Setting the scene with the ‘ham-fisted’ HuffPost layoffs in March, the founder of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall paints a familiar picture of ‘incompetent executives, greedy owners, acquisitions, and consolidations’ at the heart of digital media’s woes. But he quickly pivots to a bigger, more fundamental point: “That many early-21st-century news organizations are simply not financially viable.”
His argument is that local newspaper monopolies were necessary to fund local news coverage. Universally accessible digital competitors have no way to recreate the profitability and stability that old regional monopolies made possible. Scale is the god that failed.
Josh rightly notes that publishing is a tough business. “It requires finding an unserved niche, providing some unique service, and building a durable relationship with a specific customer base.” Certainly more sustainable than a relationship with the VCs.
Five-year-old newsletter company 6AM City recently announced it was expanding into its ninth location. This expansion is the first move in a drive for 6AM City to go from nine local markets to more than 14 in 2021. The plan is to grow from 400,000 free subscribers to 750,000 and from $3 million in projected annual revenue to over $5 million.
NYU Professor Scott Galloway reckons a decade’s worth of retail sales were made on US digital channels in eight weeks of 2020. He points at annual pre-pandemic growth of about 1% compared with 10% between March and May last year. In the UK growth was over 50%. This piece summarises the findings from the ecommerce chapter of FIPP’s Innovation in Media 2021 Report.
Here’s a nice little coda to that blank front page story from last week. The Kansas hyperlocal received $3,000 in donations, interest from several new advertisers and El Mercado Fresco grocery store — which pulled advertising late last year — is coming back. “We never expected this to blow up like it did,” said Michael Bushnell, publisher and co-owner. “In the end, thank God it did.”
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