CNN Slashes Jobs, Eyes Digital Subscriptions in Turnaround Bid

CNN is once again clearing house and trying to reinvent itself. The network, which has been floundering for years, is cutting around 100 jobs in a desperate attempt to find a new direction. Chief Executive Mark Thompson unveiled this so-called master plan to employees, indicating that CNN aims to launch a subscription service for and merge its TV and digital news operations. Because nothing says success like reducing your workforce and throwing around buzzwords like “strategic commitment” and “experimentation.”

It looks like CNN is hoping subscription-based online content will save their sinking ship. Thompson, who previously helmed The New York Times during its digital expansion, believes he can sprinkle some of that magic dust over at CNN. For those who are counting, The Times went from under 600,000 digital subscribers to over 6 million. Thompson thinks it’s perfectly “logical” that this could happen again at CNN. “Logical” might be a stretch.

CNN’s viewership has been plummeting, estimated to drop 5.6 percent to 66.3 million this year from 70.3 million last year. Clearly, viewers are tuning out, even with the network’s attempt to capitalize on major political events. According to Nielsen figures, one week in May was its worst since 1991, averaging only 83,000 viewers in the prime age demographic of 25 to 54 during the evening hours. That’s quite the fall from grace for CNN.

The network’s grand strategy includes offering subscription products featuring not just news but also lifestyle journalism—because nothing screams groundbreaking journalism like health tips and lifestyle stories. Apparently, they plan to milk every possible penny from these “lifestyle” subscriptions, hoping folks will actually pay for content they can easily find elsewhere for free.

CNN’s newfound “pioneering spirit” aims to blur the lines between what’s traditionally TV and digital content, championing the mantra that everyone at the network is a “storyteller.” Spirited storytelling is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that CNN has struggled to retain viewers and remain relevant in a changing media landscape.

And let’s not forget the elephant in the room. CNN’s digital ventures have yet to yield a stable product, and while Thompson is full of optimistic jargon about infusing creativity and expertise, viewers need a lot more than that to stick around. As appealing as the idea of paying subscriptions for “news you can use” may sound to CNN execs, it’s doubtful that the audience at large will find it equally enticing.

Written by Staff Reports

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