Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More On Female Business News Network Anchors: Who Really Likes Liz Claman?

Yesterday, I wrote about former CNBC anchor Liz Claman's much-desired departure from that network last month. I wrote, in part,

"I have found Claman to be ill-informed and of no particular added value to any business topic which she covered. Her interviews with people like Warren Buffett are notable for their cloying obsequiousness and adoring, softball questions. Following the Barbara Walters approach, she gets these plum interviews because her subjects know she will paint them in a soft, glowing light and never surprise them with any truly probing, potentially uncomfortable questions.

With Claman, you know she'll never ask the questions you'd ask if you had her subject on camera with you."

As is so typical with blogs, the heavy weight, more important posts rarely draw comments. But the fluffy ones do. For example, "Anonymous" (seems they usually are) wrote, in response to my post,

"Oh god, You're so effing in the minority here that it's not even funny. She had the #1 show on CNBC and judging by todays little tidbit in the NYDN, Looks like she has tons of offers on the table.....Hofefully she'll be on Fox Biz soon"

For clarification, Claman did not "have" a show on CNBC. She appeared with other anchors in the mid-morning slot. So it is difficult to understand how she could have had the "#1show" on the network.

But anonymous' comment about Claman's purported, rumored offers got me to thinking. With whom is Claman so popular? According to the blurb for which 'anonymous' provided a link, it is CEOs.

However, networks sell advertising on the basis of viewers, not CEO viewers, per se. Yes, I know CNBC likes to show ads with CEOs who watch their network. But that is not what pays the bills.

What's the likelihood that a network full of Claman-type interviewers could actually succeed? CNBC has Donnie Deutsch and Michael Eisner doing CEO interview shows. But not all day long.

Then there's the issue of how long such a rich diet of CEO interviews will last, before viewers realize that these have simply become well-orchestrated, safe publicity opportunities for the CEOs and other 'leaders' in question. This is my major bone of contention with Liz Claman as an interviewer. She just gushes over her subject, literally, and then lobs softball questions which smack of adoration and wonderment, rather than scepticism and objectivity.

Interestingly, nobody claims that Claman actually added value at a desk on air. Most of her appearances, as I recall, tended to be either in live interviews, or running taped interviews. For good measure, I followed the NYDN link (it's a daily updated page, so the Claman story is already gone), and the Claman paragraph stressed her popularity with CEOs because of her reputed feminine attractiveness.

Wonderful. Women try to be taken more seriously as business people, and we have people celebrating a plump, middle-aged woman for her physical features, overlooking her lack of intellect.

If loading up on this sort of 'talent' is what Fox is planning as major content for its business news channel, then I don't think they'll do very well. On the other hand, it's just possible that CNBC will become more attractive with the loss of its Wall Street Journal connection.

For example, Joe Kernen routinely cites Journal articles on the CNBC early morning program with Becky Quick. Since I watch the network primarily for breaking business news and market news, that works for me. They have occasional guests and hosts whom I respect, like Mike Holland, Brian Wesbury, or John Rutledge. But these are, frankly, exceptions among a parads of also-ran analysts and fund managers of whom you have never heard, prior to their 2 minutes of fame on CNBC.

Either way, it should be fun to watch the competition between Fox's new business channel, and CNBC. Who knows, maybe competition will result in one, or both, channels focusing on news and intelligent commentary, rather than glamour interviews with primping CEOs.

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