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What You Can Learn From Profitable New Media Companies

It ain’t easy being in the media business these days, or so they say.  There are in fact lots of people allegedly, or actually, raking in digital dollars, according to this article from Fortune. They’re all content producers with a journalistic twist. They are all different in their own ways, but you can parse out some ingredients for financial success in the industry. 

Not surprisingly the top, profitable companies are: The Huffington Post, Gawker Media, The Awl, Business Insider, SAY Media, Vox Media, and BuzzFeed. 

So what sets them apart?

 1. Niche, Niche, Niche

Choire Sicha of The Awl says they only want to be read by ‘smart people,’ and as it’s grown, it’s added other niche sites to its cache, like the female focused The Hairpin. Business Insider lives off of business and technology news and gossip, straight from the mouth of editor ‘Wall Street bad boy’ Henry Blodget. Gawker peddles snark, and BuzzFeed caters to culturally in-tune Millenials and their parents. HuffPo is grandfather of all of them — they have the verticals and dedicated, SEO hungry, writing staff for everything. By dabbling in it all, they essentially cater to segmented, yet focused, audiences. All of these organizations are like the good old magazines of the paper days: each site has a distinct look, feel and tone, reminiscent of say, Sassy or even Spin. It’s no wonder that Jane Pratt is part of the profitable crew under SAY Media. All of this ties into the next thing profitable companies have in common…  Read more

Voice Of San Diego Switches To WordPress — And Adds A Bunch Of Other Cool Features

I have long been fascinated by The Voice of San Diego, a membership-based investigative news site in Southern California. Their model is one from which many news organizations can learn — they were doing memberships long before paywalls were cool, they understand the importance of covering specific niches in a community, they have a strong focus on watchdog investigations, and they’ve always made reader engagement core to their journalism. Today, the organization has relaunched its website with new software that uses technology to help amplify those goals. They realized that their old CMS was holding them back, and relaunched a spiffy new design in a move from which the rest of us in the new industry could surely learn (but I’m biased).

Read more

The Anonymous Tip Box: Why Do We Bother?

Yesterday, the New Yorker launched an anonymous tip box. Excuse my skepticism, but I’m not sure why any newsroom wastes their resources on those things. (Sorry, boss!)

Instead of being a useful, secure tool for the public to use as a means of contacting an organization, tip boxes are in reality just a kitschy, spammy, and not particularly secure design element. I get why we have them — to make a show of transparency — but how many leads have you ever gotten from the tip box?

Every time I glimpse one of the notifications from ours in my inbox, I half expect the Syrian Electronic Army to pop out. But it’s usually an insult, jibberish, or a well meaning publicist with a request to cover an event entirely unrelated to the theme of our blog.

The key element here is safety. No one in their right mind– or at least the kind if people you’d want to be conversing with concerning a potential story– is going to try to contact you via the tip box. It’s like calling someone on a landline: intrusive and unlikely to result in a timely connection. It’s called email, or at this point, even a Twitter DM. 

If it weren’t for the disturbing news this week about the Justice Department’s seizure of AP’s phone records, maybe I could find room in my heart for the tip box. But if phone records aren’t safe from our own government, why would anyone leak something through an online tool such as the tip box? Perhaps I’m still just in shock and feeling vicariously betrayed, but the digital anonymous tip box is akin to the charming little crinkly noise my Kindle makes on my iPad. It’s a cute reminder of the more idealistic days of yore — the ones we like to think existed or hope for. But it’s all sort of a farce, isn’t it? 

How To Be Like The MailOnline: Make News, Make Video, Make Money

It was a shocker to read that the MailOnline is America’s third largest news outlet this morning, just behind NYTimes.com and WashingtonPost.com.

But it’s easy to get ahead when you have chutzpah. As a tabloid, it appears there was no hand wringing about pay models or how to fit sponsored content between slideshows of Kate Middleton’s baby bump and unsolved crime conspiracies. Sort of like the New York Post doesn’t worry about fact checking before laying our their morning edition.

From AdExchanger

 We don’t produce the content for them. What we do is create content hubs where their content will naturally fit in with our editorial. They may provide information about their products, videos showcasing their service and content relevant to topics in their product category. So we bring years of content publishing experience and an understanding of what audiences want to read. The marketer brings years of category insight and product knowledge. The end result has to provide more value to the consumer than if we had done this on our own. It’s in everyone’s interest to create something that’s entertaining. On top of that, it has to be clear that there’s a sponsor involved.

You can prattle on about the quality of the content and journalistic endeavors all you want, but the reality of digital publishing is just do it. ‘It just has to be clear that there’ a sponsor involved.’  Read more

Gawker’s Kinja Platform: Please Don’t Make Me Blog for You

It finally happened. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a Gawker groupie and I’ve been waiting for the rollout of Kinja on all of their sites. Not because I am an avid commenter (that requires more dedication than I can give), but because I wanted to see how it was going to work from the sidelines. I have mixed feelings.

 1) Mobile Layouts 

I know that everyone keeps saying that mobile is the future, and it is, of course. Fine. But I still don’t know how I’m supposed to work on a tablet. The old Gawker layout was optimized for a desktop experience, with the main blog post and a scroll down menu of new and trending posts. You could pick and choose, hop around the site before getting back to whatever you were avoiding before you came to Gawker in the first place.

The new Kinja layout is clean, sleek and modern. Everything you want a digital experience to be — except that you have to scroll around too much. I find myself reading many of the blurbs without actually clicking on a story. And when you do click into a story, that’s it. You have to work to browse. 

On a tablet, the Kinja reading experience makes more sense. Video and ads and posts all come together in one, non-annoying, continuous roll. My reaction to reading the new Gawker on my laptop is the first time I ever felt old. And why can’t you Tweet single posts? What’s the deal, Denton?   Read more

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