CNN ratings have hit the lowest numbers they’ve achieved since August 2001, a month prior to the attacks of September 11th that reshaped the modern news cycle in many fundamental ways.
In April of 2012, CNN ratings plummeted a total 21% over April of 2011, and in the 25-54 year old demographic, the decline was even more marked, with a 29% drop. According to Deadline.com, competitors Fox News and MSNBC did not see the same decline as seen in CNN ratings. MSNBC, often seen as the direct foil to Fox’s right-leaning coverage came in flat in total viewership and down a more modest 5% in the key 25-54 year old demographic.
Fox, on the other hand, saw some slight gains on both fronts. Among all viewers, the network was up 2%, and in the 25-54 group, there was a very slight 1% bump. The trade paper also notes declines in viewership for all CNN’s main evening properties, with a 41% drop for evening headliner John King.
Erin Burnett’s Outfront was down 34%, while Piers Morgan’s show fell 14% in ratings. Anderson Cooper 360 showed the lowest decline among the network’s properties at 8%.
Former CNN Washington bureau chief David Bohrman spoke to the Wall Street Journal about CNN’s ratings in April, saying that the network is still America’s first choice during a crisis, but in the absence of a developing story of that magnitude, the channel has struggled to retain an identity:
“The world still knows to turn to CNN whenever a crisis erupts… That is the brand. But CNN seems uncomfortable with the totality of the brand. They are constantly trying to figure out who they are when there is no crisis.”
The Journal notes that CNN’s ratings did show a “rare… win over MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic in prime time in the first quarter,” mainly due to some notable events such as the death of Whitney Houston, as well as election-related coverage.