• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Newsmax and One America News have gained momentum since the 2020 election, attracting pro-Trump conservatives who are angry with Fox News.

Dec 21, 2020

Following widespread backlash Tucker Carlson clarified his stance against President Trump’s attorney Sidney Powell, urging her to provide evidence of voting software fraud.
A surge of post-election momentum for pro-Trump networks suggests that Fox News status as the primary cable news destination of far-right conservative viewers may not be as solid as previously thought.
But its unclear whether recent audience growth for Newsmax and One America News (OAN) is sustainable and experts question whether those networks can lure the type of advertisers that have enriched Fox News.
In the period leading up to the election and in the weeks thereafter, Newsmax and OAN have attracted a growing audience of far-right conservatives by amplifying President Donald Trump’s false declaration of victory and his unfounded accusations of election fraud.
Newsmax, the larger of the two, appears to have made a dent in Fox News ratings since then, although Fox News remains the far-and-away leader.
Bea Quirk, a 76-year-old retiree from Colonial Beach, Virginia, said she switched from Fox News to Newsmax after Fox News “pushed Trump aside” by declaring Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
“I have watched Fox News since long before Trump walked down the aisle,” she said. “I’m a Trump fan. I don’t like the way he was treated.”
In the last full week before the election, primetime ratings for Fox News were more than 90 times greater than primetime ratings for Newsmax, according to ratings tracker Nielsen.
Sean Spicer’s show will discuss the issues of the day each weekday on Newsmax TV.
But in the first full week after the election, Fox News’ lead had declined to less than nine times the ratings of Newsmax. And by the week of Nov. 30, the lead was down to less than seven times.
Fox News is being forced to actually compete for its audience for the first time in years, said Matt Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group that closely tracks cable news. They have had more or less a monopoly over right-wing cable news and have been the focal point of the overall conservative media ecosystem for decades and now they are needing to deal with competitors coming from the right and trying to take away some of their market share.
To be sure, Fox News has remained the most-watched cable news network in primetime, also besting CNN and MSNBC despite recent growth for those networks. But the momentum is undeniable for Newsmax, which averaged 401,000 viewers in primetime the week of Nov. 30, compared with 57,000 the week before the election and 233,000 the week of the election, according to Nielsen.
Bye, Bye 2020! More than half of Americans are optimistic about their finances in 2021 after rough year
Facebook, Twitter take notice: Parler, MeWe, Gab gain momentum as conservative social media alternatives
The surge for Newsmax in recent weeks even attracted the attention of Saturday Night Live, which spoofed the network in a skit about a sports channel that wont acknowledge that the woeful New York Jets have ever lost a football game.
Fox News declined to comment for this story. But Steve Tomsic, chief financial officer of Fox News owner Fox Corp., recently told analysts and investors that the network has got amazing brand loyalty with a broad base of support that extends beyond the primetime lineup to its daytime shows and an extensive online and TV newsgathering operation.
We don’t take lightly the potential for competition, whether it’s the existing sort of classic MSNBC or CNN, or the sort of emerging ones like Newsmax and OAN, Tomsic said at an investment conference, adding that we kind of welcome it because it sharpens us up and gives us a real focus.
Newsmax emerges
Founded in 1998, Newsmax viewership has surged in recent weeks by giving airtime to baseless claims of election fraud and winning the support of Trump himself, who has been enraged following his loss to former Vice President Joe Biden and has refused to concede victory, promoting falsehoods about the reliability of the election results.
Trump has promoted Newsmax shows to his more than 88 million followers on Twitter as alternatives to programs on Fox News, which angered the president and his supporters when it called the state of Arizona and then the entire election for Joe Biden.
Those moves really made people upset with Fox, and they realized that Fox had not been as fair in his coverage to the president, and so they decided to introduce a social media eruption, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy said in an interview. That led to our success and ratings.
Ruddy said conservative viewers are seeking a new and fresh outlet that isn’t overly critical of the president.
I think there was a perception that Fox could no longer be trusted, he said.
Like Newsmax, OAN has developed a loyal following with a steady stream of reports that appeal to far-right conservatives. OAN, which was founded in 2013 by Robert Herring and owned by Herring Networks, has spent considerable time reporting on accusations of election fraud.
To be sure, Fox News has also been widely accused of serving as a breeding ground for Trumps propagation of numerous falsehoods during his time in office. He has even consulted with Fox News hosts for political advice namely, primetime star and White House loyalist Sean Hannity and, in the past, has promoted Fox shows through Twitter.
They have been very supportive of him, Gertz said. But Trump, a faithful viewer, has been convinced that they are not a loyal enough propaganda outlet.
Josh Pasek, a political science and media professor at the University of Michigan, said Fox News’ willingness to declare Biden the winner showed there really is a limit to how polarized Fox News is willing to be.
When someone wins, you call them president-elect, and thats a journalistic norm that theyre holding with, he said. If that journalistic piece isnt present at all in peoples environments, then they have the potential to be living in a completely alternate reality.
Newsmax, on the other hand, did not call Biden president-elect until a majority of the Electoral College officially voted on Dec. 14 for the former vice president.
On Newsmax, Trump has largely not had to worry about facing skeptical or critical coverage. With supporters like its most popular primetime host, Greg Kelly, consistently promoting Trumps agenda, the network has become a welcome place for true believers in the president, including supportive commentators. The network and its website have given credence to accusations of election fraud that have no basis in fact, leading critics to assail the company as irresponsible and unethical.
Ruddy defended the outlet as more fair and balanced than Fox.
The president and his lawyers have made certain allegations about the election, and I think its our job to report that, he said.
Quirk, the Virginia resident and Trump fan, said she likes Newsmax because “they’re telling the news.”
“They don’t say everything good about the Republicans, and they don’t say everything bad about the Democrats,” she said. “They give you the layout on both of them so you can make your own mind up.”
Will advertisers follow?
From a financial standpoint, in addition to viewership counts, Fox News remains far more powerful than Newsmax or the smaller OAN, which isnt large enough to be tracked via Nielsen ratings.
Newsmax still pays to get distribution on cable and is likely facing a multi-year lossmaking initiative as it looks to expand its operations, Barclays analyst Kannan Venkateshwar wrote in a Dec. 4 research note. The company had about $59 million in revenue in 2018, compared with $2.7 billion for Fox News, Barclays estimated. But that figure has almost certainly risen since then, given the surge in viewership and readership the company has experienced since Trump cast a spotlight on the network.
Daily active users of Newsmax’s mobile app have soared in recent weeks, rising from about 156,000 on Oct. 20 to a peak of 2.25 million on Nov. 24, before settling in around 1.9 million by Dec. 12, according to Apptopia, a mobile intelligence firm.
Ruddy said Newsmax can eventually challenge Fox News for viewership and advertising, pointing to Fox News ability to quickly overtake CNN as the highest-rated cable news channel as an example of how easy it is for an established network to lose ground. He said Newsmax would benefit from its narrower focus on news and politics, compared with Fox News wider range of interests, including entertainment news.
Since the election, Newsmax has hired 25 new employees, and well probably hire another 25 to 30 in the next two months, Ruddy said. Among them: The network recently added former Fox News host Rob Schmitt to host a show at 10 p.m. and plans to increase our coverage on weekends, Ruddy said.
Will it be enough to attract lucrative advertising? Major corporate sponsors have been skittish about backing highly political content on Fox News primetime lineup in recent years, Media Matters fellow Gertz said.
For now, Newsmax is getting “low-level advertisers and is profiting from newsletters where they basically sell out their audience to hucksters and scammers, Gertz said.
Ruddy said the company has no problem with advertisers and said that the networks current sponsors are getting a tremendous value since our rates havent kept up with recent audience growth.
The polarization of media in America
The rise of outlets like Newsmax and OAN raises concerns among political scientists that the media environment is becoming further polarized, hearkening to an early-America era in which partisanship consumed journalism.
Newsmax and OAN are cultivating a larger group of people who are functionally disconnected from a reality that doesnt fit their partisan bias, the University of Michigans Pasek said. And thats dangerous because living in a shared information environment on some level is critical to a functioning democracy.
With Trump set to leave in office within weeks, far-right conservative outlets may become increasingly emboldened as they play the role of opposition to Biden, experts said.
I dont doubt that theyll be able to continue their momentum in many respects, Pasek said. It is very easy to become more extreme and to buy into a whole bunch of conspiracy theories when your side is out of power.
But there is almost surely still a significant place for Fox News to serve as a broad-based and not-super-extreme home for conservatives, Pasek said.
That gives Fox a huge potential audience, he said.
That said, if Trump no longer promotes Fox News and, in fact, continues to actively criticize the network, that could spur some of his supporters to look elsewhere.
Throughout much of his presidency, Trump has used his platform to bolster Fox News. From Sept. 1, 2018, through Aug. 31, 2020, he posted 1,206 tweets about watching cable news, 95% of which were about Fox News or Fox Business, according to Gertzs analysis.
But in the wake of the election, from Nov. 15 through Dec. 2, 53% of his cable news tweets were about Fox News or Fox Business, while 37% were about OAN and 10% were about Newsmax.
If Newsmax and OAN continue to give Trump and his supporters a platform to circulate falsehoods even after hes left office, they could continue the type of symbiotic relationship they already have in place.
Newsmax right now is trying to, as clearly as possible, openly say that they are a pro-Trump network and attract an audience that way, Gertz said.
But Fox News, regardless of how supportive they are of the president, they cannot cross the line into saying they are a pro-Trump network since they are trying to sell themselves to advertisers as a legitimate news network, Gertz said.
On OAN, meanwhile, anchors and writers have treated Trumps election fraud claims as potentially legitimate. OAN President Charles Herring did not agree to a phone interview for this story and did not respond to emailed questions after previously agreeing to do so.
Like Newsmax, daily active users of OAN have also increased in recent weeks, rising from about 107,000 on Oct. 20 to a peak of 621,000 on Dec. 7.
OAN is capitalizing on really unhinged conspiracy theories about global government, Gertz said. OAN has even less of a connection with reality.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/12/21/fox-news-newsmax-oan-cable-news-donald-trump-2020-election/3881624001/