Tag Archive for ‘Journalism’

Fake News ➝

Ben Thompson:

There are even more fundamental problems, though: how do you decide what is fake and what isn’t? Where is the line? And, perhaps most critically, who decides? To argue that the existence of some number of fake news items amongst an ocean of other content ought to result in active editing of Facebook content is not simply a logistical nightmare but, at least when it comes to the potential of bad outcomes, far more fraught than it appears.

This is the biggest concern I have with this fake new debate: who decides what is and isn’t fake and could that position be abused?

Bloomberg Hires Mark Gurman ➝

Brad Stone, in a memo to Bloomberg staff, as reported by Recode:

At Bloomberg, Mark will widen his coverage area to include consumer electronics and other services not only created by Apple but also Google, Facebook, Amazon and other top tech players. He will contribute to Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg’s growing stable of podcasts, and his work will be central to the launch of Bloomberg’s new digital technology brand, being spearheaded by Aki Ito. He’ll be based in San Francisco and start later this summer.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Mark Gurman.

Quality Journalism as a Loss Leader

The latest episode of Limitless Adventure, a new podcast by G. Keenan Schneider and Charles Stark, had me thinking about the future of journalism and how publications can continue producing meaningful, deliberate, and creative content for the web. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to garner attention with the multitude of competing sites that resort to publishing linkbait headlines and do everything possible to generate pageviews. But, there’s plenty of ways that meaningful content will continue to be created and I think it’s bound to happen because there’s an obvious and clear market for it.

The first option, and one that was mentioned on the aforelinked episode of Limitless Adventure, is to be accepting of the fact that you’re never going to be as big as BuzzFeed. There’s still advertising revenue to be made while primarily producing longer-form, investigative thought pieces. But by placing your focus on quality, you will be leaving money on the table. And that’s okay.

Build an online publication made up of a small team of bright individuals who have grown tired of writing 150 word articles to accompany fail GIFs and run the business on a lean budget. Making the decision to publish less often might not make investors happy, but I think a publication that focuses on quality over quantity would be able to build a strong following of influential readers. And in turn, the business will be able to pay their writers a fair wage — no one’s going to walk away a millionaire, but they’ll be able to provide for their family and be proud of what their doing along the way.

The second option is for publications to continue producing high-quality content as a loss leader. Even though each individual article won’t recoup the costs associated with creating it, the revenue from all of the articles about squirrels on roller skates or cats playing Tomogochi will subsidize the cost of everything that’s more expensive to produce. This is something that I’ve noticed The Verge doing a lot lately. It infuriates me when I see them introduce a sex column or start reviewing animals, but if that’s what it takes in order to continue writing in-depth gadget reviews, I suppose I can withstand the constant barrage of junk for the times when they hit it out of the park. I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the near future, it’s an attractive model because it allows the site to make as much money as possible while still giving the incredible writers an outlet for their most fulfilling work.

The final option is for large corporations or wealthy individuals to start acquiring publications. There’s been a bit of this lately with Verizon’s purchase of AOL —which gave them control over TechCrunch, Engadget, and Huffington Post — and a couple of years ago when Jeff Bezos purchased the Washington Post. I’m sure many of these properties are making enough money, but let’s just say Engadget stops being profitable tomorrow. I don’t think it would be in Verizon’s best interest to shut it down. For one, it would be a sign of goodwill toward the community to continue running that type of publication at a loss for the betterment of society. But, Verizon might realize that they make a lot of money from their customers purchasing high-margin handsets alongside expensive data packages — many of whom are Engadget readers. Doing what Verizon can to foster a community like that would be good for their bottom line in the long run, they could simply consider it a part of their marketing budget rather than a division that generates profit. I’m sure there would be readers crying foul about conflicts of interest, but I’d rather have a publication that’s still trying to move the needle than not.

As another example, my favorite grocery store in the world, Wegmans, produces a monthly magazine that’s free to all Shoppers Club card holders (which is also free). The magazine is filled with articles about new food sourcing initiatives, the farmers who grow their produce, Q&As with one of the grocery store’s chefs, recipes, and new Wegmans products. There’s very few non-house ads and my fiancée and I look forward to it every bit as much as we do our monthly issue of Bon Appétit.

I doubt Wegmans is making much money directly from the magazine — certainly not a profit. But, they continue to produce it because it helps keep their customers interested in food and thinking about all of the great meals they can have after buying groceries from a Wegmans location. It’s operated at a loss because the company knows they can recoup the cost from each of its readers with their monthly grocery bill. It’s the quintessential example of a company running a publication at a loss for the betterment of their business.

The future of publishing may seem bleak, but things have a way of correcting themselves. I think all of the above options are valid and I bet we’ll start seeing far more examples of each in the coming years, but I’m sure we’ll also see a lot of publications with business models that no one’s even thought of yet. The world is full of really intelligent people, many of whom love to share their ideas and need a platform for doing so — someone will find a way to build a publication filled with high-quality content while still turning a profit. In the end it might mean one of the above, but as long as I continue to have thought provoking articles to read and a place to publish my own, I’ll be happy.

Joshua Topolsky on Leaving Bloomberg ➝

Joshua Topolsky, writing on his personal weblog:

The reality in media right now is that there is an enormous amount of noise. There are countless outlets (both old and new) vying for your attention, desperate not just to capture some audience, but all the audience. And in doing that, it feels like there’s a tremendous watering down of the quality and uniqueness of what is being made. Everything looks the same, reads the same, and seems to be competing for the same eyeballs. In both execution and content, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the rat race for maximum audience at any expense. It’s cynical and it’s cyclical — which makes for an exhausting and frankly boring experience.

I’ve never understood why companies weren’t happy enough with the audience they’ve already garnered — why they have this incessant need to grow. It’s not sustainable and forces the business to do underhanded things in order to maintain their unnatural size, but eventually it all falls apart.

I find slow and steady to always be superior to explosive growth — it makes for businesses that are easier to manage and are built for the long-haul. The world needs more companies that are run with this mindset, especially on the web.

Josh mentioned the incredible year-over-year growth that Bloomberg experienced while he was on board. But this bit above leaves me hopefully that he isn’t chasing after increases like that, they’re just a happy accident that occurs when you try to make things that are great. I’m excited to see what Josh decides to make in the future.

The Next Chapter ➝

Om Malik on the recent sale of Gigaom:

I had no idea this was coming, so like everyone else on the former Gigaom team, it came as a surprise. It is good to see the last chapter on this book closed. For me the story of Gigaom ended on March 9, 2015, a red letter day in life if any.

Knowingly or unknowingly, it is time for the next chapter.

I can’t imagine how it would feel to have something you built from the ground up shuttered, sold, and relaunched like this.

Gigaom Acquired by Knowingly ➝

They plan to relaunch the site on August 15 — I’m not optimistic about this. I’m sure it will launch, but I don’t foresee it being very successful.

Facebook Introducing Instant Articles ➝

Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

They’re launching with nine publishing partners and this specially formatted content is currently only viewable on Facebook for iPhone. Content providers can sell ads in their articles and keep all of the revenue or they can use Facebook’s advertising platform.

CBS Forbids CNET from Reviewing Aereo ➝

CNET’s disclosure in their news article regarding Aereo’s new Roku app:

CBS, the parent corporation of CNET, is currently in active litigation with Aereo as to the legality of its service. As a result of that conflict of interest, CNET cannot review that service going forward.

This is a serious problem. How can anyone trust CNET’s reviews going forward when they allow CBS to dictate what they can and can’t review. And, how long until CBS starts to influence the positivity of reviews? If a reviewer, even on a subconscious level, isn’t as harsh on a particular product or service because they know CBS would be happier if they did, then readers will start to disappear. Readers want honest reviews from writers not watered down editorials that toe the company line.