News & Insights

The Deadline: Unleashing AI in Media, Unexpected New Challengers, & the Broadcast Ratings Battle

By Rebecca Epps

The Deadline - Media Intelligence Newsletter.

Key Highlights

  • Fox Has an Unexpected New Rival – Twitter becomes a new challenger to Fox as the 2024 election heats up and conservative presidential candidates make their debuts on the social media platform.
  • Lofty Goals Trouble Up-and-Coming News Platforms – Big goals and big ideas were the foundation that launched The Messenger, but now some of those high aspirations are causing tensions to flare in the newsroom.
  • Artificial Intelligence & the Media – The AI buzz is sweeping the nation. But how will it impact journalism? Here are eight ways artificial intelligence could shape the media industry.

Industry News

After Many Rumors Teasing the Move, CNN Crowns a New Primetime Anchor

CNN has named Kaitlan Collins as the new host of its weeknight 9 p.m. newscast, posting her to one of the most coveted time slots on cable news. The move comes just weeks after Collins moderated a contentious town hall with former President Donald J. Trump. Collins’ new appointment to the as-yet untitled show was made by CNN’s chairman Chris Licht. The promotion of the 31-year-old Collins, who formerly co-hosted the network’s morning show, points to a major bet by CNN leadership on a rising star who has impressed colleagues within the network. While others criticized the town hall Collins moderated, much of the condemnation came largely toward CNN as opposed to Ms. Collins herself. The move comes following a series of programming experiments in CNN’s 9 p.m. slot, none of which yielded notable ratings, and amid overall ratings challenges for the network. CNN will also soon begin using refreshed on-screen graphics as part of a planned refresh and resurgence.

The New York Times Goes All in With New Podcast App

The New York Times is heading into the podcast realm at full force. The longstanding and highly respected publication recently launched “New York Times Audio” after nearly a year and a half in private beta. The app is meant to be a home for the Times’ growing audio empire, which includes acquired shows such as “Serial” and a strategic partnership with “This American Life,” as well as shows across the publication’s news and opinions section. Stephanie Preiss, a Times executive in charge of the paper’s audio business, says the intention behind the podcast app is to take notice of people’s daily routines and address varying aspects of people’s curiosity. The paper has long had news alerts covered, and a continued presence on social media and news aggregators, but the Times is betting on the new app to embed itself deeply into every single listener’s moment.

Elon Musk Displaces Fox News From the Conservative Media Spotlight in Recent Weeks

Fox News has long been the place where conservatives went to break news. But as the 2024 election heats up, some are questioning if that will still be the case, particularly following the decision by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to announce his 2024 presidential campaign during a Twitter spaces event with Elon Musk. Fox’s core right-wing ecosystem has largely turned on the network in just the short month since Fox fired Tucker Carlson. Meanwhile, Carlson himself announced plans to bring a “new version” of his former Fox News show to Twitter. Additionally, Ben Shapiro’s conservative media company, The Daily Wire, told Axios it plans to put its entire slate of podcasts on Twitter at the end of May. As Axios reports, “Conservatives aren’t just defecting to Twitter, they are throwing grenades at Fox News along the way.”

Actor Hugh Grant Takes Claims Against News Group Newspaper to Trial

Claims against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) are set for a court trial. Actor Hugh Grant claims that he was targeted by a journalist and private investigators for The Sun, a group-owned tabloid, in 2011. News Group denies the claims and, in April, sought to have Grant’s and similar claims by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, dismissed at a hearing in London on the grounds that both had waited too long to file their claims. A U.K. High Court, however, found that Grant’s claims could proceed to trial, except for any allegations relating to phone hacking.

Controversy Surrounds The Messenger, a News Site Startup with Big Ambitions

According to The New York Times, tensions are running high at The Messenger, a news startup that set out to build a newsroom fast, planning to have around 550 journalists covering entertainment, politics and sports within a year since launching at the beginning of May. The news startup is the brainchild of Jimmy Finkelstein, a media industry tycoon whose career included running and being part-owner of The Hollywood Reporter and The Hill and a middle-market chronicler of Washington politics. The 74-year-old Finkelstein said The Messenger would be, as he calls it, his last major act in the media industry. But since its debut in early May, the news site is already hitting snags. As the Times reports, journalists have scoffed at demands to mass-produce articles based on competitors’ stories. Much of the tension reportedly comes from the company’s blitzkrieg approach to digital publishing. According to the Times, the company is aiming to eventually hit 100 million readers monthly, which would make it among the most-read publications in the United States, and has hired Neetzan Zimmerman, a well-known digital traffic maven, to reach that aggressive target by publishing dozens of stories a day.

Semafor Secures Big Funding Round, Replacing Money From Bankman-Fried

News startup Semafor has raised a significant new round of funding. The global news organization that gained buzz after Justin Smith and Ben Smith announced they were leaving their prominent jobs at Bloomberg Media and The New York Times to start the news site, announced it raised $19 million in funding from investors, including Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. The new round of funding replaces the money Semafor received from the disgraced cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried. Smith said the money from Mr. Bankman-Fried, which was roughly $10 million, will be placed in an account separate from the publication’s other funding and returned to Bankman-Fried’s creditors. Semafor launched with the mission to “tackle the lack of trust in media” and compete for readers against outlets like CNN, The Times and The Washington Post.

The Washington Post Unveils Next Steps for AI Innovation

Fred Ryan, CEO of The Washington Post, recently unveiled the publication’s plans for AI innovation. With a focus on harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, The Washington Post aims to enhance its journalism and deliver more personalized content experiences to readers. Ryan emphasized the commitment to leverage AI for improved story recommendations, audience engagement, and innovative storytelling formats. Two key teams, the AI Taskforce and the AI Hub, were introduced as part of the revamp. The AI Taskforce comprises experienced leaders from different departments, responsible for defining the company’s strategic direction and priorities in advancing AI capabilities. The AI Hub will serve as a cross-functional team dedicated to expediting AI initiatives and fostering collaboration across various functions within the organization.

CNN Plans Departure From Downtown Atlanta, Its Longstanding Hometown

By the end of 2023, CNN will begin a long-planned move out of the palatial CNN Center, its downtown Atlanta home since 1987. The network will move back to its original Techwood campus in Midtown. CNN was founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner as the world’s first 24-hour television network. While specific details about the relocation are yet to be revealed, the move reflects CNN’s efforts to adapt to the evolving media landscape and explore new opportunities. The network has been shifting its center of gravity to Washington, D.C., and New York for decades. With the move, CNN will start a new chapter in a smaller Atlanta office.

TV Ratings Report: CBS and Fox Emerge as Powerhouses

The 2022-23 TV season witnessed a captivating battle for rating supremacy, with CBS and Fox emerging as the powerhouses in the industry. According to the latest Nielsen ratings report, CBS marked its 15th consecutive season as the most-watched broadcast network, and Fox claimed the key ad-sales demographic of adults 18-49. However, all top seven broadcast outlets lost some on-air audience amid the ongoing shift from linear to streaming viewing. According to Nielsen, overall TV usage in primetime was down by about 9% compared to the 2021-22 season, impacting ABC, CBS and Fox the most. As the TV industry continues to evolve, networks must revamp their strategies to captivate audiences and deliver compelling content to survive.

Newsmax Ratings Continue to Boost Following Fox’s Tucker Carlson Firing, But Will It Last?

Newsmax is experiencing a so-called pleasant de ja vu. The small conservative cable news channel saw its ratings surge in the days after the 2020 presidential election after some partisan viewers soured on Fox News for accurately predicting that soon-to-be President Joe Biden would win the pivotal state of Arizona. Now, after Fox fired star host Tucker Carlson, Newsmax is once again seeing a surge, again at the expense of Fox. One month after Carlson’s ousting, Newsmax ratings continue to remain unusually high. Fox still maintains a large advantage over Newsmax, with an average of 1.6 million total viewers in prime time compared to Newsmax’s 383,000. But the losses still remain where it matters most, as the number of viewers for the 8 p.m. newscast Carlson formerly hosted have been cut in half. Moreover, Carlson’s exit has caught the attention of several Fox anchors who have expressed interest in joining any future venture he may pursue on Twitter once their contracts expire. The shift in ratings and Carlson’s potential foray into new media ventures highlights the evolving nature of media consumption and the ongoing battle for viewership and influence within the realm of cable news.

Career Moves

Top Editors Exit The Wall Street Journal Amid Leadership Changes

The Wall Street Journal is experiencing a series of significant changes as two of its deputy editors, Neal Lipschutz and Jason Anders, announce their departure. Lipschutz, a veteran with 41 years at Dow Jones and The Journal, expressed in an email to colleagues that it was time for him to explore new opportunities. Having previously served as a top editor for the Dow Jones newswires, Lipschutz held the position of deputy editor-in-chief since 2019. Meanwhile, Anders, who has been with The Journal for over 25 years and was one of the organization’s first digital reporters, disclosed that he was currently at home with Covid but looked forward to bidding farewell in person over the coming weeks. The departures come as part of a series of changes since new editor-in-chief Emma Tucker assumed leadership. Tucker said that new deputy editors will be appointed soon.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Joins NewsNation as Contributor

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has joined NewsNation as a contributor. Spicer, who served under the Trump administration, will provide political analysis and commentary for the news network. His addition to NewsNation’s roster of contributors reflects the network’s aim to offer diverse perspectives and insights on current events and political developments, principally as the 2024 elections approach.


Embracing the AI Revolution: Eight Ways It Will Shape the Future of Media

Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly transforming the way we approach, think, and utilize technology – and experts say AI will also soon transform media on a scale and pace that rivals the internet two decades ago. According to Axios, there are eight transformations that seem most likely: Expertise, trust, direct relationships, inbox platforms, healthy content, efficiency, more depth, and information inequality. Axios touches on the ways that the new AI technologies can help or harm our ability to find high-quality content that readers can trust, and the publication predicts that the media companies that will not only survive but thrive moving forward will be those that adapt quickly to fast-changing consumer needs. Axios’ bottom line to readers: Don’t wait for others to decide what’s high-quality content. Take ownership of what you consume and be smart about what’s coming.

Target’s LGBTQ2+ Merchandise Navigates Praise and Backlash in a Changing Political Climate

As we kick off June, conversations surrounding Pride Month are taking on added complexities, due in part to rising tensions surrounding transgender-related issues. Several companies already faced unexpected controversies even before Pride Month officially began, including retail giant Target, which was caught off-guard when navigating criticisms over an expansion to its long-running Pride collection. In response to conservative boycotts and reported disturbances in stores, Target reportedly removed a transgender designer’s products from its shelves – a move that appeared to acquiesce to the demands of right-wing extremists, angering many members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies while doing little to calm the initial anger from the conservative boycotters. The episode underscores the fact that corporate involvement in Pride Month should directly reflect the values of the organization, and that organizations should carefully evaluate the degree to which they are willing to stand by those values when faced with criticism, particularly given today’s polarized landscape.

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