New York Magazine cover article – the one that has Katie Couric on the cover saying, "Some days I’m like, oh my God, what did I do?" – the core of the issue, the a-ha, that’s why they’ve got a problem revelation, was right there at the top of page four:
At Today, she looked into the camera and imagined her average
viewer as a 32-year-old lawyer with a toddler who was preparing to
prosecute a case that day, or a stay-at-home mom who would “hopefully
get some things about raising kids or the environment.” On the CBS Evening News, she couldn’t see anyone in the camera lens. “I’m not sure,” Couric says drily. “My parents. I know they’re watching.”
No matter how good your story is, if you don’t know who you’re telling that story to, it won’t have the desired effect. In fact, your story isn’t great, or even good, unless you know exactly who the story is going to be told to – because the audience will decide if it’s any good by agreeing to keep listening.
All the hand-wringing in the world won’t stop a newscast from sinking in the ratings. CBS News has got plenty of audience measurement data, and they should know who they’re trying to attract to the evening news. The next step has to be to tell stories to that audience. Unfortunately, I don’t know that they know, or will do, that. And therin lies the issue…