This Business of Art Fix #28: What If Your Most Important Financial Relationship Is With The Reader

Only The Reader-Supported Will Survive

On Medium, NYT Global Editor Lydia Polgreen writes about why people pay to read The New York Times — and about the implications of a business model for digital media employed by other outlets that does not support actual news reporting. She seems to feel that in light of recent revenue shortfalls, Buzzfeed will be shifting its focus from news to entertainment, as “questions linger about whether its business model, which relies on creating expensive native advertising campaigns for brands, is scalable.” Regardless, Facebook is taking all the ad money to the tune of $1.5 billion of pure profit in the last quarter, mostly from mobile ads. Still, the author is optimistic about the health of The Times specifically, which continues to attract digital subscribers (I’ve been one of them since the paywall was rolled out in 2011, though I stopped getting the print edition in 2005.) In fact, The Times now makes more revenue from subscriptions than from advertisers. (So do we.) And here’s the meat of this whole dish:

As someone who cares deeply about independent journalism, I love the idea that our most important financial relationship is with the reader, not the advertiser. It clarifies our mission and helps us make tough choices about how to spend our precious editorial resources.

Last month, Mother Jones also gave a solid pitch for reader-supported media, specifically of the non-profit variety. They warned of a coming online media news apocalypse and implored readers to help them meet their fundraising goal of $175,000 so they could keep doing real journalism, and they did.

Speaking of non-profit media, the co-founder of Bitch Magazine, Andi Zeisler, talked to Cosmopolitan last week about how Bitch came to be. Bitch is one of our Top Five Influences and it was cool to read about how Andi grew up loving magazines (as did I) but had trouble breaking in to the industry (as did I) and then just decided to start her own ‘zine with Lisa Jervis and it eventually became the non-profit feminist perspective on pop culture we all know and love today!

Meanwhile, present media companies continue retooling: re/code is dropping the slash and broadening its ambitions with a global focus, shorter posts, longer posts, more visuals and more video. And big local newspapers are being snatched up by the super-rich. The Independent let go of its print edition two months ago and is already profitable — partially ’cause they’ve been hiring new writers who can write editorial and advertising.

This Business of Online Media

+ According to a Gizmodo exposé, Facebook has allegedly been routinely suppressing conservative news stories from making it into trending topics, and has also allegedly been injecting topics into the sidebar that should be trending but aren’t — like Black Lives Matter, Syria and Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Facebook has vehemently denied these accusations. I feel guilty that when I was reading the Gizmodo article I was mostly like, “oh that’s good, I’m glad that I don’t have to see stories from Fox News and that things like Syria and #blacklivesmatter are promoted!” but I also realize this is not how the world or media is supposed to work. Columbia Tow Center for Digital Journalism director Emily Bell has argued that “Facebook is increasingly shaping the contours of the public square, and citizens and news organizations have little choice but to go along for the ride. The power shift raises the all-important question of how information travels in free societies—and what we know about it. ”

Over at The Verge, Nilay Patel points out that the Facebook trending news box is “invisible garbage,” describing it as “a cable news ticker with worse taste and more celebrity selfie posts. It should either go away or get dramatically better.” Despite this, apparently the U.S. Senate GOP Commerce Committee is launching an investigation into this situation. The Stratechery argues that the real problem is that the algorithim feeds us more of what we already like and believe, insulating liberals in liberal cocoons and conservatives in conservative cocoons, while Fusion says that algorithims themselves can’t possibly be neutral because they are created by humans.

Mostly I find Facebook trending topics depressing because they’re often populated by my least favorite type of news story, which’s “celebrity said [controversial thing that has nothing to do with their career or why they are a celebrity].”

+ A new Pew Research Report has lots of interesting info about our news-reading behavior online, including that we are reading a lot of long articles on mobile. This feels true. I feel like I read a lot on mobile while waiting for things.

+ If you want your publication on Snapchat Discover, you better be prepared to pay for the privilege.

+ From Bingo games to brackets, The Washington Post is building new ways to tell a story.

+ Instagram has a new logo.

+ Ripple wants to help you write and read local news.

Quartz’s Atlas tool is now an open platform anybody can use to create charts with data.

+ Google News’s new “Local Source” policy will prioritize local news sources for big stories.

This Business of Journalism

+ The Columbia Journalism Review reflects on David Granger’s recent termination from Esquire and how Granger “restored Esquire’s relevance by embracing the emotional depth of men’s interests” but failed to keep up with digital platforms.  The article notes that “Esquire’s most vexing problem has been its website, a bizarre amalgam of serious news, pictures of half-naked women, and listicles with clickbait headlines” and that most of its writers have been on the masthead for generations. It’s true that although I’ve always sought out Esquire as a source of excellent longform, those pieces are rarely easy to find or easy to read online, which these days makes them inherently less influential. However, nobody knows why Granger was let go. David Carey, the president of Hearst Magazines since 2010, has replaced editors at 15 of his 21 titles since taking over. Town & Country‘s 46-year-old Jay Fielden will be Esquire’s new editor. It’s always interesting to read about what was happening behind-the-scenes because from just reading the magazine and the editor’s letter every month, things seemed pretty hunky-dory to me!

Businesswoman’s Special

+ science says that “little productive help happens if you work more than 50 hours a week.”

+ 9 tips to be super-productive in your home office

+ meet the amazing color-coded spreadsheet that could run your entire freelance life

+ focus on how much you can save per day for retirement

+ a new film inspires female founders to dream big

+ 7 things to say when a conversation turns negative

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3213 articles for us.


  1. These are the best link roundups on the internet. Thank you for keeping them coming.

    Re: trending topics on FB, I am special snowflake sensitive to that kind of stuff and it really, really harshes my mellow. My FB life changed for the (much, much) better when I downloaded Facebook Purity, which allows you to turn that sidebar (and many other things) off. I’m not sure if it’s available on mobile or not but my desktop experience is so much nicer now. Heartily recommend. (And it’s free!)

  2. It’s a shame that Buzzfeed is shifting away from news stories. I’ve really enjoyed some of their longform reports recently.

    I realize that Facebook shouldn’t be shaping the news in the way that’s being reported, but…aren’t the major media outlets, like Fox, already doing that to our detriment? Isn’t it kind of a losing battle, so maybe playing a little dirty and shaping the news with a liberal bent (even if it is the tech-elite liberal) okay?

    Anyway I don’t read trending topics on Facebook because the headlines are written in a super weird, super-neutral AI type of way that cracks me up while also skeeving me out.

  3. “I feel guilty that when I was reading the Gizmodo article I was mostly like, “oh that’s good, I’m glad that I don’t have to see stories from Fox News and that things like Syria and #blacklivesmatter are promoted!”

    Oh man Riese, me too. Like, on an objective level, I recognize that this is essentially corporate censorship, but on a subjective level I just think “and this is a bad thing whyyyy?” But then I think of what else they could be suppressing, and then I watch Person of Interest, and then I become paranoid.

      • Mostly the thing we need to be paranoïd about isn’t IF a super intelligence watching us exists but whether it’s a Machine or a Samaritan…

  4. The new Instagram logo Is way out of step with the colour scheme of my social media folder on my phone….anyone else? It’s messing with my head, I may have to refile everything according to app colour. This is the reason snap chat is next to IMDb.

  5. The negative conversations article is so good and useful! Highly recommended. Thank you!

  6. OK, I hate the put-on-pants working from home tip. Just had to say that. Particularly as someone who often writes best first thing in the morning, wasting such time on “professional dress” is absurd. I would prefer there were no such thing as professional dress, though, so I suspect I find it irritating rather than enforcing work standards.

    Also, too much of that stuff’s handwash or dry-clean only. Dude.

    • Agree wholeheartedly about the put on pants thing. By the time I have showered and dressed for work I am done for creativity and the ability to continue my idea that I woke up with…
      I have a lot of professional dress feelings. I don’t really know where to begin to unpack them, so I’ll just say; Is “professional dress” not just another way to separate people of different social/financial standings, and belittle those not wearing shirts and suits or suit-esque clothing? Are we not bred to respect people in suits over people who are not? Is this why there is less respect for the arts leading to their erosion from our education system? The dress code for 16-18s in our local high schools is professional dress, horrifying, what about the kids who can’t afford it? Or want to be tradespersons? Sorry to rant on, it just really bothers me.

    • I think that particular bit of advice is just SO specific to the person! but i think people who relate to it don’t realize it’s not universal. some people are better able to get into a workspace if they have “work clothes” on, and some aren’t.

  7. Facebook shouldn’t censor period. YOU as the consumer can select which news agencies you want to follow. Also a diversity of opinions is important to more clearly understand modern issues. For example, TPP is a total disaster for working/middle class Americans (Sanders, Warren, and even Trump agree on this) yet tech titans benefit so they block anti-TPP articles and mislead the public on the issue. Intellectually disingenuous.

  8. My trending topics on facebook had a long phase of always including a story about a dead/missing child. So that was pleasant.

  9. And that spreadsheet/article series is exactly what I’ve been needing! Thank you!

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