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Media News

Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved (medium.com) 83

Joshua Topolsky, co-founder of The Verge and Vox Media, and formerly Editor-in-chief of Engadget, has published an article on Medium wherein he analyzes the ongoing and long-term issues with digital media businesses and their increasingly growing thirst for more and more clicks. Topolsky says that the rate at which media outlets are adopting the new technologies and platforms (such as video, "bots, newsletters, a morning briefing app, a lean back iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter") in an attempt to capture more audience -- and save its receding loyal reader base -- isn't going to fix the problem. Topolsky, who left Bloomberg news outlet last year amid his disagreement with Michael Bloomberg himself, writes: The Problem is that we used to have a really neat and tidy version of a media business where very large interests controlled vast swaths of the things we read, watched, and listened to. Because that system was built on the concept of scarcity and locality -- the limits of what was physically possible -- it was very easy to keep the gates and fill the coffers. Put simply, there were far fewer players in the game with far fewer outlets for their content, so audiences were easy to sell to and easy to come by. [...] The media industry now largely thinks its only working business model is to reach as many people as possible, and sell -- usually programmatically, but sometimes not -- as many advertisements against that audience as it can. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying. [...] The truth is that the best and most important things the media (let's say specifically the news media) has ever made were not made to reach the most people -- they were made to reach the right people. Because human beings exist, and we are not content consumption machines. What will save the media industry -- or at least the part worth saving -- is when we start making Real Things for people again, instead of programming for algorithms or New Things.
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Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yep. The media companies got a shiny new hammer, and everything looks like a nail. Actually spray paint would be a better analogy. The media is like a tagger that found a bag full of cans that a great graf artist left as they fled the cops. Now he's throwing up all over web sites. Nobody wants to look at it, not even people who like street art.

  • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotms@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @02:03PM (#51990647) Homepage Journal
    I tried both with and without an ad blocker and I see zero ads. Any wonder that I prefer reading articles there? Compare to Forbes, who won't even let me view an article without disabling my ad blocker or whitelisting it, which means I usually just skip the article or load it in something I don't bother installing an ad blocker on, IE/Edge. Which leads me to wonder, how is Medium doing it the "right way" for my preferences? Any money changing hands? Build now monetize later?
    • by msmash ( 4491995 ) Works for Slashdot <asteriskspace@outlook.com> on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @02:08PM (#51990683)
      Medium is relatively new in the business, and it currently does advertorial. And while it has avoided ads. That is likely to change soon [bbc.com] (video).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Last time I checked, medium.com horribly broke my "reading experience", by being all stream-ish and stupidly slow in my browser, reinventing things otherwise working fine with faulty and slow javascript, and so on, and so forth. I really don't feel like letting a tab with a medium.com article in it eat a CPU while I'm doing something else for a bit, only to come back and find it has lost my reading place in the right here fscking article.

      I'm not reading forbes, AND I'm not reading medium.com either. Both su

  • Has he stopped and thought about the fact that his two sites (Verge and Vox) may just be shit sites? Clickbait, manufactured outrage, and race/gender baiting doesn't sell as well as it used to guys.
    • >> manufactured outrage, and race/gender baiting doesn't sell as well as it used to guys

      Have you missed this year's (US) presidential campaign then?

      Candidate - Manufactured Outrage - Race/Gender Baiting
      Clinton - Women's Rights - White Men!
      Trump - Immigrants - Muslims! Mexicans!
      Sanders - Capitalism - White Male Bankers!

      And those are just the leaders in the popular polls. Overall I'd say outrage, and race/gender baiting is selling just fine.
      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @03:29PM (#51991241)

        Way to conflate the sane ones with Trump - every aspect of whom is manufactured.

        Clinton's focus on Women's rights isn't exactly outrage (manufactured or otherwise). It's a lifelong commitment to an issue - that occasionally gets used in opportunistic ways. But it's basically sincere. She doesn't race-bait white men - except in the sense, I suppose, that you may think women's advances have to come at their expense, which doesn't have to be true.

        Likewise Sanders' problems with Capitalism go way back. He's a bit more outraged, but his critique is basically on target - hardly 'manufactured', beyond perhaps the tone of voice in a political speech. But c'mon - what's a political speech at all if not a drumbeat to action. He does blame bankers - and I guess maybe the majority of them are white males, but really. Can nobody criticize anybody without it being some form of race/gender baiting?

        Of course, you're probably just angling for 'funny' mod points, but on the (not so) off chance that you really believe this "manufactured outrage / race-gender baiting" metric is even remotely informative...

      • > selling just fine

        I don't follow politics, but I thought most people outside of reddit/slashdot/etc, were very unhappy with any of the candidates.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      Has he stopped and thought about the fact that his two sites (Verge and Vox) may just be shit sites?

      Exactly. Both are warmed over reincarnations of Daily Kos, which died because it sucked.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @02:07PM (#51990675) Journal
    From the article:

    So what will matter in the next age of media?

    Compelling voices and stories, real and raw talent, new ideas that actually serve or delight an audience, brands that have meaning and ballast; these are things that matter in the next age of media.

    No, that's a pipe dream. Talent doesn't matter. Compelling stories don't matter. New ideas don't matter, and brands don't matter.Click here to find out the seven things that a mom discovered that matter! [zerobugsan...faster.net]

    "Quality news" has a real but small audience. Most people are looking for the next thing to click on to feed their buzzing squirrel brain.

    • Of course, this is anecdotal, but what about news outlets like Jalopnik [jalopnik.com]? When I started reading Jalop, I was not a car guy. I read it because of the wit of the authors. Gradually, they've turned me into a car guy, and I do occasionally read automotive news from other sources, but even now, I choose to get 90%+ of my car fix from them. They actively avoid clickbait headlines (and the comments quickly call them out for it if they don't), so that's clearly not what draws their audience. In spite of that,
    • What is interesting to me is how one news site that I read (but probably won't soon) has gone downhill. Perhaps the PHBs were convinced by a "compelling" sales pitch by a content management company, I don't know.

      This site [telegraph.co.uk] used to be a useful news site. In recent times, however, the site has gone to a subscription model (easily circumvented via blocking cookies or use of private browsing mode), dropped all reader comments (and hence reader engagement), and now adopted yet another new layout, where even m

  • Joshua Topolsky, co-founder of The Verge, and Vox Media, and formerly Editor-in-chief of Engadget, has published an article on Medium, wherein he analyzes the ongoing and long-term issues with digital media businesses and their increasingly growing thirst for more and more clicks.

    I'm sure, that if you tried, you could write, a sentence that, rambles more, and has, more commas in it.

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @02:16PM (#51990737) Journal

    Part of the problem is the bulk of that audience doesn't want real news, they want entertainment. When there was scarcity of outlets, they were mostly controlled by players who did both news and entertainment.

    Today, much of what passes for "news" is really entertainment. Looking at what people I know pass around as news articles are really some blog repost, of a blog repost, of a (maybe) news article. The blog reposts contain opinionated rants, adding no inherent value other than confirming the already biased opinions of the readers. Frequently the original news article isn't actual "news", but a press release or FUD article that simply quotes a government statistic or celebrity/politician soundbite.

    I'd appreciate it if the Slashdot overlords could contribute to the fight by editing submissions so they go to actual original articles and not click-bait blogs. (The ghost of Roland Piquepaille is watching you!)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The physical world has micro-embargos.

    If a reporter from Newspaper X finished a story and was the first to publish it, then Newspaper X had an effective monopoly.

    It lasted until the competition could assign their own reporter and get their own story in their own paper.

    In the meantime, those who wanted The News needed to buy the paper with the breaking story.

    On the Internet, that micro-embargo lasts until Google indexes and caches the content.
    So the newspapers sell the only thing they can: advertising

  • Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved

    I haven't got a media business. Are you so insecure in the quality of your stories that the only way you think you can get readers is to make people think the story personally affects them?

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @02:21PM (#51990781)
    The traditional news business somewhat became a rentier business. One of the biggest revenue sources for newspapers was classified advertising. They would charge 20-30 dollars for something that cost them pennies. They also became the de-facto source of news. If they liked a politician or a party then they would not cover it negatively. If a friend of the owners got in trouble there would be no reporting. If one of their major advertisers got in trouble then little or nothing with lots of room for the companies to spin the negative news.

    The business model was abusive and ripe for someone to do an end run.

    The first sign I saw of this would be a local newspaper that carried just classifieds that were free for most purposes. They combined the online submission with print for the masses. I suspect that the news papers weren't happy with this.

    The internet started to pick away at this. I would say the gut shot was craigslist and similar sites. Quite simply that was an instant lights out for an entire revenue stream.

    The other was google adsense. Not that it is a great way to fund a site these days, but in the early days it was so damn easy to get started and your tiny site could instantly produce revenue. This allowed for some of the earliest web publications to make money and grow.

    Google adsense wasn't just a slight revolution but it was a revolution in thinking. It had been proceeded by doubleclick. They were a huge pain in the ass if you were a nobody. They wanted to screen their prospective publishers to make sure they had the volumes and respectability. This translated to their preferring to land old media companies who were doing an online presence.

    But what shocks me is that the old media companies have largely doubled down on what made them suck. They are still wildly biased. They don't seem to care about actual journalism such as taking down bad politicians or exposing evil companies. Then to add insult to all this they have adopted some of the worst practices of the internet such as clickbaiting or the various dark practises.

    For instance, in my city there have been a spate of murders. Serious ones such as shootings on the core downtown streets. Reading the local newspapers they are talking about it in the general sense of a spate of murders. But no stories that paint a picture of who did what and why they might have had it coming, or not. Then I go on reddit and find eye-witness accounts, pictures, and stories about long running feuds between families. How is it that reddit has become the paper of record in a city of 1 million?

    Then there are the autoplay videos. Wow what asshole came up with that gem. Not only do they autoplay, but they will follow you down the page, and even when paused will just start playing after a while. Then there are the videos that just keep streaming one video after another. These companies are wondering why we are all getting adblockers? Do they not understand that their cunning ways are effectively creating the drive and desire to dump them? That once dumped that we won't be coming back?
    • That last bit... I'm fine with GIF image ads served from the same source. Stuff from other servers and/or animated/video/screen-controlling crud has to go. So... either I get to block it, or I'm not coming to the site at all. Garbage instead of news? Forget it. At least the junk in Us and People might be factual and might have been actually researched. Once I'm gone, I'm forgetting that the site existed, so yep, I'm not coming back, no matter how much you fix it.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        I will live with images from ad servers if they are fast. Animations, video, and even sound have got to to as well as those ads that are embedded in the text of the site!

    • They also became the de-facto source of news. If they liked a politician or a party then they would not cover it negatively. If a friend of the owners got in trouble there would be no reporting

      Newspapers are corporations controlled by rich people.

  • TFA seems to indicate that having a large number of access points for content (~(such as video, "bots, newsletters, a morning briefing app, a lean back iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter") ~) is not the arrow to success. I would agree.

    .
    With so many sources of content to compete with, the successful digital content provider does not go out to meet the content consumers, the content provider encourages the content consumers to come to meet it (i.e.,

  • Been reading /. since the very early days and keep coming back because the site stays out of the contents way (the boycott beta days not withstanding) I also used to read Engadget regularly but no longer. When Topolsky and gang ran off to start TheVerge I was intrigued and was there the day they went live. It was clear they had designed their site to be for the blogger by the blogger. I can't say journalist as the content wasn't always of journalistic integrity/quality. I read an article who's entire purpos
  • Real Things. Hallelujah. One person gets it.
  • Your media business CAN be saved, if you revert to the previous business model: SELL YOUR OWN ADVERTISEMENTS. It's the (very wrong) idea that media companies can replace their entire sales staff with some drop in from an ad network that are causing these companies so many problems.
  • Look, the dirty secret of both TV and newspaper media is that they exist only to sell words wrapped around the comics pages (newspaper) or the cartoons (TV).

    Whenever they go away from that model, they die.

    Was true when I worked as a teen in advertising at newspapers in the 70s.

    Still is true.

    People rarely read editorial pages - when I read the WSJ print edition, I skip past those two pages, suitable only for fishwrap.

    Every step away from that model results in fewer readers or viewers.

    Adapt.

  • Put simply, there were far fewer players in the game with far fewer outlets for their content, so audiences were easy to sell to and easy to come by.

    Right there, he is 100% wrong by 180 degrees. The number of media outlets used to be HUGE AND VARIED in both Europe and America. Then Clinton and EU allowed for media to merge and we ended up with a relatively few large media companies trying hard to control access. Basically, had Clinton and EU NOT allowed for the massive growth via mergers, then we would not have the issues that we have today. It took groups like Murdoch's and clear channel to trying to buy and dominate that has caused the real issues.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday April 26, 2016 @03:03PM (#51991059) Homepage Journal

    They are all competing for a (more or less) fixed amount of time from a (more or less) fixed number of audience members. More competition == less for each competitor.

    Sorry, I meant to say THIS ONE AMAZING FACT WILL EXPLAIN WHY YOUR BUSINESS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE!

    *ad*

    *ad*

    CLICK HERE TO START SLIDESHOW

    [ fake "next" button ]

  • From TFS:

    Because human beings exist, and we are not content consumption machines.

    Utter rubbish. Media, manufacturers and retailers have hitched their wagons to the star that is Mass Consumption and they did it decades ago. He's talking out of both ends or can't see the forest for the trees.

    Warner Bros made 3 cartoons in the 50's, directed by Friz Freleng and paid for by Albert P. Sloan (That's General Motors). "By Word of Mouse," "Heir Conditioned" and "Yankee Dood It." Don't bother looking in youtube, I checked and couldn't find them. I do have them in my shelf of DVDs.

  • "The Problem is that we used to have a really neat and tidy version of a media business where very large interests controlled vast swaths of the things we read, watched, and listened to."

    Dear Media Companies,

    No, the Problem is that most of your content is SHIT and CLICKBAIT and no one wants it. That's the Problem.

    Signed,

    Everyone

  • Topolsky is too young, he doesn't remember how things were before the 1990's when media companies started merging and becoming mega conglomerates. In the 1980's and prior there were far more media companies and they were far more independent than they are now. If CBS in bumhole Texas didn't want to air something they didn't have to, if ABC in jack-all Pennsylvania wanted to air gospel services they damn well did. It was easier to get movies into nationwide theaters, more choices for newspapers and magazines

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