Why CBS Was Right to Pull Rank on CNET

I believe that media is more of a product than a mission. Each new piece of content produced by a media outlet is a product extension, offering a new concept while expanding the outlet’s brand. If the new piece of content makes the media outlet’s brand better, whether through its own quality or through its promotion of the outlet’s other products, it is successful. If the new content detracts from the media outlet’s other product, it is not successful.

CNET Best of CES Logo (source: cesweb.org)

CNET Best of CES Logo (source: cesweb.org)

For anyone looking to build a career in digital media, I’d recommend focusing on building your outlet’s brand through your content. The successful content creators at all career stages combing quality content creation with support for their companies’ bigger goals. It’s necessary to have an awareness of where your company stands on important issues, to make sure that your content adds to the bigger battle.

That’s why CNET’s decision to celebrate Dish Network seemed so clearly unproductive. CNET’s parent company, CBS, had filed a lawsuit against Dish Network in May 2012 over the Dish Hopper, a new DVR service that automatically skips commercial breaks on playback. The lawsuit was big news, especially since CBS’ lawsuit was accompanied by suits from other broadcast networks against Dish Network. Nevertheless, CNET’s editorial team chose the Hopper for CNET’s “Best of CES” award at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. CBS rightly asked CNET to pull its support for a product at the center of a lawsuit, leading media pundits to criticize CBS’ decision as “a journalistic disaster.”┬áThe fault here rests with CNET’s editorial staff, however, for not considering their company’s greater interest. If they had considered the their parent company’s interests, they would have been able to publish without undue oversight.

If you’re entering digital media, learn as much as you can about their outlets’ points of view. It’s OK to operate from a point of view, and even better to build your outlet’s overall brand through your content. The CNET editorial team would have preserved CNET’s reputation if it had operated with understanding of and respect for its parent company’s interests.