Having Bias is fueling growth in media, Unbias may not the best strategy

CNN has successfully advertised unbiased news as its strategy.

But CNN's real selling point in the age of dueling partisan networks Fox News and MSNBC is this, from CNN’s senior vice president and Washington bureau chief Sam Feist:

As the only cable news channel that has not picked sides in this election, CNN has a unique lens with which to cover these conventions. In Tampa and in Charlotte, we will give both parties an opportunity to showcase their platforms while also asking tough questions of Republicans and Democrats. Coverage of the conventions will dominate our air over two weeks as CNN's deep bench of anchors, political reporters and analysts help Americans make an informed choice about their vote.

What is media bias?

The most commonly discussed forms of bias occur when the media support or attack a particular political party, candidate, or ideology, but other common forms of bias include

  • Advertising bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please advertisers.
  • Corporate bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please corporate owners of media.
  • Mainstream bias, a tendency to report what everyone else is reporting, and to avoid stories that will offend anyone.
  • Sensationalism, bias in favor of the exceptional over the ordinary, giving the impression that rare events, such as airplane crashes, are more common than common events, such as automobile crashes.
  • Concision bias, a tendency to report views that can be summarized succinctly, crowding out more unconventional views that take time to explain.

The Economist gets some numbers to compare Fox, CNN, and NBC, and guess what being unbiased isn't winning vs. the competition.


CNN’s woes

Unbiased and unloved

Life is hard for a non-partisan cable news channel

AN ELECTION should be good business for a cable news channel. Alas, this is less true if, like CNN, you try to be unbiased. When Mitt Romney says that 47% of Americans are moochers, or Barack Obama says that entrepreneurs didn’t build their own businesses, partisan viewers crave a partisan response. Either the candidate hates America or he is being quoted out of context.

Fox News assures conservative viewers that Democrats’ gaffes fall in the former category, and Republicans’ in the latter. MSNBC, vice versa. CNN tries to be fair. Viewers hate that. Its ratings in America are sliding, while Fox and MSNBC are doing well (see chart).

Think about this when you read technology publications.  You may think they are unbiased, but unbiased does not necessarily beat the competition.