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Friday, May 19, 2023

Digital News in Trouble

Margaret Sullivan at The Guardian:
In a seminal 2009 essay, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, the brilliant New York University professor Clay Shirky made the point that journalism as we had known it for decades was finished – and for good reason.

The reason, in a mere two words: the internet.

And he certainly proved right. With a few notable exceptions, newspapers – once the core of American journalism – have been dying right and left.

Now, big digital media-news companies, once the great hope of post-print news, seem to be going in the same direction. Down, down, down.

In recent weeks and months, digital newsrooms have taken huge hits. BuzzFeed News suddenly shuttered, leaving scores of extremely talented journalists without employment (and lest you think of BuzzFeed as strictly a place for viral videos about cats, recall that its news division did plenty of prize-winning journalism over the years). Vox Media recently laid off 7% of its staff and raised money based on a valuation about half of what it was worth in 2015.

Then, on Monday, another major blow: Vice was filing for bankruptcy. A New York Times report was unsparing, calling Vice a “decayed digital colossus”, and noting that at one point it was thought to be worth a now-unfathomable $5.7bn.


The problem in digital news? The audience, in many cases, was there. But the profits didn’t follow, or at least not in a sustainable way. Digital advertising revenue, once thought to be based on audience size, was going instead to social-media platforms, particularly Facebook.