If it was only about money, MSNBC would, at present, be trying to recruit an audience like that of the Young Turks. The executives who come and go are always stuck in this old way of thinking. They’re absolutely not going to try to recruit some fire-breathing Berniecrat personality, because while such a show may be able to draw the much more prized younger audience, it won’t serve the entrenched interests, so they just decide to try to do Fox Jr. over and over again.
It’s still about the money. Young Turks may have a large audience, but they do not generate the revenue that MSNBC does. Why? Because it’s not just about audience size and demographics, but also about access to corporatists who will pay to advertise with you.
If you’re in the propaganda business — which is the business MSNBC is in — you get paid to say certain things. As soon as you stop saying those things or, worse, start saying what the oligarchs consider the wrong things, then there goes your ad revenue and your job.
This is why I keep reiterating that MSNBC is not journalism. It’s not even relevant to compare them to the likes of The Young Turks or other entities at least attempting to do journalism. MSNBC is a propaganda company, more akin to an advertising or image consultant agency than a journalistic enterprise. We need to just call it what it is and stop pretending that, just because something is labeled cable news, that it is journalism. It’s not.
As for their strategy, consider MSNBC circa 2013. They were getting obliterated by other cable news outfits, pulling in an apparently paltry $475 million in revenue (I wonder how that compares to TYT). Their strategy at the time had been to go younger and try to position themselves to the left of CNN. This failed miserably, because, as I have pointed out repeatedly, young people on the left know that cable news is a worthless source of information. MSNBC knows it is hopeless to try to garner that audience, so they are aiming at oldsters, uninformed Democrats, centrists, and even conservatives that abandon Fox News as it sinks.
Fast forward to 2016, and MSNBC saw their revenue jump some 48% over 2015, because they were playing the corporate propaganda game during the election. They garnered massive corporate dollars by backing corporate candidates and engaging in zero real journalism along the lines of calling out political corruption. Donald Trump was a gift to MSNBC, as they could mock and criticize him without rocking the boat of the neoliberal establishment. As a bonus, Trump is so odious, they can even hire on conservative shills and still mock the guy.
Their strategy at least makes sense if you consider what they are. That’s all I’m saying here. They are not going to succeed by trying to appeal to the left. That is a hopeless path for them to take, because people on the left are increasingly untrusting of corporate media, and increasingly not getting their information from television. They will not attract an audience that way, and will not be able to sell ads. What’s more, if they try to actually deliver the truth, that’s just more ad revenue out the window, because the corporate elites aren’t going to pay a company to tell the truth about how they’re screwing people over. Couple this with Fox News imploding at an epic pace, and it isn’t rocket science why they’re scooping up conservative shills.
Will it work? Who knows. But, it at least has a chance to keep them afloat longer than going to war with the very corporations that back them would by hiring actual journalists and reporting the truth.
I have a feeling we agree on most of this. My point is mostly that it’s not remotely accurate to call these people journalists. They aren’t in it to deliver facts or truth. They’re in the business of propaganda, and it is a business. Journalists on the internet telling businesspeople like Andy Lack how to do business is a little laughable. He can afford to pay Rachel Maddow close to $10 million a year. This should not be shocking in a world where Justin Bieber made $56 million in 2016; we live in an era where entertainers make a lot of money. Bieber and Maddow are both entertainers. Not journalists.