Issue #8 — BuzzFeed goes programmatic

Business models

Another publisher feels the viral chill

Over the space of 2018 so far we’ve seen a number of publishers shut down and put the blame on Facebook. What’s really going on, however, is the ‘viral chill’ and a reset of publisher expectations: no more getting enormous, inflated numbers off the back of other social platforms.

The result will be interesting: at the same time advertising money is increasingly drying up, publishers are scrambling to increase reach to offset that lost revenue but it simply isn’t there. People have been making the case for the digital advertising bubble for years, and as (probably inflated) giant, impressive numbers of readers from years gone by disappear, maybe sanity will return.

It will hurt, for many.Diply is yet another example of that, and why we believe so strongly in the future of media as niche communities, willing to pay, built around publishers on a much smaller scale than before.  It’s more sustainable, and doesn’t rely on hyper-inflated reader audiences like every other media model, and brings the people who want the content closer to the company.

A farewell to free journalism

Bloomberg’s paywall is just a few months old, but if you read enough news you probably feel like you’re running into paywalls more often than ever. Here’s an interesting take, and an ode to the end of free journalism.

Fresh ideas

Vox Media plans to monetize its CMSThe company behind The Verge, SB Nation, Vox and many other popular websites has struggled in recent times to justify many of its initiatives and was forced to layoff 5 percent of its workforce in February.

What’s to blame for the struggle? The decline in social media’s focus on video, and the business itself made a healthy $160 million in 2017.

For years it’s been talking about monetizing the CMS that powers its properties, Chorus, and it’s poised to do so as it holds talks with “20 news organizations” who want to take advantage of its technology. Presumably these companies are all still using Wordpress, but the fees for Chorus are a jaw-dropping six-figures, which may be a struggle in an industry where publishers don’t have much pocket change lying around anymore.

Chorus has clearly been a differentiator for Vox Media’s properties, but it isn’t all of the magic, either. Vox is a branding powerhouse, and knows how to wield Chorus to its advantage, but we’re curious how well that custom product will work externally with less-adept publishers.

The Ken finds success in a great niche

Subscription publishing: we say it’s the future a lot, but The Ken’s success at raising $1.5M and its continued growth is impressive. The company writes one story a day on weekdays, focused in on insights across technology, business, science and healthcare from India. Another fantastic niche, and The Ken has successfully attracted subscribers despite it costing almost twice as much as newspapers in India.

WTF?

BuzzFeed ditches native, goes all programmatic with BuzzFeed News

We’ve had to listen to BuzzFeed bang on about native advertising’s benefits for years now, but it’s giving up on direct sales, instead going after the traditional programmatic advertising. With the launch of its new flagship site, BuzzFeed News, native is dead.So… that makes it just like everyone else after all? The logic here is interesting but sound: native advertising was lucrative, but consumers saw right through it.

Chance the Rapper, Chance the Philanthropist, and now Chance the Publisher

Yes, Chance the Rapper acquired Chicagoist. No, we don’t think this is going to go well.

Publishing Executives Argue Facebook Is Overly Deferential to Conservatives - WSJ

A huge mess was left in the wake of Facebook trying to win over journalists this week, as Facebook made it clear it does not want to take a stance on fake news, and will not remove controversial conservative publishers from the platform even if they’re publishing outright lies.

The week started with Facebook, which is not well known for having tact, simply saying that “the site doesn’t want to punish sites simply because they express controversial views” even if they’re fake. Then, Mark Zuckerberg put his foot in it further, saying “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong” on the record, before quickly backtracking the statement a day later.

Maybe next week we can bring you an edition of publisher weekly without Facebook offending a whole group of people, but we’ll see.