Yet another dark week for the media, when we need them most.


A tough week for media startups

Working in media is a rough game as it is, but this week was a particularly painful one as a number of big, young media startups shed staff.

BuzzFeed announced it would be laying off more than 200 reporters, then just hours later, Verizon Media Group, which owns a bunch of fancy media startups like Huffington Post, Techcrunch and many others, announced layoffs up to 800 employees.

Making the day even worse, it also emerged that WarnerMedia, the investment group that backed media upstarts like the now-defunct Mic, Mashable and others, had also decided to shut its doors despite investing more than $100 million per year in new companies.

For those in media, it's been a terrible few years, but this week will be a particularly painful memory. BuzzFeed was supposed to be the successful new-media poster child, but it's begun to publicly signal that it's in trouble for months now: it can't live up to the lofty promises it made to investors.

What's gone wrong with this batch of new ideas? Well, from where I sit, it's been something of a circus: BuzzFeed and many other new ideas were funded with hundreds of millions in VC dollars based on just making huge amounts of traffic and figuring out the rest from there. The rest, it seems, never arrived, and the sheen began to wear off as new ideas like native advertising, social video and other trends.... began to wane, as trends tend to do.

But, even still, BuzzFeed hasn't failed as an idea: it made a reported $250 million in 2017, a number that most news organizations would envy. It just wasn't enough to hit the bar investors expected, a minimum $350 million... so layoffs happened.

As this Twitter thread points out, the problem lies in history: media's been broken for decades, and even the media upstarts fell prey to the same traps, expecting huge margins despite owning no more than mere moments of time.

Just maybe the whole idea of what journalism is needs to be shaken up, and the ad platforms that whisked their eyeballs away should be viewed as at least competitors rather than best mates, and we might get a different result next time. Perhaps the news organizations don't need to be mega huge, designed for mass scale media, as BuzzFeed has now begun suggesting. And, maybe, it's time to build media businesses based on what consumers are willing to pay for with real value, not clicks.

Maybe. It's hard to imagine a world where this gets better, and maybe that's the problem: we're stuck in an infinite cycle of big media giants, which eventually implode, and we're all the carnage left behind.

💸 BuzzFeed begins huge layoffs (Recode)

Get clicking

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💖 How LiveJournal pioneered, then lost, web blogging (Ars Technica)

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👾 DeepMind takes on Starcraft (video replay)


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