Ever since November 8, 2016 when CNN reporters received the shock of their lives, their reporting has consisted pretty much of 24x7 coverage of the "Russian collusion" narrative...a narrative that looks increasingly like, as even their own Van Jones described it, "just a big nothingburger."
Now, as the Wall Street Journal notes today, CNN President Jeffrey Zucker has apparently somehow managed to convince himself that Americans would be all too happy to part with their hard-earned cash to pay for his network's constant narrative building exercises. While pricing plans have not yet been set, Zucker says you should plan on paying for his network's "nothingburgers" as soon as 2Q 2018.
After investing in digital verticals focused on business and politics and acquiring an online-video startup, CNN is gearing up for another big step: It plans to launch tiered subscription offerings for its digital news business as early as the second quarter of next year.
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.
“We have to find more subscription products,” Mr. Zucker said in an interview. “We have to experiment with e-commerce. And I think we have to find ways to monetize mobile traffic.”
Of course, it was just last summer that CNN was embarrassingly forced to retract a salacious story about Anthony Scaramucci which resulted in the resignation' of three CNN 'journalists, including the Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Frank.
Now for the consequences. CNN announced on Monday afternoon that three network officials are leaving their jobs over the incident: Frank, the reporter on the story; Eric Lichtblau, a recent CNN addition from the New York Times who edited the piece; and Lex Haris, the executive editor of “CNN Investigates.” The moves follow an investigation carried out by CNN executives over the weekend, with the conclusion that longstanding network procedures for publishing stories weren’t properly followed. “There was a significant breakdown in process,” says a CNN source. “There were editorial checks and balances within the organization that weren’t met.”
The official CNN statement: “In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication.”
Regarding the personnel changes, a CNN source said, “The individuals all stated that they accepted responsibility and wanted to resign.” A compelling wrinkle in the saga of the story springs from the careful language in the editor’s note: “That story did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci,” it reads. CNN is not bailing on all the factual representations in the story, however. “We pulled it down not because we disproved it,” says a CNN source, adding that there was “enough concern” on some factual points that “given the breach in process, we decided to pull it down.”
And then who can forget Van Jones' shocking admission on a hidden camera that CNN's "Russian collusion" narrative was nothing more than "fake news."
PV Reporter: "What do you think is going to happen this week with the whole Russia thing?"
Van Jones: "The Russia Thing Is Just A Big Nothing Burger"
PV Reporter: "Really?"
Van Jones: "Yeah."
Meanwhile, CNN is apparently also looking into other 'cutting edge' product offerings like online shopping, apps and video streaming to boost revenues...truly disruptive-ish.
CNN Digital is working on other revenue streams. On Thursday, the company launched CNN Underscored, an online shopping guide that recommends products and services for readers, with CNN receiving a cut of revenue when purchases are made on other sites.
It’s also considering making its CNN Go app, with live TV content, available to consumers outside the U.S. for a recurring fee. Currently, the app is only available to American cable subscribers.
CNN is also betting big on digital video. Its Great Big Story unit was created in 2015 to offer a combination of branded content, creative services and content production. The editorial team now numbers 35, with staff in Stockholm and London, and CNN expects the division to break even next year.
Last year, CNN acquired Beme, the video-sharing app founded by YouTube star Casey Neistat, for $25 million. The company has begun beta-testing a new app, called Beme Panels, which allows users to share their opinions on current events, tech and entertainment. Also in the works is a daily YouTube show, to be hosted by Mr. Neistat.
We're still awaiting confirmation that CNN's decision to implement a paywall has finally provided the precedent necessary for The Onion to also charge for their similarly-respected, hard-hitting journalism service.