Oof. Cable news network HLN, originally a CNN off-shoot, has taken the page from the strategy of networks like TLC or AMC: abandoning the original concept for the station (Headline News, The Learning Channel, and American Movie Classics, respectively) but keeping the original acronym. The new, refurbished HLN is doing away with the endlessly repeated news cycle and the Nancy Grace-like “outrage news” segments, and replacing them with new material targeted to the millennial demographic.
Apparently the people at Turner Broadcasting don’t have a very high opinion of your demographic.
Here are the new show titles, ranked in increasing order of absurdity:
- Vacation Hunters
- I Can Haz NewsToons
The idea behind the network reboot is to integrate social media with news in original ways that encourage greater levels of engagement. That’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but you’d think they could have found some people to come up with ideas that actually understand the advantages online and social news have over cable news, not somebody who browsed Urban Dictionary and KnowYourMeme for an hour.
I don’t understand what the network could possibly offer that couldn’t also be found online without 8 minutes of advertising per half hour. For example, from the description, I Can Haz NewsToons (just typing that makes me shudder) will apparently just show off politically minded e-cards and webcomics. How is that a show? Will the host just read them to us? Will they be crudely animated? I’m not sure which is worse. Why would anybody sit through 2 parts slideshow and 1 part ads for half an hour when they can just scroll through a Tumblr that gives them the exact same thing in two minutes?
Look, HLN, I understand you have a challenge to face trying to reach a younger audience. But if you want to engage with people, you don’t need gimmicks, you need better content. You’re not going to out-Internet the Internet. The fact that you’re trying to shows just how clueless you really are.
Millennials do engage with the news. Really. But almost never through cable. There’s no reason to. This generation is not used to passively consuming information. Young people want the ability to comment, to discuss, to share, and to control how much news to consume. It’s an active experience, as anyone who’s ever done a deep-dive through link after link knows. And no amount of misused hashtagging is going to make cable look more appealing.
(Quick aside, didn’t anyone point out that punctuation closes hashtags? That show can’t even use its own dumb name as a functional hashtag.)
The only way to get millennials to pay attention to cable as a news source is with a strong personality. If you want a model for that, look to Stewart and Colbert. No gimmicks other than entertaining commentary and spot-on satire. It doesn’t even have to be funny, just engaging and… read carefully, because this is the important part… NOT TALKING DOWN TO THE AUDIENCE.