Numbers never added up for Fox’s brand of online news
This column appeared Jan. 5, 2001, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
By J.D. Lasica
On the same day word came that the News Corp. was shuttering its online division — effectively gutting its online news and sports operations — Web users who surfed over to FoxNews.com could read about a reported sighting of the escapees from a Texas prison.
Or they could read the off-lead piece, which foxnews.com’s editors deemed the second most newsworthy item of the day: “Tempest in a D-Cup: Jenna Franklin had something BIG in mind for her 16th birthday, but now the plastic surgeon says no.”
That recipe — a dollop of hard news, topped off by some jiggle or sizzle — is a familiar one to those who like their news diet accompanied by a side of flash and trash.
Unfortunately for Fox, most Americans seem to like their news straight. The latest numbers from Media Metrix, the company that measures Web audiences, may have contributed to Thursday’s decision by News Corp. to scuttle its News Digital Media division, eliminate more than 200 jobs and transfer production of FoxNews.com and FoxSports.com back to the Fox network.
After all, November, with its breathtakingly close presidential election and daily political and legal handsprings that defied credulity, had to be the most news-heavy month since the Lewinsky scandal and President Clinton’s impeachment. With almost hourly twists and turns, it was a month tailor-made for breaking news sites. Yet even during November, FoxNews.com couldn’t claw its way out of the digital news basement, remaining far behind industry leaders MSNBC and CNN.com.