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.
+ 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!
+ science says that “little productive help happens if you work more than 50 hours a week.”
+ focus on how much you can save per day for retirement