Back in May of 2011 there was an article by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone titled ‘How Roger Ailes built the Fox News Fear Factory’. According to Dickinson, Ailes runs the most profitable division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp – that being Fox News itself.
Here’s a quote from that story: ‘To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican party.’
Today, there’s another article in the New York Times about Fox News. But this one is about demographics. The network has the oldest median age viewers in all of television: 65+. In a world where advertisers are almost always looking for a 25-54 year old target, one would think this could be a big problem.
Surprisingly, it’s not. According to the NYT, ‘Fox News has been more able than any other television entity to defy the tyranny of the demos, as they are known in the business. The network has earned consistently enormous profits relying on the commitment and loyalty of its audience.’ Financial analyst Craig Moffett says the key to Fox News’s continued financial strength has been ‘the level of passion and engagement‘ it inspires in its viewers.
In other words, despite the aging demographic of its audience, Fox News is still incredibly profitable. With almost 100 million subscribers, Fox News will reel in $1.11 billion this year in subscription fees. And that’s before it sells a single commercial(!)
Fox News is a brand people either love or hate. But those that love it have made it the most profitable enterprise in all of television. And that’s really the point. Committed brand evangelists are what keeps Fox News rolling in profits, even while others decry its old world, narrow-minded, right wing reporting.
There simply aren’t that many brands in the world that have truly passionate followers. Apple is one. Harley-Davidson is another. Fender and Gibson musical instruments. Perhaps a handful of luxury brands. But passion is what builds success over the long run. Especially in the era of social media and constant connection online.
You have to ask yourself: What does our brand stand for? How can you help better define that? It’s much better to have a small group of fervent, energized supporters than a large number who’re much more willing to jump ship when something new comes along. Because that small group will grow – they will proselytize for you. And they will provide momentum that even a great big advertising budget can’t sustain over the long run.
Roger Ailes has proven that branding is not about being all things to all people. It’s about being something very special to a specific, defined target.