Welcome to the 32nd “This Business of Art / Media / Web Fix,” in which I share with you things I read that I loved relating to the work I do here — online media, business, entrepreneurship, women in tech, start-ups, journalism, publishing, management, queer visibility, and so forth.
Will You Re-Member Me, I Will Re-Member You
We celebrated our two-year A+ anniversary last week and are wishing and hoping and crossing all our fingers and toes that we can hit 1,800 A+ members by the end of August and 2,000 by the year’s end.
Talking Points Memo celebrated the four-year anniversary of their membership program, TPM Prime, this year, and over at Neiman Lab, TPM’s founder, editor-in-chief, and publisher Josh Marshall talks about their 11,000 subscribers and how relying on an audience-centric revenue stream influences the journalism they produce.
…our whole focus as an organization now is on building a tighter connection with our core readers and creating a tighter fit between the publication those core readers. Obviously as a site, our core readership is only a small fraction of the overall readership that we have every month, but it’s particularly key to us. It’s our base.
Our whole thinking is based on the premise that scale is greatly overrated, which is not a totally unique thought these days. That premise has been the one we’ve been working on since 2012, and it’s shaped all of our business strategies. We’re finding ways to build revenue streams that are based on what’s unique about our core audience and brand and letting other publications that are focused on scale and social media propagation do their own thing. We have a very different strategy.
Their goal for 2016 is 20,000 subscribers and they’ve been rolling out new Prime features towards this goal, including The Arch, a subscriber-only magazine that launched with an in-depth look at the history of the AR-15. It’s a great interview that touches on many points relevant to all of us here, like that being reliant on reader support is a safer place to be when a Google or Facebook algorithm tweak or new feature can happen any day and majorly impact traffic. My dream is that with enough subscribers, we could hire another full-time human that’d enable us to have at least one editor almost entirely devoted to expanding what A+ offers our members.
At The New York Times, Public Editor Liz Spayd also speaks to the importance of reader-writer relationships, which is especially significant for them now that subscribers provide more than half of their total revenue:
This means that instead of just chasing clicks — though the paper has begun to indulge in that, too — The Times hopes to make its content sufficiently unique and addictive that it turns frequent visitors into subscribers.
Gawker’s Nick Denton doesn’t solicit reader support for his Gawker Media properties, but he tells Fortune Magazine that maintaining a relationship with those readers through comments is still crucial to the success of their organization:
The principle is that the Internet is an interactive medium, and an exchange between readers and writers is a much more meaningful form of interaction than a Like or a Share. But the pragmatic argument for investment in comments is powerful in its own way. [Gawker Media Group] properties, with 107 [employees] in Editorial, brings in about 500k uniques per staffer. That’s double the level of Vox and other major competitors. It’s hard to quantify, but a large reason for that editorial leverage is the participation of the 100,000 people a month who actively participate in discussions.
It’s encouraging to see so many bigger companies stressing the importance of reader relationships and relying on reader support to survive. Facebook’s latest algorithm tweak have left many publishers reeling. Who knows what could happen next. We could all turn into forks and knives!
This Business of Online Media
+ This.co, the really cool ‘artisinal web’ one-link-a-day content sharing interface that I told you about a few weeks ago, is shuttering. I admit that I forgot to ever log into it after that first week myself, so. “I’m tempted to make the explanation for that complicated, but it’s pretty simple,” said founder Andrew Golis. “We worked ourselves to the point of exhaustion, struggled to raise money and just ran out of time.”
+ Nieman Lab talks to Morgan DeBaum, the founder of Blavity, a site with 3 million millennial visitors a month who come for “critical commentary and reporting on contemporary black issues, ranging from social justice, to viral memes, and pop culture.” DeBaum explains that she sees her site as a platform that relies on innovative technology to give her audience a voice and develop meaningful brand collaborations, making sites like For Harriet and Buzzfeed’s Cocoa Butter potential partners rather than competitors. She also speaks about their 3-D events, including EmpowerHer, which she describes as an “internet reunion” for black millennial women.
+ Dwell.com, the online presence of aspirational design magazine Dwell, which we continue to buy and lust after even though we’ll never be able to afford anything in the entire magazine, is building an online collaborative platform described as “an interactive and social space where readers, design professionals and brands all post stories, photos and annotations.”
+ Vice continues to expand, adding 26 people to its news staff.
+ Why YouTube Stars and many other creatives are accusing Buzzfeed of stealing their ideas:
BuzzFeed has been caught repeatedly stealing ideas, jokes, bits, gags, and therefore money from prominent YouTube creators,” Hughes wrote, in a popular Change.org petition addressed to the site’s advertisers and signed, as of this writing, more than 5,500 times. “This is a deliberate initiative on BuzzFeed’s behalf to undermine the hard work of independent comedians, creators, and innovators.”
+ Twitter is opening up the ‘verified’ option to the masses, allowing people to apply to be verified instead of waiting patiently for Twitter to notice them and reward them accordingly. I obviously applied immediately, because:
You contribute to Buzzfeed and that's worthy of being verified but @autowin, CEO of the most popular LB sometimes T site in the US isn't?
— Brittani Nichols (@BisHilarious) August 12, 2015
However, according to this Nieman Lab article, there’s a solid chance I’ll be rejected regardless!
+ Podcasting has an ad-blocking problem too — the 15 second skip button. (I confess that I use this myself, but also I already have a squarespace website, I already use mailchimp, and we just signed up for Blue Apron, so like, I’m in, no need to push.)