There's a lot of talk about MSNBC ratings being down accompanied by the usual gleeful triumphalism over on the right. I don't pretend to fully understand the reason for this, but I must point out that it's not just MSNBC. The online left has seen a steep decline in traffic since the election as well, which indicates to me that our audience in general is simply not interested in following politics at the moment. As Alex Pareene points out in this piece, politics is MSNBC's bread and butter.
It’s simplistic to say that viewers aren’t watching because the president’s having a bad news cycle. Bad news is often good for ratings. Liberals like to watch Republicans portrayed as big scary meanies when they’re not watching them be presented as inept nutso clowns. There was no such thing as liberal cable news during the Clinton impeachment, but if there had been I guarantee it would’ve been a hit. Maybe — maybe! — some viewers are tuning out because they’re not hearing enough of an unqualified defense of the president and his administration from some of MSNBC’s more left-leaning voices. But I’d guess that’s still not enough people to make a huge ratings difference.
Perhaps there just isn’t a huge, permanent, year-round liberal audience for political news and discussion. Which is effectively all MSNBC does, because political discussion is cheap as hell, and gets good ratings when certain periods and certain personalities align.
I don't think that's it. People aren't taking the scandals all that seriously (so far.) And I'm with pareene that if the Republicans really get crazy, the audience will come back. Short of that (or something else catastrophic) my impression is that liberals are either bored or disillusioned right now for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that a liberal majority has been effectively obstructed and the president seems to be ineffectual. (I realize that political scientists tell us that the presidency isn't very powerful, but most people don't believe that since we've extolled the office as the most powerful on earth for decades.)
We've been through a number of elections, crises, other ups and downs over the past decade but I've not seen anything like the drop in interest over the past few months. If it was just me I'd attribute it to my little project having run its course but it's happening across the liberal media spectrum. I don't now what the answer is, but it isn't that there isn't a permanent audience. There was until very recently. It's that the liberal audience is tuning out and one can only assume it's because they don't like what they see in our politics.
It makes me a little bit more concerned for 2014/2016 than I otherwise would be.
Meanwhile, everyone should be sure to watch MSNBC, particularly Chris Hayes, who is doing fascinating work you should see. You'll feel a little bit less disillusioned if you do: