CNN, Pilates and Your Show

Posted on June 8, 2011

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CNN is the hands down leader when it comes to Web traffic for news sites.

Comscore reports CNN averaged 8.5 million unique viewers a day over the first three months of 2011, far ahead of its cable competitors  MSNBC.com (7.4 million) and Fox (2.3 million).

In fact CNN beats nearly every major news source for web traffic. The site’s estimated 75.9 million unique US visitors per month is second only to Yahoo! News Network’s 88 million and far ahead of AOL News (40 million), The New York Times (32.9 million) and CBS News (16.4 million).

Their secret: Pilates. Yes, the weird exercise craze that involves strange-looking machines and, as far as I can tell, a lot of pain.

According to an article by the Nieman Journalism Lab, Meredith Atley, the managing editor of CNN.com, attributes their success to the “pilates strategy” which she describes as being, “about strengthening your core and stretching into new areas.”

Not surprisingly something that’s good for your body and for CNN’s Web traffic would also be good for your show.

The first step is to strengthen your core. That means understanding the main reason people are tuning in.

For CNN it’s breaking news coverage. 

For your show it’s the station’s format. Listeners tune-in expecting a certain type of music or discussions of certain types of topics.

You have to deliver on that expectation. But that’s not enough.

You have to stretch beyond your core.

For CNN that meant adding a number of peripheral, but related, types of content including: more opinion and commentary from experts; coverage of softer news topics; and a platform where citizen journalists can provide content.

Which, for your show, could easily be interpreted as adding regular contributors, cleverly formatted features and listener contributions.

It’s also worth noting that CNN’s Web site is one of the few, if not the only, major news site that does not use syndicated content from the Associated Press.

While other sites all have the exact same coverage of a story via AP, CNN is committed to having its own content which makes the site stand out.

In the case of your show that means having your own unique viewpoint. Don’t just give listeners the same information they get from every other station.

Like CNN, you have to give them a reason to tune in to your show; content they won’t get anywhere else. 

Atley’s Pilates routine has paid off not just in site traffic but also in loyalty. 

A study by Nielsen and the Pew Foundation’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.org reports 17.8% of visitors to the CNN Web site come back ten or more times per month. 

In Arbitron-speak, that’s a lot of occasions of listening which, as we’ve discussed before, is what drives ratings success.

So, what do you think, should I rename my company Talent Personal Trainer instead of Talent Mechanic. Either way, just let me know when you’re ready to start toning up those abs.

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