A Twitter exchange I had at 1am that turned bizarre led me to think a lot tonight about NewsNation and how it's playing to potential viewers.
So far, most Twitter conversation about NN has been from the right-of-center to right. This is a consistent theme I have noticed monitoring social media in recent days, and I have identified several reasons this might be the case:
Slogan promotion turns off potential viewers on the left. Looking at you, "balance, not bias". In trumpeting their adherence to this principle, they may be actually causing their viewership to become even more imbalanced. Casual left viewers might be hearing that slogan and feeling like this is a competitor to Fox News.
In this moment, conservatives might be more inclined to sample a new news product they haven't heard of. It feels like people on the left and center-left want to stick to names they know (e.g. CNN, MSNBC), whereas people on the right are actively looking for new voices—particularly if they are disaffected viewers of Fox News Channel. If you're not familiar with Nexstar, as is the case for the average TV viewer, NewsNation looks like TV news startup #47. Nothing about it provides the cues that say "mainstream media" on a national level—even though, ironically this operation is as "legacy" as new news operations get, given its reliance on decades-old local TV newsrooms and people that once worked in them! This is one factor that might boost interest on the right but dampen it on the left.
Is Antenna TV promotion hurting? The thread that got weird on me fast actually was about someone on the left who was skeptical about NN merely because it was being heavily advertised on Antenna TV alongside other "conservative grifters" and MyPillow.
Is "both sides" a structural fallacy? From the bracket logo on down, Nexstar's "both sides" positioning might be flawed, and this is a macro problem well beyond Bradley Place. I think this is growing ever more common as a theme on the left, where most people and actors expect the two-party system of American politics to display some symmetry whereas it's actually becoming increasingly lopsided. The entire concept of NN as it is positioned might actually be playing into a structural fallacy. And it's one that generally doesn't bother local TV stations, from which NewsNation borrows so, so much in terms of content and presentation.
Potential gatekeepers: It's so weird to think this, but in 2020, Nexstar has built a new news product that will in about a month go behind a TV Everywhere paywall. That will remove a lot of cord cutters—and young, left-skewing people—from the audience. (It also appears WGN America has lost some distribution here and there in its years of general irrelevance, and it doesn't seem to be on many vMVPDs.) Oh, and Nexstar REALLY needs to get WGN America's West Coast feed sorted out so this program airs live nationwide.
The wind on this archery target might already have been pushing the audience to the right of the dead-center bullseye given the middle America focus.
I was asked why I was even looking at tweets about NN. I know the #KHive people won't see this message, but I might as well say it. I've been interested in the local TV business since I was little, and I was practically raised on cable news. This is the most ambitious project related to local TV news in years. It's the biggest gamble of Perry Sook's career, and there is intense scrutiny on whether this will be a winner or a failure we file alongside News Out of the Box or This Day. When Sook bought Tribune, he bought WGN—which included a lot of extra studio and building space, people with expertise in national television production, and a directionless cable channel already in millions of homes that was an effective blank slate. All three are part of the NewsNation recipe, as are (of course) all the Nexstar newsrooms.
And a personal note. I'm a news junkie! Of course NewsNation is not my only source of news. Certainly I consume content that would be recognized as further toward the left, whether that be CNN or The Intercept. But I also have found it useful enough as a complement to those other sources to follow and watch regularly.