The legacy media barons are drowning in red ink.
By Leesa K. Donner March 28, 2023
The leftist media are experiencing a red wave but not of the political kind. It appears that the balance sheets for several solidly progressive/Democrat-leaning media outlets are revealing unsustainable amounts of red ink. Some may be aware that legacy media outlets have been struggling, but the extent of their financial troubles is deepening.
Last week National Public Radio (NPR) announced that it was cutting four podcasts amid a spate of layoffs that included more than a hundred employees. A public radio network spokesperson indicated the cutbacks resulted from a $30 million deficit. This move hits the morale of NPR veterans – some of whom have decided to call it a day.
In a recent interview, NPR’s CEO John Lansing asserted that public radio was “fighting to secure” its future, claiming, “It’s existential.” However, NPR is an odd duck in the media world as it is a public/private partnership. Thus, the question arises, how are the other left-leaning media organizations faring – and the answer is not too well.
Leftist Media Money Woes Abound
Pick a left-leaning news outlet, and it won’t take long to uncover financial troubles in the belly of the beast. Liberty Nation recently reported on CNN’s ratings crisis. The pioneering cable news network, which turned hard left during the Trump era, is still faltering despite new ownership. Under the guiding hand of Chris Licht, CNN has made a very public effort to tack toward the political center. But rearranging the deck chairs of its most outspoken progressive personalities doesn’t seem sufficient to bring back enough of an audience to financially stabilize the network.
During the week of March 6, TVNewser, a media ratings watchdog, announced CNN’s total viewership in prime time hovered around 442,000. One wonders how long Discovery/Warner Media will be willing to dump cash into such a losing enterprise. As well, “MSNBC shed -4% in total prime time viewers,” according to the Newser. The announcement of the ratings disaster caused the folks over at Breitbart to engage in some public schadenfreude. “Stick a fork in CNN,” author John Nolte crowed, “CNN is dead. Praise the heavens … ”
However, it isn’t only the left-leaning television outlets that seem to be sinking in financial quicksand. Over at the legacy newspapers, things don’t appear to be much better. Media watchers have long been aware of the taffy pull between the mega legacy dailies The New York Times and The Washington Post. In 2022, The Times gloated, “Digital ad revenue generated by The Post fell to roughly $70 million during the first half of the year.” The precarious financial position allowed The Post’s rival to pounce, and it didn’t take long for The Times to engage in wholesale thievery of the Washington newspaper’s most high-profile writing talent.
Not too long ago, Liberty Nation reported on the leftist legacy media skid and cited a Wall Street Journal report that the prominent Washington paper lost more than half a million subscribers in 2022. Both dailies are working toward a more friendly digital user experience, but turning such large ships into safer online waters takes time and money.
At the crux of the problem are the keywords “advertising revenue.” Advertisers follow the people and spend their dollars where they find them. Statista measures such things, and a quick look at ad revenue platform spending tells the story. Its 2022 graphic shows the internet is gobbling up ad dollars like a hungry bear ready to pounce on a dumpster. Ad spending in the digital realm eclipses TV, radio, and newspapers combined. Internet ad revenue posted a whopping $201 billion – far and away more than expenditures on the other media entities.
So, it seems these older leftist media entities must adapt or be prepared for financial ruin. However, it may take some serious soul-searching for them to realize that offering the same thing in a new shiny format will not get them where they need to go: They must check their political bias as well.
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