Corrosive, that Joel

Vicious, corrosive, damning: Words of high praise for Joel Ellis, writing in the New York Press about the manifest failure of CNN under the rule of Rick Kaplan, whose firing was important enough to warrant a full-on feature story in Brill’s Content (not online).

But we don’t quite follow one part:

The other major downside to fiefdom management is that it gives upstarts the idea that they can deconstruct parts of the CNN model without having to compete with the whole. Thus CNBC and a host of Internet financial news sites eat CNNfn for lunch. Thus ESPN and a host of Internet sports news sites eat CNN/SI for lunch. Thus MSNBC and FNC and a host of Internet news sites eat away at CNN’s “domestic” news offerings. CNN’s response has been to create more fiefdoms: CNN Airport News, CNN Hotel News. Which would you rather do? Dial up the Internet at the airport and do your E-mail, check your calendar, get the weather forecast and read the news or sit morosely in some plastic chair and watch happy chatters tell you the latest showbiz news?

Incumbents have it easy, even online. If CNN/SI is a separate site, at least on paper, it carries the double advantage of being separate and being a CNN tendril. The success of ESPN has to relate to intangibles like coolness (sports dudes are more attuned to what’s cool than teenage girls) and snappier content. (Trust us on this. Even though ESPN “repurposes” “content” from ESPN: The Magazine just as CNN/SI is the electronic outlet for Sports Illustrated, ESPN’s entire approach at least acknowledges the advent of the 21st century, while SI is still written for an audience of Christian fifty-year-olds mooning for the good old days of the Green Bay Packers over the backyard barbecue.)

Posted on 2000-10-18