Say what you will about Fox News, but what it has is something marketers always covet: stickiness. Sticky content is a concept normally used in the context of web site traffic, but it applies to television, or consumer products, or anything. It's a kind of loyalty that transcends simple endorsement of a product, becoming almost a kind of cult.
Apple is the perfect example of this kind of marketing cult. Sure, Apple makes great products with cool designs, but when you have people camping out at night like people used to do for Grateful Dead concerts to be among the first to get an iPhone, you're talking about more than just cool products. I've just encountered iPads on two separate trips to visit family and both times have found myself drooling, "WANT. SRSLY. NOW."
Dish Network is another one. The Brilliant household has been a Dish customer for over a decade. Recently, following a basement remodel and the purchase of another flat-screen TV, we had a choice to make: Do we stay with Dish Network and get another connection and receiver for the basement, or do we succumb to the Evil Empire over at Verizon, where we could get TV, FiOS internet, AND phone -- for about half (well, for two years anyway) of what we pay now? We stuck with our current cobbled-together setup of Dish, a good old fashioned land line phone, and our Verizon DSL. Why? Mostly because we just like Dish Network as a company. Recently, Cablevision, the company which has a monopoly in my town and in the general area, was unable to broadcast any Fox channels due to a rates dispute with News Corp. This blacked out a good chunk of the World Series, Giants football, and the popular Glee. News Corp. wanted to extort DOUBLE the fees out of Cablevision. The problem is that Cablevision is so loathed by even its own customers that it was able to garner no sympathy from its customers, and ended up capitulating to News Corp.'s demands. And now Cablevision customers face yet another rate increase. It's interesting to note that while Cablevision was busy losing its battle with Rupert Murdoch, Charlie Ergen, the almost cult-worshipped CEO at Dish, was quietly negotiating a far better deal with Fox.
Fox News is also an entity that boasts this kind of devotion. CNN has completely destroyed its credibility in recent years by trying to be more Fox-like, and instead of pulling away viewers from Fox, it's simply ruined its own unique journalistic brand. Fox viewers are not going to leave Fox. It's their club, their cult, their religion, and they're not going to leave it just because Phil Griffin puts some wingnut in Keith Olbermann's chair and cries out, "Look! Shiny!"
In 2003, MSNBC yanked Phil Donahue off the air, even though he had the highest-rated show on the network. No, he didn't get the ratings Fox had, but it was MSNBC's highest rated show. An insider report revealed the network's view that Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war." Donahue was replaced by the very same man whose fingerprints were all over the Olbermann suspension yesterday -- Joe Scarborough, and the network hired right-wing hatemonger Michael Savage for a Saturday program.
It wasn't until MSNBC recognized that Keith Olbermann's audience is "sticky" that the brass there decided to take the chance on left-leaning political talk in primetime. And it's worked for them; perhaps not as much as Fox, but certainly better than any of the Alan Keyes/Michael Savage/outer wingnuttia experiments they did in trying to strip off Fox News viewers.
Even Olbermann's biggest fans acknowledge that he's often bombastic and self-important. Only rarely, as with his on-air eulogy for his mother (for which he won the 2010 Edward R. Murrow award) and his sharing of his late father's journey through the health care system to which people with money have access in the context of health care reform, does he come across as someone you might conceivably want to, well, have a beer with. His Special Comments, while passionate and often on-the-money, are so easily turned into parody that it's difficult to watch them now without thinking of the Ben Affleck parody. But anyone who thinks that Olbermann is simply a knee-jerk cheerleader for Democrats is delusional. If he has not been as tough on the Obama Administration as he was on the Bush Administration, it's because despite the former's appalling embrace of some of the worst national faux-security excesses of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration isn't as relentlessly destructive of American values. Obama has taken more crap from Olbermann than ANY officeholding Republican has EVER taken from Fox News.
Rachel has it right here. Keith Olbermann's personal political leanings are no secret to anyone. No one watches Olbermann to get passionless, so-called "objective news." And Keith Olbermann never claims to be "Fair and Balanced" -- as if saying so makes it so. What both Olbermann and Maddow do not do, however, is just pull stuff out of their asses (like claiming that President Obama's upcoming trip to India is going to cost $200 million a day) and push it out over the airwaves so that it can become the proverbial lie told often enough that it becomes truth. Both shows are COMMENTARY -- and are presented as such.
Yesterday on the Today show, Meredith Viera looked as if she was going to have hot girl-on-girl action with Christine O'Donnell any minute, so fawning was she over the loser of the Delaware Senate race. Funny how she didn't have Sharron Angle on. The whole thing smacked of an interview for a job on MSNBC -- perhaps in Keith Olbermann's spot. I can almost hear the MSNBC front office suits talking about having two people named O'Donnell on at night would be a sure winner.