On Cable News, Repetition is King

By Alex Weprin 

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Goodman writes about the coverage on cable news of Osama Bin Laden’s death

“But once again, a major story like the death of Bin Laden has proven that the model every newscast is using is flawed,” Goodman writes. “The issue is oversaturation combined with a lack of forward progress.”

The biggest strength–and limitation–of cable news according to Goodman is repetition, that information, photos, video and analysis gets repeated over and over and over again, often by the same people:

But you can always find a cable channel willing to cover a story non-stop. Therein lies the problem. In real life, you wouldn’t tolerate a friend, co-worker or even a spouse telling you the same story over and over again. That’s the domain of 6-year-olds and sadly addled seniors.

And yet the news channels can’t break their addiction to repetition because the target audience is, supposedly, insatiable for updates, for new information of almost any kind and will stare at the screen until they get it. When it doesn’t arrive viewers are supposed to listen to experts and talking heads opine six ways to Sunday on the topic at hand until there’s a microscopic movement in the story. When news bookers run out of “experts,” they let the anchors talk amongst themselves – backed by countless still photos and video snippets viewers have seen countless times.

Update: CNN PR guru Barbara Levin reminds me via Twitter that many people tune unti cable news in short bursts, getting an update before switching over to something else. This is absolutely true, and is one reason why repetition is a good thing. On the other hand, Goodman has a point that there can be overkill.

(h/t J$P)

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