It’s been difficult to miss headlines over the past few days about online publications missing revenue goals by miles and others selling themselves a quarter of where they were valued last year. Turns out, the digital reaping has arrived…
Talking Points Memo posted a great piece explaining what is going on:
We had our 30 publications and 25 chairs. The platform monopolies came along and took 10 chairs for themselves. Now it’s 30 publications fighting over 15 chairs. But wait, how can 30 publications compete for 15 chairs? That means 15 have no place to sit? Well, the hidden part is that a lot of them are surviving on on-going infusions of venture capital. Once that disappears, it’s something like a crash. Because everyone really needs a seat. And there’s more! Maybe 5 of those chairs weren’t advertising at all. They were on-going investment too. So really there’s 30 publications competing for 10 chairs. Or maybe it’s 7.
There’s also the ongoing centralization of users and the money that follows on the Facebook/Google duopoly:
Tech giants, aided by decades of minimal regulation, have scaled to the point at which they are able to adjust their advertising models and adapt to consumer demands faster than most media companies can keep up with.
Some legacy publications are figuring out ways of making the numbers work. Paywalls at the New York Times and the Washington Post seem to be helping to offset the loss of advertising dollars. Investigative and service journalism are drawing attention and eyeballs. But the Washington Post has found a nice new revenue source beyond paid content, subscriptions, or advertising:
Since 2014, a new Post operation now called Arc Publishing has offered the publishing system the company originally used for WashingtonPost.com as a service. That allows other news organizations to use the Post’s tools for writers and editors.
I’ve heard about some advertising agencies making their money by offering other services. But this feels more like what a lot of workers are doing. Find a way to put your day job expertise to work for a side gig.