One element to this for the Times is a surprisingly fruitful editorial partnership between the paper and BuzzFeed, Jonah Peretti’s post-Huffington Post project. BuzzFeed caused a sensation by hiring Ben Smith from Politico as editor in chief just ahead of the Primary season. The New York Times’s starched collar is certainly undone a notch by the addition of BuzzFeed staffers joining segments to discuss whether delegates at the RNC are “fab or drab.”
This peculiar partnership of highbrow analysis and penguin aggregation is another first in this realm of remaking the news. It came out of a conversation earlier this year between Roberts and Smith. Imagining a politics page in the Times with “added BuzzFeed” on the masthead is impossible, but watching their remarkably similar correspondents swap anecdotes on camera seems perfectly symbiotic.
The wave of video experiments coincides with the original innovator in cable news, CNN, tanking in the ratings. Earlier in the summer, the network slumped to its lowest ratings in certain demographics in over two decades. CNN’s worldwide president, Jim Walton, resigned, and the network is posting precipitous slumps whilst Fox News and MSNBC post double-digit growth.
The figures for consumption and revenues are thin. YouTube’s Election Hub shows 1.6 million convention video views and 26,000 subscribers—at a time when Fox News is scoring over 7 million viewers a night, these seem anemic. But sheer numbers at this stage is not quite the point. More relevant perhaps is that the quality of the shows, though rough in terms of production values, are editorially a match and more for cable; the Times and Wall Street Journal can out-analyze CNN; Philip DeFranco can out-quirk MSNBC. If the quality and regularity is maintained, the audiences are likely to follow.