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Andrew Morse, executive vice president of CNN US and head of CNN digital worldwide. Art by Matt Vascellaro.
The Big Interview

How CNN is Fending off Digital Rivals

Photo: Andrew Morse, executive vice president of CNN US and head of CNN digital worldwide. Art by Matt Vascellaro.

Public spats between TV networks are a time-honored tradition in cable news. But in recent months CNN executives have been turning their sights to digital competitors—with two sites in particular the focus of their PR potshots: BuzzFeed and Vice.

CNN’s president Jeff Zucker has called out the two as being unserious about journalism, all while touting the network’s growth in both television and online. To further that point, the company recently sent out comScore’s July figures showing CNN’s sites outranking the field on video, mobile and in the millennial demographic. Topping off a chiding press release was the announcement that CNN’s group of sites saw 115 million unique visitors across mobile and desktop during the month. That, the release noted, compared to 72 million for BuzzFeed.com.

BuzzFeed fired back. Its executives pointed out that comScore’s numbers didn’t include mobile video views, negating BuzzFeed’s substantial presence on Facebook. And BuzzFeed’s Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said that for all the criticism, CNN has been more than willing to follow its reporting. “CNN should probably decide whether they want to copy us or dismiss us. They're currently doing a lot of both and we're both flattered and a little puzzled," he said in a statement to The Information.

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