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TheStreet Open House

Bartiromo May Not Know It, But Internet Killed the Cable-TV Star

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ever since the days of Nellie Bly, a famous reporter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there has been an impulse toward stardom in the field of journalism.

I was taught to resist that urge, but there is money to be made in being a big media star, and all my TV major classmates at Northwestern's Medill School, back in 1978, wanted to be stars.

They were easy to pick out from the rest of us. They dressed better, their hair smelled wonderful, and even the guys knew some beauty tips.

Of course, journalism stardom is supposed to feed some higher goal. It's supposed to be a by-product of doing the work and doing it well.

So what are we to make over the Twittering today about Maria Bartiromo? 

Bartiromo, who announced yesterday that she will switch from Comcast's (CMCSA) CNBC to Fox (FOX), has broken no stories. She's an interviewer who gushes over her subjects and saves her interrogatory scorn for those who dare criticize business practices. 

Yet it's big news that, when her latest contract expires on Nov. 24, she's off to Fox Business Network, which trails CNBC badly in the ratings, and Fox News, which doesn't.

The bigger story here might be just how small an audience we're talking about. According to Nielsen CNBC has been averaging 135,000 viewers, Fox Business Network 46,000. On Nov. 12, TVBytheNumbers reported Fox Business' daytime audience "in the demo," people aged 25-54, was 10,000.  Out of 96 services available in the third quarter, Fox Business Network was 85th in the daytime, which is when it draws its biggest audience.

If Bartiromo has just 45,000 fans who will follow her across to Fox Business Network, that doubles the network's audience. Take those viewers away from CNBC and the two networks are tied. That's what Fox is banking on.

But is the prize worth it? Business news, unlike any other beat save perhaps technology, just doesn't take to the small screen. Investors prefer words to pictures and numbers to words. And businessmen don't have time to look at TVs during the day -- they're working.

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