Great thread about what has been happening in media. If I can, I’ll add a few digital-specific notes https://t.co/Qx7SPje85Z
There was a naive hope that digital ad dollars would not just replace the print ad margins, but exceed them. As Jeremy states, the money is there, hut is distributed across way more channels and rarely directly to publications
The programmatic ad industry has seen a tremendous shift in the last 5 years. There is a huge amount of fraud and the arbitrage model that most advertisers employ has led to even lower CPMs, even separated from distribution channel
The big difference with the digital ad market is that analytics are now part of it. An advertiser now has insight into just how useful/useless an ad campaign is. P+G might have spent 8 figures on print ads in the 90s and 00s (total guess), but the ROI was hard to really track
You would base it on circulation rates — which are easy to inflate — and then draw projections/connections based on that. With digital, it’s much easier to correlate actual impact/clicks/sales.
For a time, potential reach was enough to get the money. It’s not anymore, especially as it becomes easier to target and measure
Video ads were supposed to fix things but inflated view counts and the general ability for users to ignore pre-rolls nipped that.
This is not unique to just print/digital media. TV has been dealing with this too. Part of the push to subscription is that studios don’t need to worry about selling out ad spots as much. Upfronts are drastically different in 2019 than they were in 2011 and 2012.
The solution isn’t to add paywalls. Paywalls only work for super niche/high quality places (which lbr are lifestyle businesses and that’s not a criticism at all. People make money!) that don’t scale or establishment news brands with institutional and international renown
Paywalls don’t work for the increasingly larger middle tier, of publishers larger than a lifestyle brand but smaller than an international brand with decades of pedigree. And as we see with BF layoffs, what constitutes “middle” is increasingly becoming beside fungible
But paywalls don’t scale and we’re already at subscription fatigue for premium video. It’s even harder for people to agree to pay for web content that with some notable exceptions (WSJ) has largely been free online
It’s interesting that the “Craigslist killed newspapers” meme hasn’t come up in a while. But that’s not untrue — it had an impact.
The impacts of the death of local news will not be truly felt for another generation, but it matters.
We also don’t talk enough about archiving digital assets. I can get microfiche or every issue of the Rocky Mountain News but I have to go to a library. Meanwhile, half of AOL’s news sites have had their archives wiped. That will continue to happen. And We don’t care.
That terrifies me. The last 15 years has been an amazing time for digital content and we risk losing it. Whatever else you think about the state of media, that should terrify you.
Tech companies and their platforms are not the saviors. Take the money but don’t trust them.
The endowment model worked for quite some time for newspapers. It’s worth considering if we can make media viewed as valuable enough for the very wealthy to support in perpetuity. Historically, this hasn’t proven to be true (c.f. Chris Hughes), but maybe that can change
But endowments still don’t scale. And it’s harder to justify on digital.
I would also like to add that for many years (and even still, in some circles), there was this notion on behalf of journalists and the media elites that print was somehow superior to digital.
The industry itself is responsible for many of its problems (not all), but the biggest in my view is the turned-up nose at digital. The separate news rooms. The different salaries.
And even when some of the stalwarts did merge newsrooms, they started to do shared newsrooms for multiple sites where the same content is just splayed at multiple URLs (looking at you Hearst and Condé Nast). That hasn’t helped raise the perceived value for customers when
A new paywall product is rolled out.
And one final depressing note. Gawker Media was an imperfect organization, but it was independent and profitable. It was sued out of existence by a blood-sucking billionaire who was mad about something written about him in 2007. Gawker didn’t rely on social traffic.
Gawker Media didn’t chase every new platform. It was imperfect and made mistakes. But it was our best example of how one could succeed in this space without VC funding. And it was murdered.
(Sent from 35,000 feet in an unknown time zone)