Welcome to the 37th “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.
Hello! It’s been a while — since September, actually. I stopped doing the Business of Art Fix ’cause I’m exhausted by the amount of time I’m required to spend doing business stuff instead of creative & editorial stuff and I just lost the energy to spend my limited creative/editorial time on writing about business. But so much has happened lately that I felt it imperative to CHECK IN with this topic today! So let’s dive in.
Trump v. Press
The U.S. Government has always been a somewhat shifty animal when it comes to the press, but Donald Trump’s long record of hostility towards and distrust of the media may turn out to be nothing short of apocalyptic for us all. The lawsuit-happy president-elect ominously declared last February that he planned to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” and that attitude hasn’t changed since the election. Donald Trump does love suing the media, but he has historically failed at the “winning lots of money” part. At his first press conference as president-elect, Trump referred to CNN and Buzzfeed as “fake news” and paid staffers to cheer for him at opportune moments.
Buzzfeed is also one of the many outlets, including Mother Jones, Univision and the Des Moines Register, who have been at some point blacklisted by Trump’s campaign. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has declared, “Donald J. Trump, now the official President elect, is an enemy of press freedom unlike any we have seen in modern presidential history.” Meanwhile, Politico argues that the Espionage Act is the bigger threat to freedom of the press under Trump, not libel laws.
At The US News & World Report, on the topic of how Trump could impact digital media specifically, Luis Hestres writes that, “Trump’s actions could result in weaker protections for our free press, less competition and higher prices for online consumers, certain forms of online censorship and a return to an intrusive online surveillance regime. The public must prepare to stand up to oppose these infringements on our rights.” Entrepreneur agrees that the online media world is in for a big shakeup.
Following last week’s press conference, a Russian journalist wrote an open letter to American Media on medium:
Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang a bell.
In Russia, ordinary citizens have been imprisoned for liking anti-Kremlin tweets, and 54 journalists have been killed since Putin rose to power. A Full Frontal with Samantha Bee episode went right into the heart of Russia’s journalism situation last year. Bee was told she’d have to “lick Putin’s ass big time” in order to broadcast her show from Russia. WIRED Magazine sent a photographer to Russia in 2014 to document Russia’s journalism industry and found that, “There’s no such thing as exclusive access to a politician or to a business. There’s no ‘behind the scenes. For the media, everything is very manufactured and controlled.”
“It is not freedom of the press when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” Donald Trump tweeted in August of 2016, despite regularly saying and writing whatever he wants even if it is completely false.
Now, Trump’s administration is considering moving the press corps out of the White House, and Kyle Pope’s open letter on the Columbia Journalism Review about this issue and many others is worth a read.
In today’s press conference, which’s happening right now, White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said that “Obama will… highlight his concerns about the restrictions on the media that the president-elect put in place during his campaign and transition, and what it might mean for his administration.”
This Business of Online Media
+ Shortly into the new year, the Medium Network announced it was laying off 50 employees and shuttering its salesforce, noting that “upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.” The company, rich in venture capital but not yet profitable on its own, expanded last year to become a platform for struggling but necessary independent media properties like The Awl, The Pacific Standard, Femsplain and ThinkProgress, promising easy avenues to monetization.
Feminist site The Establishment was moving its URL to Medium the very day these layoffs were announced. “Our plans to monetize through the site, which had comprised the most attractive aspect of making the Medium move,” Kelley Calkins wrote, “were eliminated the very day — after months of careful preparation — we moved to the publisher.” Nevertheless, the publication is plowing forward with a new membership/subscription program, which I think we all agree is the way forward. But I sure am glad we ignored Medium’s email about migrating to Medium!
+ Univision and its buzzy millenial-focused property Fusion also underwent some restructuring and layoffs this month, including 70 cuts at Fusion specifically, equalling one third of the editorial and business staffs. Fusion and The Root will be converting to Kinja as part of a roll into the Gizmodo Media Group (The Root made the switch this week). The sales team is centralizing to enable selling advertising across the entire 11 sites within its network. Univision has been losing between $20 million and $35 million a year on Fusion, but growth has accelerated since acquiring the Gizomodo Media Group, which includes the affiliate-powered Kinja Deals.
+ The Washington Post has debuted The Lily, “an experimental, visually-driven product designed for millennial women that will boldly reimagine The Post’s award winning journalism for distributed platforms.”
+ Axios, which aims to “serve up news for social media addicts,” has gone live with a big Trump interview.
+ Marisa Siegel is the new editor of The Rumpus.
This Business of Journalism
+ The 2020 Report: An extensive and fascinating outline of The New York Times‘ strategy and aspirations, which includes a commitment to a revenue model primarily driven by subscribers, not advertisers.
+ Buzzfeed News and The New York Times have partnered with ProPublica and other news organizations and civil rights groups to track hate crimes across the United States.
The Businesswoman’s Special
+ a new book for you: scratch: writers, money and the art of making a living
Be The Pitch You Wanna See In The World
Black History Month is in February, so we’re looking for any and all pitches that would relate to that theme with a queer and/or feminist and/or womanist focus. Submit here.