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.
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.
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!
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:
+ 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
+ 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)
+ how to master microsoft office power point (lifehacker)
+ you need to practice being your future self (harvard business review)