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Posts Tagged ‘business models’

Do We Still Need Byliner?

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 9.26.16 AMEarlier this month, we learned that Byliner, the digital longform journalism platform launched in 2011, is looking for partners to continue sustaining its operation.

An email to contributors, published originally by PandoDaily, reads:

“We’ve struggled to reach the level of growth we’d been hoping for the business, and thus we’ve begun conversations with possible partners about the future of Byliner. We’re working to find a good home for our platform and your stories, and we’ll be in touch shortly with specifics about your titles.”

Not good news. Since then, co-founder Mark Bryant, executive editor Laura Hohnhold and now co-founder/CEO John Tayman have found the exit door at Byliner, a San Francisco startup. At this point, contributors are left wondering what Byliner’s fate will be, and the company — once lauded as a paradigm for longform journalism online — must rely on partners to boost Byliner.

But the more important question may be, ‘Do we still need Byliner?’ Perhaps Byliner’s troubles underscore a general sense of apathy toward longform, or highlight a lessening need for long publishers like this one.

On the other hand, outfits like The Big Roundtable and The New New South have popped up over the last year, BuzzFeed is taking longform more seriously and Longreads is still hanging on (and they don’t even require subscriptions like Byliner does). Aeon and Matter/Medium commission longform that performs well, and The Atavist relies in part on the licensing sales of its software platform The Creativist to be successful financially.

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Vox.com Should Not Explain It All

voxlogo.jpgLike #slatepitches before it, the hype surrounding Ezra Kein’s endeavor, the focus on explaining it all, and the format of news cards — all good, interesting things — has basically set Vox.com up to be mocked.

When they’re talking about the Affordable Care Act or Ukraine, it all makes sense. When they start to explain Tinder? That’s where it starts to feel a little forced. It feels like some of the superfluous explainers, like the Game of Thrones recaps and maps, are good for social sharing and traffic, but not for their mission. If anything, they are distracting and sort of embarrassing, like when your mom used to write on your Facebook wall.

I know they want to cover everything and be the Wikipedia of news, but maybe they should stick to covering wonk. We can chart Nicholas Cage’s career over at Buzzfeed and talk about “hangry” over at The Atlantic. I know it doesn’t sound very innovative or new, but why don’t they stick to what they know? The card decks really work for that. Read more

Project X No More: Understanding the News with Vox

It’s a real thing now. Ezra Klein’s much gabbed about Project X has a name, a launch video, and its first explainer. Under Vox Media, the venture is simply Vox.com. Here’s their launch video:

I’m excited to see what it looks like and what it does. I like the idea of a news explainer — I recently wanted one for my not so newsy father who was asking about the Ukraine news cycle. To him, it seemed like it came out of nowhere: “this wasn’t on the evening news two weeks ago!” I, on the other hand, had been watching is slowly unfold and then blow up on Twitter and around the internet. Will there be a single link I can send him the next time that happens?

What do you think about Vox? Do you think this is the solution to the “problem in journalism” as Klein and company see it?

Image via Vox. 

What’s In A Name? For New Media Companies, It’s Everything

opendictionaryThis week, First Look Media launched their inaugural “digital magazine” The Intercept. As Matthew Ingram points out here, it’s a term that doesn’t quite fit what they’re aiming to do. It’s not a targeted vertical on a larger site, it’s not a niche blog, it’s something else, something new

Jay Rosen, an advisor to First Look, has classified The Intercept, along with Re/Code or Grantland, under “the personal franchise model.” He writes:

By “personal franchise” I mean something more: a central figure or personality has given birth to a newsroom, a larger operation. But the larger operation still feels like an individual’s site.

In practice, this means that First Look’s design, according to Rosen’s post on the company:

…accepts and incorporates the personal franchise style, treating it as no threat to the editorial ambitions that First Look has for itself. In fact, the hope is to attract others who can launch sites like The Intercept, and to offer a common core of services — data skills, design help, good publishing tools, strong legal advice, marketing muscle — that the founders will need to succeed…Under this model, the diverse paths that such sites may take are not a “distraction” from the core business or a subtraction from the editorial brand but a vital part of both.

What I find exciting is not just that there are so many examples of this personal franchise model, but that so many founders are completely rethinking how we produce, distribute, and consume journalism. Think about Ezra Klein under Vox Media with Project X: they’re thinking about doing something so differently, it doesn’t even have a name yet.

I think the culture demands that we describe our ventures in an ‘elevator pitch,’ or worse, 140 characters or less. But maybe that doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you call it a magazine or a blog, it doesn’t change the editorial mission behind The Intercept, or saying that Project X is a “news site/encyclopedia” doesn’t make it less of an undertaking.

What’s more important — defining the shift in business models or focusing on the shift? What do you think about the term ‘digital magazine?’

Upworthy Quits Page Views, Measures ‘Total Attention Minutes’ Instead

upworthyUpworthy released a blog post today announcing their new model for measuring success: Attention Minutes.

Their source code and more information about its implementation is promised for the coming months (something to look forward to besides spring?). But for now, let’s take a look at their reasoning

Pageviews have long been on the way out and Upworthy has decided that shares, unique visitors, and Google Analytics’ time on site metrics just aren’t cutting it for them. By tracking “everything from video player signals about whether a video is currently playing, to a user’s mouse movements, to which browser tab is currently open,” Upworthy says this move ”will accelerate the drive toward quality.” But it’s really about being able to bottle that engagement and sell it to someone — advertisers, subscribers, investors.  By tracking what engages users, there’ll be more insight into why they share, which is the goal of viral content.

For real news organizations, watching how Upworthy tracks engagement is a highly recommended winter activity. Knowing what beats your users are most interested and where they’re consuming is vital to improving any digital newsroom. Shares and uniques are good estimates, but Upworthy’s right: it’s not enough, and sometimes misleading. Who knows what we’ll find out about our audience.

Has your newsrooms experimented with new metrics across sites? What’s the focus for you — shares or pageviews? 

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