Many journalists are all too familiar with the rinse-and-repeat routine of content distribution: Wrap up edits, create a search-friendly headline, publish, and promote the sh** out of it on social media.
There has been major pushback recently against this relentless strive for traffic, which bolsters ad revenue. The publishing platform Medium announced last week that it would move away from an ad-based business model. In a new post fortifying Medium’s decision, Sean Blanda writes that “The methods used to fund modern journalism simultaneously undermine trust in the news outlets.”
While we normally think about editorial as independent from business, Blanda shows that they are systemically related. Respected news sources have been forced by necessity into hosting sponsored content—undermining credibility. And the most important journalism, Blanda writes, is not financially viable. The Mother Jones investigation on private prisons, for example, cost roughly $350,000 and brought in $5,000 in ad revenue.
The New York Times, too, reaffirmed its commitment to a subscription-based model in its new 2020 report: “Our ambitions are grand: to prove that there is a digital model for original, time-consuming, boots-on-the-ground, expert reporting that the world needs.” The Times’ ad revenue dipped below consumer revenue just before 2012.
The Times believes that it can continue to grow subscriptions by providing journalism that is unavailable elsewhere, rather than smaller, “incremental” stories: “We are not trying to win a pageviews arms race. We believe that the more sound business strategy for The Times is to provide journalism so strong that several million people around the world are willing to pay for it.”
Will this mean the end to the era of pageviews as the dominant metric? It can’t come soon enough…
- Facebook is going to stop paying publishers for live videos—a reminder of how much power the platform wields in controlling revenue streams. (Recode)
- Ever wonder about “those creepy web ads that learn your preferences and follow you around”? Floodwatch is a new tool that collects and aggregates information on them. (Nieman Lab)
- Reason for hope: In 2015, CJR spoke to then-Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, who created the company to think creatively about web readership metrics and move away from clicks and toward attention. (CJR)
- CJR Editors