This Business of Art Fix #25: Totally Prepared For The Digital Apocalypse

Welcome to your 25th business of art fix, in which I have renewed my library books.


It’s been another few weeks with a lot of interesting questions about the future of digital media on two specific fronts: the rise of data-driven content and the geographic concentration of large media companies. Also: THE GAWKER VERDICT.

Analytics-Driven content!!!!

Facebook’s data-driven partnership with Glamour magazine to host online town halls leading up to the 2016 election could be a slippery slope, as it risks the underwhelming result of “plucking content directly from reader’s brains, and then presenting it back to them on a silver platter.”

When it comes to publications themselves, editorial strategies guided by real-time audience tracking and extensive data mining is, according to some people, ruining journalism. The solutions proposed by Frédéric Filloux to redeem the industry are new models less reliant on pageviews: “paywalls, nonprofit journalism and separating clickbait from the rest of the newsroom (like Buzzfeed does).” We’re not a non-profit and we’ll never be able to afford a “clickbait department,” so what we’ve settled on is a subscription model that enables us to worry less about clicks and more about what our readers like to read and the stories we think are important. (Join A Plus!). We’re not totally freed from clickbait’s clutches, though: we do get some income through advertising, so views matter a whole lot, and they also matter w/r/t our reputation and our ability to attract sponsors and interviews, attract talented writers and illustrators, get press passes, win awards and, basically, to be taken seriously in an industry where women’s publications are chronically undervalued, let alone gay women. Plus, articles that go viral are great ways for our stuff to reach new people who will become new readers and maybe members, merch-buyers or camp-goers.  Filloux also points out that the costs of data-driven journalism are incredibly high — the trackers, the analytics experts, et al. (Also here’s a thing about where analytics fail anyhow!) Publishers are hiring full-time specialists specifically tasked with fostering relationships with Facebook and Snapchat! That’s never where we’re gonna put our money, which’s why A+ makes so much sense to us. As data takes over newsroom after newsroom, how can we ensure important but less popular stories get told? Related: Trying to get people to read about Lahore isn’t easy.

Also related: “The problem with clickbait articles is that many of them are aimed at destroying the reputation of a business, celebrity, or even a politician.”

We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands

The Internet should, in theory, enable us to get more news from more places and have staff writers all over the country, but it isn’t: instead, thanks to digital media, the American news business is more concentrated in New York and and the coasts than ever:

You see this pattern over and over again in digital news: What was once pitched as opening up a space has led instead to greater concentration of power in the hands of a few. The web and linking were supposed to expand routes of distribution — but over time, we’ve seen that power become clustered in Facebook, Google, Twitter, and a handful of other tech companies. Online advertising was supposed to let a thousand media flowers bloom, supporting independents and small, high-quality publishers. Instead, it’s led to a generation of digital publishers — all those guys in New York — chasing scale and racing to be as big as possible.

This is an interesting scenario for us because as digital media companies have gotten wealthier and wealthier we’ve found our own staff becoming less coast-concentrated — many New Yorkers and Californians leave Autostraddle for better-paying gigs at publications like Refinery29 and Broadly. Our staff outside of those hubs don’t have those options, though. It’s a weird development: we launched as a business squarely headquartered in New York City (only three of our team members didn’t live in NYC) and now we’re all over the damn place. I moved back to Michigan ’cause I realized that having more team members who don’t live in digital media hubs, including me, positions us to better support our team financially. A $65k salary in Brooklyn has the same worth as a $35k salary in Phoenix, yannow?

We’re not the only ones making these types of calculations: on TechCrunch, an app developer talks about why he’s moving the company from San Francisco to San Diego, noting that “you would need around $4,900 in San Diego to maintain the same standard of living you get with $8,100 in San Francisco” — and San Diego is still one of the top ten most expensive rental markets in the country!

Related: Newspapers Gobble Each Other Up to Survive The Digital Apocalypse

The Gawker Verdict

Gawker lost Hogan v. Gawker to the tune of $115 million … and another $25 million in punitive damages on top of that. Nick Denton was personally ordered to pay $10 million and AJ Daulerio was fined $100,000. This puts Daulerio in an especially compromised position: he’s got no assets, no savings, and $27k in student loan debt. Nor does Gawker have the $100 million they’re supposed to pony up sooner rather than later.  Hulk Hogan’s attorneys urged the jurors to “punish recklessness and to send a message to other media companies.” The Gawker lawyer said this verdict will “send a chill down the spine of writers, producers, and publishers.”

They plan to appeal the case, though, and following the verdict, Nick Denton wrote a piece on Gawker regarding new information, proving that “the trial was a sham from the start.” The most important bit of withheld information, he argues, is that Hogan didn’t file the claim because of the sex tape, but because “he was terrified that one of the other tapes, which memorialized his rant about his daughter dating “fucking n***ers,” might emerge.”

Denton also claims that jurors “appear to have bought the argument that a single popular article, which carried no advertising and which stimulated no sustained increase in traffic, had increased Gawker’s brand value by $15 million, and that the wrestler should be paid $4.95 for each view of the video on Gawker’s sites as well as many others over which we had no control, racking up an additional $35 million.” That shit drives me NUTS.


This Business of Online Media

Genius Wants To Annotate The Entire Web and if you’ve ever written something online, you’re automatically opted in to be annotated. This is troublesome, especially Ella Dawson, the woman mentioned in this article, who “frequently covers topics like past emotionally abusive relationships and being slut-shamed for having a sexually transmitted infection.”

+ The Washington Post is combing its archives to make profiles about women, by women, available online for Women’s History Month.


This Business of Journalism:

+ Data journalism is awesome: here’s how to get started, and here’s how the FOIA mapper wants to help.

+ The Wall Street Journal is gonna work on its gender and race pay gaps! How kind!

+ “Millennials understand better than anyone that when you put something controversial on the Internet, you’re going to get a lot of response, both positive and negative. In fact, some of the thoughtful criticism I really appreciated.”

+ “Teams weren’t afraid of sportswriters, at least the New York teams I came to write about.”


The End Times

+ America’s obsession with social media is destroying democracy!

+ Al Jazeera is slashing 500 jobs


This Business of Business

+ Meet the woman pushing for Google, Amazon and more to close the gender pay gap!

+ The Uber model doesn’t work for other industries, and that’s a good thing.

Here’s what you need to know about california’s $15 minimum wage (salon)


Businesswoman’s Special

+ 10 practical ways to get yourself going in the morning (everup)

+ how to master microsoft office power point (lifehacker)

+ you need to practice being your future self (harvard business review)

+ 4 reasons you should drink more with your clients (inc)

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2822 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. I find the social media thing really bizarre.

    Why is he surprised people follow others that mostly share their views? We do that in real life.

    People have been insulating themselves in a echo chamber long before social media was around.

  2. Yeah, can we talk about that Genius article? I read it earlier today and this finally clicked for me: I don’t understand why people think that public = can do whatever they want! The subway is a public space but you’re still not allowed to ride it with no pants on. The park is a public space but I’m not allowed to cut down the trees and bring them home with me. Library books are public but you’re not supposed to write in them.

    If I’m selling my house and have an open house, even though it’s open to the public people still can’t just draw on my walls. Why do people think that just because a blog is public that people should be able to say whatever they want in response? Blogs are virtual spaces.

  3. I don’t know if anybody else can see this, but why some Vimeo videos are popping up in the middle of comments? In this post, Laneia comment has an embed video that it wasn’t there yesterday. And I can see several more in yesterday articles.

    Is this a new thing? Because, sorry for this, it’s awful.

  4. So w/r/t the gawker thing, I actually don’t disagree with the verdict. And from what I’ve read (maybe not the best analysis, idk) it’s probably not a precedent-setting sort of case because few media outlets would think that it was reasonable or newsworthy to post a sex tape from someone like hulk hogan. The amount is ABSURD though, I hope (and expect) that it will get reduced on appeal. Juries can be ridiculous.
    I still am not sure what I think of California raising the minimum wage to $15. The reality, and what I think is sometimes disingenuously represented by pro-minimum wage articles, is that the economic consensus on the minimum wage is something that varies hugely depending on the level. One study that is highly cited as showing that raising the min wage doesn’t significantly reduce unemployment- where NJ raised it $1 from $9 to $10 and surrounding states didn’t- shows only that raising the min age from one low level to anther doesn’t reduce unemployment. The highest estimates from economists who are very pro-minimum wage of an appropriate number is around $12-$13. Most economists agree that some minimum wage is a good thing, as it balances out firm’s lopsided power in the labor market, but $15 is something that legitimately has no precedent. Also what that salon article cites as evidence that companies won’t automate jobs (that self check-out didn’t work very well) isn’t convincing to me. I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that companies on the margin would employ fewer workers or shift to more automation, and of course we don’t know the magnitude of that effect, but it’s pretty hard to imagine that it would be negligible. A good thought experiment here imo is imagine if the minimum wage was raised to $30 an hour. No one is proposing that of course, because I think it’s pretty much the consensus that would be way too high. But then we have to acknowledge that somewhere between our current min wage and $30 an hour is a point where the min wage is too high. I can’t say with certainty that it’s $15 or something higher or lower, but my instinct here is not to use the lovely people of Bakersfield as an experiment to see how many of them are out out of work completely.
    But then I think to myself what’s the alternative? Expand the eitc (which I shamefully don’t even know is also implemented on a state level)? I’m sure there are other comparatively nondistortionary policies that can be put in place, but none of them have the cache and popular support of the minimum wage. And isn’t it important to do something to reduce inequality and make sure that Californians don’t struggle to support themselves? But then again, with higher minimum wages already being proposed and implemented in many large and expensive Californian cities (where a $15 min wage makes a ton more sense off the bat) who does this really end up affecting, as far as I can see? The Fresnos and Bakersfields and other smaller and more inland California cities I can’t think of right now. And with policies like these where there are pretty much guaranteed to be some losers (not saying anything definitively about the number of those losers) is it really worth it to make the trade off between a livable wage for many and no wage (and a horrifyingly inadequate social safety net) for some?
    Whew, an incredibly long post to say that I don’t really know how I feel about a policy. Which is why I generally support policies that I don’t feel the need to write lots of text ecquivocating about, like the UBI. The dream.

  5. You’re really arguing about the Gawker verdict? Regardless of however you feel Hogan might have argued against it for, both him and an innocent woman were publicly humiliated as a result of them breaking the law and invading their privacy.

    (I repeat, by marking Gawker as the victim here it is not only Hogan you are tarnishing, but the innocent woman with whom he had an arranged affair.)

    It’s sickening that you would use their shameful mockery of free speech as a pedestal for your own thoughts on Hulk Hogan, a shithead as he may be. He was right to win this case against, as your own logic would jump to, someone who would defend publishing child porn.

    Gawker is an awful network that uses the opinions of people who visit it to dictate its manipulative content. For example, lambasting one leak of nudes while celebrating and flaunting the other to the point of defying the law.

    This is ridiculous from a site I respect so highly when it comes to representation, you should be ashamed of yourself for marketing them as the victim in this matter.

  6. And in the same respect, if Hulk Hogan made racist remarks, is it then fine to leak Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos after she mocked lesbians by saying her “style is modelled after slutty power lesbians”?

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