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Condolences to a loyal Changing Channels reader

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It's been a rough week for my devoted fan Keith Olbermann. When Nielsen ratings for the month were released, it turned out his audience has plummeted 29 percent from the same month last year. In the 25-to-54 age demographic for which news shows aim, the results were even worse. Olbermann has lost 44 percent of his demo audience, and now beats Nancy Grace's string-'em-up show on HLN by a bare 3000 viewers.

Worse yet, Keith seems to have lost his charm for the rest of the news media. Instead of awed proclamations that he's the future of TV news, he's getting something stories that read more like death-watch bulletins. I'm not the first or the second or the third or the fourth or even the fifth guy to note his sagging ratings. As you can see in the clip above, Olbermann likes to dismiss non-adulatory stories as the product of reactionary agents of Bill O'Reilly, but that's, well, a lie. When even Jon Stewart is dissing you as a loon, you've got serious problems.

For the record, I don't think Olbermann's show is in danger of cancellation any time soon. But his attempts to spin the ratings data to show that Countdown is on the upswing are ludicrous. Television news executives pay far more attention to year-on-year data than month-to-month, which can be distorted by seasonal viewing patterns. Olbermann knows very well that the NBC suits -- and, even more ominously, the Comcast guys who will be taking over -- are looking at those numbers with narrowed eyes. For all his braying about corporate America, that's exactly where Olbermann works. His bosses don't care if he calls Republicans rapists and wife-beaters. Losing eyeballs while he does it is quite another matter.


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