Along the way, the investment has paid off. This year, among the cable news networks, CNN won election night by a wide margin, pulling in an average of more than 12 million viewers during prime time; its Web site also saw a huge spike on election day, attracting some 30 million unique users. Among the broadcast networks, only ABC managed to beat CNN in prime time, from 8 to 11 p.m.—and if you expand the viewing horizon to 12:30 a.m., CNN topped them all.
Mr. Klein, who spent much of his career working in broadcast TV news before joining CNN in 2004, said that cable news is playing a completely different game than the broadcast networks. “What they’re playing is golf,” said Mr. Klein. “That is, they’re trying to get there in as few strokes as possible. Spend as little as possible, but still look like you’re still covering the news.
“Here, the challenge is the opposite,” he added. “Show the audience that you are swarming over every story with as many resources as possible. Run up the score.”
With a financial crisis undermining the American economy, advertising in free fall and the election over, will CNN continue to try and run up the score at the same feverish pace? “We’re not going to trim our sails,” said Mr. Klein. “We’re going to be cautious just as everyone else in America is. But we intend to continue innovating. The best path through turbulent economic times is growth.”
Around 11:30 on Monday morning, Mr. Klein excused himself. He said he was running late and had to catch a train to Washington, where he was planning to spend the evening congratulating the members of CNN’s political team.
“We’re having a party,” he said.