you!!! I was going to say the same thing. Also, ESPN? How can Disney be expected to swallow up another behemoth when it already has one with TV stations across the country? So many questions. I see these giants either collapsing under their own weight or being swallowed up by big tech. Either way, Newsmax, OAN, and Parler growing in the meantime (whether you agree with their politics or not), and an even more bifurcated media structure evolving from here. Also, Youtube. Youtube is a HUGE news source for a lot of people and some of their personalities have more reach than CNN on that platform. The 2020’s are just getting started …

  52. Kimberly A Curry says:

    Smartest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you. Also just pre-ordered.

  53. D says:

    Not sure why the hate towards Fox. I would argue Fox is substantially more neutral than CNN. Fox at least allows a democratic viewpoint on their show and allows them to speak. CNN brings them on to belittle them and call them a racist. Sub model hopefully brings back neutral news but as long as they require advertising money to operate they will lean left or right which leads to extra work for the 10% of Americans who can think critically about stuff and brainwashes the remaining 90%.

  54. Bill Lee says:

    Loved it. Mind-expanding. Maybe mind-blowing

  55. Julee Pris says:

    Of course. Why not make the most of the ‘post corona’ world when one has investments in remote teaching. And no wonder NYT has been a skewed cauldron of non-news as it relates to Covid. Fortunately there are excellent writers in other areas.

  56. richard hurn says:

    fascinating read, historical vignettes plus delicious futurisms. Possibilities of hope when most is all hate. Appreciate your courageous heart. Yes to the surrounding of white light🎇

  57. Alex Birch says:

    CNN is going to go into paid media against bloomberg? CNN is the android and Bloomberg is the Apple. CNN digital is a poor man’s version of NYTimes or WaPo. The NYTimes Or WaPo should just hire Jake Trapper and Anderson Cooper to do video podcasts and breaking news.

  58. Germana Fabbri says:

    You’re brilliant. Love your writing. Have a great day.