The Conversation

Another Examination of MSNBC's Ratings Decline

National Journal takes a stab at explaining MSNBC's terrible ratings. Most of the potential explanations have been examined before including progressive disinterest and a poor lineup:

Critics also suggest that MSNBC no longer has much diversity in the evenings. It's not that MSNBC needs a conservative host. It's that the nighttime hours from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM are too erudite, too sophisticated and too earnest to hook a wide swath of viewers.

Some believe the network suffered from moving blunt Ed Schultz to the weekend. The former football player and liberal radio talk show host could be irascible and even buffoonish at times--he called Laura Ingraham a "right wing slut...a talk slut" and apologized for it--but his populist instincts contrasted with the evening's urbane mien.

Indeed, Fox from 8:00 to 11:00 may operate in a conservative space but it has more diversity in its style of host. Sean Hannity is different than Greta Van Susteren who is different than Bill O'Reilly.

I think Matthew Cooper, who wrote the piece, is being kind as he can be here to MSNBC's primetime hosts. Here is how I made the same argument in May:

Fox has entertainment value and a sense of humor. They aim the programming at middle America not for elite Salons in DC in New York. The same cannot be said of MSNBC. Their hosts are either street brawlers--O'Donnell, Sharpton and Shultz--or nerdy wonks--Maddow, Hayes and Ezra Klein. Viewers have a choice between pugnacious and pompous. (Chris Matthews manages to be both at once.)

The problems at MSNBC aren't hard to discern. Their hosts are outside the mainstream and not appealing to more than a subset of the left. In fact, if MSNBC was paying attention they'd know that even people on their side of the aisle are sick of Lawrence O'Donnell's bullying. The lineup is not working. Time to make changes or get used to coming in 3rd or 4th place every night.


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