CNN’s ‘solution’ to year-end budget shortfalls is to make people pay for their ‘fake news’

Would you pay for ‘Fake News?’

CNN president Jeff Zucker is hoping enough people say ‘yes’ to that question to justify the launch of several digital “verticals,” or tiered subscription offerings, as soon as the 2018’s second quarter.

In what seemed to be a glowing Wall Street Journal piece about the move and CNN in general, Benjamin Mullin writes:

A proposed premium offering will give subscribers access to special content on topic-specific verticals, such as CNN Money and CNN Politics, built around network personalities. A second option will provide additional, though less specialized, content across all of CNN’s sites. Pricing hasn’t been finalized.

The move is part of a broader five-year plan to develop new revenue streams and reach $1 billion in digital revenue by 2022. CNN’s digital arm expects to pull in $370 million this year, according to a person familiar with its financials.

Instead of relying solely on an advertising model based on ads that run before videos, the network would ultimately like to “split revenue evenly between advertising and direct-to-consumer products,” according to CNN Digital Worldwide general manager Andrew Morse.

The Journal admits that “convincing users to pay for news won’t be easy” because of the dominance of Facebook and Google, but Morse is “conscious of these trends” and knows “that we will need to address them and overcome them if we’re going to be successful.”

And there may be more on the line than is evident on first glance.

Interestingly, Mullin’s WSJ article leaves out the possibly salient fact, reported by Buzzfeed back in September using six insider sources, that CNN Digital has been faced with a “budget pinch” of around $20 million that has resulted in some “end-of-the-year belt-tightening.”

“Expenses in CNN Digital have been pared down and travel for digital employees has been limited,” Buzzfeed wrote.

Fast forward to November and Mr. Zucker’s interview with the Wall Street Journal, and it all makes a little more sense.

“We have to find more subscription products,” said Zucker. “We have to experiment with e-commerce. And I think we have to find ways to monetize mobile traffic.”

In other words, let’s make up for that budget shortfall.

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.


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