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The Atlantic lays off almost 20% of staff (axios.com)
218 points by augustocallejas 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 149 comments

85 comments and not one seems to have read past the headline here.

"The 68 staff cuts are mostly attributable to the collapse of the company's events business."

Reporters aren't losing their jobs here. Events staff with no events to run are.

From your high horse :-) you seem to have missed that the next line was:

"sales, editorial and events staff are all impacted".

So not just event staff.

> In the memo, Bradley says that sales, editorial and events staff are all impacted.

There will more than likely be events to run in the near future.

Not for the next year or so.

The sum of annual subscriptions across all newspapers I'm interested in is exorbitant.

What if I could pay on a per-article basis? I wouldn't have a problem paying 50¢ or $1.00 for an article I was interested in. It's not practical for each publisher to set up micro-payments. But, if there were an intermediate agent that accepted and managed payments for individual random articles, the money could be aggregated and remitted in a lump sum to the publishers. Sort of like an old-fashioned news stand.

What the newspaper business needs is a middleman who will collect micro-payments from me and millions of others, aggregate the money, charge my credit card once a month, and pay each publication weekly or monthly for the collective readers who have selected articles.

The middleman could accept PayPal payments, or I could open an account with my credit card, and pay once a month for all the individual articles I have read.

There is a Website called Blendle that proposes to do this. However, only a subset of articles are available. Publishers are reserving the prime content for full subscribers, and leaving Blendle with the crumbs. That's not going to work.

In reality, the reason why these have failed in the past is human psychology. Think about this with something other than news -- we all have $800 smartphones, but stare at the app store thinking, "hmm...do I really want to spend 99 CENTS?"

When you subscribe to a publication, you have to make decision once. You think about the amount of money against all future potential articles you can read, and decide from there. When you're paying for EACH article, all of a sudden you have to make that decision with every click. Is this article REALLY worth 50 cents?

Not to mention, this incentivizes the totally wrong things. People say they hate clickbait, but the aggregators and social networks that now act as gatekeepers force that kind of behavior -- publishers of course only get paid when you click through to their article. And in this case, it's even more profound -- we're no longer talking about a few cents from display ads, but 50 cents to $1.

For what its worth, we're trying a different tack -- especially when it comes to local news: https://blog.nillium.com/what-can-napster-teach-local-news/

I wonder how well it would work if it cost $1 to read an article, but there was an easy way to say "this was a bad article and I want my $1 back" some relatively large fraction of the time. I know that if I had already paid $1 for an article, then read and enjoyed it, I would not be inclined to want my $1 back. However, if I'm being asked to pay $1 just based on the headline, and then the article is clickbait and I have no recourse, I'm probably never going to pay $1 for another article from the same source.

Also, in that system, "90% of readers were satisfied enough to let the author keep their dollar" would be a pretty strong signal of quality (especially so if the platform takes more than a 10% cut: this is one of the rare cases where a higher cut to the middleman might actually result in a better product).

This was how Blendle used to work, and for me at least it was very effective. Despite using it rarely, I probably still spent tens of euros on it. The ability to instantly get my money back if I didn't like an article played a big part in that.

For some reason they changed their model to all-you-can-read for $10 a month, so perhaps it didn't work so well. I stopped using Blendle as a result, though :-/.

Simply habit can keep people paying. Previous to the internet , my routine was to wake up, get dressed and pick up the morning paper to read at the coffee shop.

That was about 50 cents a day.

If the system allows for it, I would probably commit to buying twitter access on a daily basis as I brush my teeth.

the pipeline wouldn't be a simple headline -> purchase -> full article access.

worthwhile content gets surfaced on aggregators like hn, reddit, via recommendation, etc. and there has to be some "sampler".

this would also motivate defense against clickbait, e.g. reputation management and visibility systems for authors and publishers.

It seems like this type of approach would incentivise clickbaity articles even more than the current financing structure does. Subscribing to a newspaper is a long-term arrangement, requiring the publisher to establish and maintain the reader's trust. Articles, on the other hand, are one-time interactions. Once you start seeing enough clickbait from a given source you can avoid the source in the future, but it would be significantly harder for publishers to leverage positive trust and reputation in such a setting.

I would argue the opposite.

If I submit a micropayment for an article that turns out to be low effort clickbait, my disappointment will be magnified by the fact that I lost money. I would also expect my satisfaction to be magnified for high quality content. Consequently, my trust in a brand will decrement or increment accordingly. A micropayment service could even track my reactions and maintain a personalized reputation score for a publisher/brand.

Obviously, this happens now, but I don't personally have as visceral as a reaction to losing the few seconds of time as I would to losing money. Putting even a small amount of money on the line clarifies the cost of the transaction.

Long term subscriptions, on the other hand, give the publisher more wiggle room to produce lazy, low effort content. Loss of brand image needs to build up to a critical threshold that motivates me to cancel the subscription.

The pressure's also going to come from the other direction. The content you pay for is also the content that goes in front of your eyeballs - and the value of that may be much more than you're paying.

Here I am, a successful content bundler. Thousands of people pay me a measly sum to see the content I push at them.

A whole bunch of people are going to come to me, with stacks full of cash, saying, Man, I sure would like to show my content to your subscribers. I calculated your profits, 100k annually. I got $1,000,000 in this check. Does that interest you?

The numbers are made up, but with adtech money being real, it won't be long before the content bundlers buckle and become 'ad-supported' or something like that.

Heck, I don't even know if it has to be per-article; I would like the option to pay for this month and only this month, since most subscriptions are ~$5 these days.

US consumer laws don't require good, hassle free ways to end subscriptions and the main reason I haven't subscribed to any is the utter lack of desire to spend hours hashing out a cancellation with a call center employee.

It's not the same, but if you have an Apple device— News is something like 10-15 dollars a month for a large aggregate of sources.

Pressreader is also pretty good, but web-based. https://www.pressreader.com/

The Toronto Public Library even offers free subscriptions to it with a library card—so I'd check into your local library.

Better would be to pay 10-20$ for an aggregated service, wherein you'll get all articles of to top 100 newspapers. Payment to newspaper will be done based on no. of articles read.

To reduce it being a pure click-bait pool, we can also add some sort of tipping model, wherein part of my money is distributed according to like/rating I have given. So a 5* investigative piece will get more money.

The Atlantic is a monthly magazine, not a newspaper. Apple News+ is a decent bundle deal for (full) magazine content and includes The Atlantic.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this I would have about $78 to $96 (estimated).

Been tried. Many times. By numerous entities, and some media orgs themselves. It doesn't really work. The issue is people.

Have any of them gotten WSJ, NYT, and one or more other heavy hitters onboard? If not, I don't think we know whether it'd work or not. If they have, I'd be interested in learning what happened so I can stop wishing for this.

Also, I think pay per article is doomed to failure, the amount of friction it adds would shrink the market by too much. It needs to be a fixed sub with all-you-can-read a la Spotify, with your subscription fee being split between the orgs you actually read.

It seems like it'd need to be a JV between news orgs, and not a third party. No sane news org with any leverage would hand their customer relationships over to a third party over which they have little control.

I think people tend to underestimate how most publishers don't rely on subscription revenue to survive. All the money is in advertising, which is why I think you see less focus on trying alternative subscription models like this. It's a great idea in theory, but in practice probably wouldn't provide enough revenue to be worth it for medium to small publishers.

Also, say this middleman company does exist and is adopted by a large portion of the publishers out there. How would it benefit them to pass along the majority of that $1 per article to publishers? My hunch is that publishers would be the ones that end up getting 'crumbs' and the middleman would keep the bulk.

Publishers have been burned over the years by relying on other companies and middlemen for traffic and revenue (look at the effect Facebook has had on most news organizations, and not in a good way). Putting all their chips in one basket with a company like this would be a non-starter for most companies. They don't want to get burned again.

>I think people tend to underestimate how most publishers don't rely on subscription revenue to survive. All the money is in advertising,

Interestingly enough, NYT now gets 2 times the money from subscription as it gets from advertising. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/business/new-york-times-c...

I think the NYT (and other very large publishers, WSJ, etc.) are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to subscription revenue.

For a newspaper that serves a small town/mid size city there is a fixed number of people they can sell subscriptions to. Compound that with digital ads being worth a fraction of what a print ad is worth and you have a problem. A print ad is still a bigger revenue driver.

Ad pricing has been plummeting ever since the web allowed performance metrics to be strictly tracked, and optimized the ability to advertise in hundreds of places simultaneously.

At some point it becomes more profitable to just use subscriptions.

Having worked at a publishing platform, I can tell you that point is a long long way away for most publishers. The vast majority of publisher income is from advertising and it's not close.

A similar argument could be made for a whole host of subscription services (gyms, television, etc.) but I think they all keep the subscription model because the mental transaction cost of buying a small amount of the product creates a huge barrier to use. Mental transaction cost is the stress that the buying decision places on the buyer. Someone once said that the only two prices on the internet are free and infinity, so any incremental cost is stressful. Additionally the prices needed to sustain a per-unit sales model are so high that nobody wants to buy. A great recent example is ski resorts. Before the Epic and Ikon passes, day passes were expensive but not insane. With these passes, however, the ski companies have decided to dramatically increase the daily cost and lower the subscription cost to maximize revenue.

A gym isnt something where I want to consume the service of 10+ companies in a day. More traditional television subscriptions (even streaming) are still bundle based sets of channels from multiple providers.

My biggest resistance to subscribing to some publications is the cognitive load of managing more subscriptions. Adding payment info, keeping it updated, remembering to remove it if I'm not using it... That "feels" very expensive to me. Especially with the "we'll automatically renew your subscription" tactic that is so popular now.

I really like Patreon for supporting YouTube content. I think my YouTube subscription is supposed to fund that too, but there are 5ish that I add in Patreon. The down side is that the Patreon-only content is kind of annoying to find, so mostly I just use Patreon to support the content they make on YouTube.

Blendle had all major publication on board in the Netherlands for a few years. €0,10-€1 per article. It was heaven.

Also it was not profitable; most people read a few articles a month, netting them €1 or €2.

Now they only have a €10 a month subscription, giving unlimited access to a “selection of the best articles”.

I guess it’s better to have 5 customers paying you €10 every month, than 20 customers who might give you €1 or €2.

I can't speak for the Netherlands but in the US most publications are just glorified tabloids. Not enough people appreciate quality journalism to pay for it, at least not enough to cover the operational costs of our bloated news outlets. So they turn to publishing "anonymous sources", hearsay, and outright lies that will be quietly retracted because it pays more than the truth. Spreading FUD has always been the MO of the news, I won't be upset if all these companies go belly up. Make way for a new generation of grass roots journalism.

Micro-payments can be done quite easily via Bitcoin's second layer network Lightning Network. There has been a functional demo of this technology for articles, check out yalls dot org.

Also, no middleman needed, you can host your own server to make the invoices and accept payments using BTCPay Server https://github.com/btcpayserver/btcpayserver.

You want a middleman to avoid a tax nightmare.

If you are selling directly to the readers, you potentially have to deal with sales tax or VAT in every jurisdiction in which you have a paying reader.

Many jurisdictions do have thresholds that you have to cross before they want you to collect tax, but those are often of the form ">= N transactions OR >= $S sales". N = 100 or 200 is pretty common for US states. It would be pretty easy to get a situation where you have enough transactions to have to collect, file, and remit tax, but not enough revenue from those to cover the costs of doing so.

Stick a middleman in there and you can avoid all that.

Arrange things so that all your sales are to the middleman who then resells to the readers, and then you only have to worry about whether or not your sales to the middleman are subject to sales tax or VAT in wherever the middleman is located. Any sales tax or VAT in the reader's jurisdictions will be on their purchases from the middleman, and dealing with them is the middleman's problem.

At the middleman level, the tax problem is much much much less bothersome. That's because the middleman can be dealing with other publishers besides you. The middleman might even be selling things that have nothing to do with news or magazines. That gets the middleman's revenue up enough in each jurisdiction that the costs of dealing with taxes there is just a tiny fraction of revenue.

> What if I could pay on a per-article basis?

You would probably fall into the trap of picking and choosing (and paying for) the articles that say what you want, and so they would pander, and here we are.

We need people to carefully choose a lower number of sources, that they believe are of high quality and who they will try to hold to that standard, and then read their articles even when they don't pander.

I had a similar thought and then realized that this describes Apple News Plus. It’s one place you can pay for articles and I assume there are licensing or per-article agreements just like a streaming service would have. Granted this is more geared toward Apple users but nonetheless, this is an existing manifestation of the idea you can pay for and use today.

You may this payment daily with something called ads, they cost like $0.00150 for an article, but we all hate them.

It's already super easy to charge for single articles. They just need to throw a stripe or paypal instant payment button on there.

The problem is there's no real money in the a la carte model. If a startup wants to be a middleman for online news, they'd have to be some sort of subscription aggregator.

>> The problem is there's no real money in the a la carte model.

True, but sometimes these things are true until they are false.

I'm not saying there is definitely or obviously a workable business model using pay-per-article... but I wouldn't write it off as impossible, or even very unlikely.

Theoretically, the financial fundamentals aren't too bad. Really good writers often struggle to reliably get $500 for an article. Say $1000 + editing is a more sustainable rate. Say an average ppv reader reads 3 article at a go @ 10c each...

If articles can get 10,000 paying (10c each) readers, it is, broadly, viable... at least at this unit level. To be actually good, the business model would have to crossfund (or somehow fund) harder journalism. Hard journalism costs.

Anyway, I'm not saying I have a solution. Just saying nothing seems improbable about ppv articles. Tens of thousands of readers willing to pay pennies to directly fund (and access) journalism on any given day. Doesn't seem like that big an ask.

This more or less exists already in https://scroll.com/ that charges a flat fee and distributes it to publishers based on your reading behaviour. In return, you get reduced adverts on sites that support it.

What if I could pay on a per-article basis?


> Between the lines: The Atlantic's new majority ownership stake from Emerson Collective, the impact investment vehicle owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, has allowed the company to accelerate its growth in recent years, including a major staff increase and expansion that began in 2018.

"Emerson Collective is a social change organization that uses a broad range of tools including philanthropy, impact investing, and policy solutions to create the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Established and led by Laurene Powell Jobs, Emerson Collective is working to renew some of society’s most calcified systems, creating new possibilities for individuals, families, and communities."

- https://www.emersoncollective.com/about-us/

Laurene Powell Jobs has ~$22 billion. She could pay the salaries of these 68 employees for the next 10 years if she felt like it without noticing a change in her bank account.

Obviously she is not obligated to do anything, but if employees of my "social change organization" that were hired under my watch, with my encouragement, were impacted by a possibly temporary economic downturn in the middle of a global pandemic and I could help them without sacrificing anything, I hope I would.

She does not have $22B in cash. You pay employees in cash. Impact investing is just as brutal as any other investment fund. Dollars can be deployed more impactfully elsewhere. The goal is investments that create long term structural change and subsidizing employees of a declining business doesn’t move them towards that goal.

The point is the business wasn't declining until she changed the mission.. In addition to her Apple wealth, she owns roughly 100 million shares of Disney. 68 staff cuts at $150k/year all-in cost mean she'll save roughly $10M/year.

So she could sell 0.08% of her shares in Disney at today's price and these people would be employed for another year to work on the mission that she / the collective chose.

"The point is the business wasn't declining until she changed the mission"

WTF? No. Are you just making this up?

She, via Emerson Collective, has invested heavily and they would be in greater trouble were it not for her.

(I used to work for Quartz which was started by The Atlantic so my comments are based on actually having been there and know how these operations work)

They were profitable for 8 years before she bought them.


That doesn't mean they stopped being profitable after she bought them, or that she "changed the mission," as a previous poster put it. Just like many other businesses, an infusion of cash allowed them to expand.

It's easy to criticize them for that now, but there's a real sense in which that critique amounts to, "Instead of expanding, they should have used that infusion of capital to restructure their finances in a way that let them survive a dramatic collapse in revenue that happened virtually all at once."

I don't know how you could read this thread and get to what you wrote for your alternative "instead of expanding". The alternative proposed by the thread starter is something like: "having invested in expansion, she should continue supporting the employees that were hired during that expansion". And that expansion is the change in the mission that the thread starter is referring to.

The expansion was, according to the linked article, largely into live events. I disagree with characterizing that as a "change in the mission" -- the Atlantic always hosted some live events, and they continued publishing the magazine, so it's not as if they pivoted into becoming something they weren't.

But the point I was trying to get at is that if they won't be able to hold live events at all for a year or more to come and may take years past that to get back up to their original level, what does "supporting the employees" hired for that group mean? If we're talking super-generous severance packages, we're in agreement -- but if we're talking about paying them to keep doing a job in support of a business the company can no longer perform, which was the implication I got from the thread, I'd pretty hesitant to sign on.

I suppose I'm pushing back a bit at the notion that because there's a billionaire benefactor involved, that immediately changes the ethics of the situation. If Powell Jobs hadn't invested in them, they hadn't expanded, and they still had to do layoffs like so many media companies have in the last few months have, wouldn't their obligations be essentially the same? It seems to me they would -- yet it also seems to me we probably wouldn't be having this argument in that scenario.

(To be clear, I'm not saying "pity the billionaires" as much as saying "should billionaires exist" seems to me to be a somewhat orthogonal argument.)

I am not criticizing them for expanding. I am criticizing Jobs for using her power to hire more people, but not using her power to temporarily maintain their jobs in a uniquely dangerous situation.

First of all, you assume she is running the day-to-day. I don't know that she is. My guess is she isn't and its Emerson plus The The Atlantic. Thats their job.

In terms of "temporarily maintain their jobs", events have been cancelled for months. You can argue that management did try this.

However with no clear Federal management or proper guidance, and states taking opposing approaches, we are going to see this return in waves and events business is not coming back soon.

As I said to someone else, if the argument is that she should step in to ensure they have super generous severance packages, I'm in agreement. (I didn't define that above, but I'm thinking around a year, including benefits.) I'm just not on board with what seemed to be an argument for keeping them employed indefinitely.

I agree with the other reply to you, too, though -- I don't know that she "used her power to hire more people," per se. If a VC gives a tech company an infusion of capital and the tech company goes on a hiring spree, I don't think we'd really look at that as the VC using their power to hire more people, and I think that's a much better analogy. Laurene Powell Jobs didn't buy The Atlantic and install herself as an editor or publisher -- she started a social-minded investment organization that bought a majority stake in The Atlantic, and there's little indication she's involved with day-to-day affairs.

expand? you mean like wework? or any of the other softbank unicorns?

They did spin up staff numbers and who knows how much was spent on business facets like advertising. I'd atleast agree that it might not have been the best investment decision given the large amount of "competitors" in Atlantic's space

Yes, the added staff and that lead to the pay-wall they have which was helpful and a long-overdue idea.

Yes, and print ad revenue continues to march towards the cliff, and then Covid 19 killed companies digital ad budgets and that cratered.

These are all circumstances affecting nearly every media company right now.

I understand, and most media companies are going to be forced to lay off people when they simply don't have enough money to pay them anymore. I don't blame them if there's nothing they can do. This is a relatively unique circumstance where the owner could easily keep paying them if she wanted to, but has chosen not to. Ad revenue and live events are not gone for good, just for a little while.

I know she doesn't literally have $22 billion in a bank account, but she could obviously scrounge up enough cash to pay these people if she wanted to.

The Atlantic is not a "declining business". It was profitable for a long time before she bought it, it expanded because she wanted it to, and the decline in revenue is likely temporary. They aren't losing subscribers and they aren't in danger of failing anytime soon.

If she invested in The Atlantic to create long term change, and its subscriber base and reach is growing (which it is), then she shouldn't care about a short term decline in ad revenue. Dollars can certainly be deployed more profitably elsewhere, but you're not gonna accomplish any social change if you base your investments on quarterly profits.

> it expanded because she wanted it to

And now it’s shrinking because she wanted it to.

I think we're on the same page. She has an immense amount of power which she is wielding in a legal and fairly conventional manner, but one that I consider ethically wrong.

Ethically wrong?

Are you saying she is ethically obliged to employ as many people as her bank account makes possible, for as long as her bank account makes that possible?

Or that, having committed to a certain number of employees, she is ethically obliged to maintain that number indefinitely?

You seem to be making a large assumption with the latter: that the dip in revenue is a blip. However 1) general trends in the industry have been pointing down for years, 2) we don't know if business will bounce back to the same level, let alone when. Making an ethical judgment about someone else's business from the outside is fraught enough, but with this level of uncertainty, why would you even go there?

I think the dip might be a blip because they were profitable for 8 years before she bought them a couple years ago, and they were continuing to do great until the pandemic.

It's a difficult question because I don't think she should be able to have this much power in the first place, so it's hard to say what the most ethical way to wield that power is. I don't think she is obligated to employ as many people as possible for as long as possible.

My basic point is that the magazine is still reaching more people than ever before, it's still achieving its journalistic purpose, so why not use a tiny portion of your immense power to keep these people around for a year or so and see if economic conditions improve. If there's a fundamental shift in the business and, for example, it seems like live events are never really going to happen again, then it's time to let those people go.

I don't think I understand. Would it have been more ethical in your system if she hadn't hired them in the first place?

It depends what she did instead. If she just left her money in the bank, no, that's worse. But it would have been more ethical to spend her money in a way that wasn't exclusively dedicated to making more money. Maybe start a collectively owned media organization where power isn't concentrated in one person. Or donate to an existing nonprofit media organization, where revenue is more closely correlated to social impact than the economic health of third party advertisers.

Basically just stop trying to make more money. You don't need any more. Do something to make the world better.

People who have control over $22 billion have the ability to get a large sum of physical cash very quickly.

The problem is who gets to choose what is "more impactful". Maybe some of those staff were getting ready to shatter the world with an insane revelation that instigates "long-term structural change" and makes life better for everyone. Then Jobs would have invested her money improperly. But because she gets to almost unilaterally decide what happens under her purview, those former employees never get a chance.

>She does not have $22B in cash.

The idea that someone worth $22B can't snap their fingers and have a few million dollars cash available is ridiculous. Do you think there are no buyers for Apple or Disney stock?

One plausible explanation is that management wants these employees out, so they're taking advantage of a once-in-a-decade opportunity to trim headcount without PR consequences.

Which is of course extremely cynical, as this is a very bad time to be tossed out into the job market.

Thats not plausible at all.

This lockdown has devastated media advertising across the board. Events require in-person experiences which are just not possible in the near-term.

Why does an “impact investor” own a newspaper anyway? Does this affect story selection and editorial behavior?

What “impact” could one expect to have by investing in a media organization, other than pushing an agenda?

Keeping the press alive is a worthwhile endeavor.

I'd rather the world not turn into Youtube News coming out of some basement with no staff that actually goes out and investigates. Instead he is able to carve a bubble to share what he/she thinks as news.

Of course. It’s the same reason “think tanks” are established.

You could always argue it’s good to get people to think and bring workable ideas to life... but of course the employees at these think tanks know who pays their salaries and what the expectations are.

Do you think that an informed population is a net positive or a net negative? I personally think the former, and I had a pool of spare cash lying around I might try to put money towards that effort.

Only if they are informed about the topics I think are important primarily, with a focus on the facts that sway them to the positions I support. Otherwise they might support a government backing policies I disagree with.

Same reason I donate to NPR: to support quality journalism.

Of No Party or Clique

Do you really want to get your information from a source where hiring decisions depend on a single person with huge interests and biases? I don’t.

No, not really. I would prefer a society where it's not possible for one person to accumulate this much power over other people.

Several established, profitable businesses have been repurposed for social change.

ESPN, The Atlantic, etc.

As a conservative, I find it a little unfair. The institutions typically have built up a legacy of middle-of-the-road communications, then they are repurposed with a decidedly leftward tilt.

Still, The Atlantic provides enjoyable to read articles, even if I don't agree with everything they say. I'm not happy that they undergo this loss.

The “billions of dollars” these people have can’t be used, at scale, to pay the salaries of workers during the economic shutdown. Almost all of that wealth is paper money—the promise to receive a share of future profits from operating companies. If the economy is shut down and those companies aren’t making profits, that equity isn’t worth anything.

As noted in the Vice layoffs thread a week ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23193140), these industry layoffs are a function of revenue pipelines, and it is 100% not related to the type of content or political leanings.

Except where revenue pipelines are influenced by readership reaction to content quality or political leanings informing that content?

Don't think you can make a statement like "100% not related".

100% not related is probably too strong, but reports say they've broken readership records and have added ~90,000 subscribers since March. It seems much more plausible that the collapse of the events and ad businesses due to current economic conditions are the driver.

Both can be true. Ad revenues have been hit by COVID for sure, but the remaining ad dollars have gravitated toward higher-quality and more credible news sources. Clickbait and hype merchants like VICE, Buzzfeed, and latterly the Atlantic (the Buzzfeed of the Aspen Institute set) have suffered disproportionately.

Exactly right, I used to be a subscriber and keen reader but lately it has been ridiculous headlines like this one ... https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/04/why-georg...

> Don't think you can make a statement like "100% not related".

That's likely true. Would be interesting to see ad revenue figures for a good cross section of the industry.

This sucks. The Atlantic was doing great reporting in the beginning of corona, pointing out how few tests were.being done. It was necessary work that reminded me how important real journalism is.

The Atlantic and Jeffrey Goldberg (now the editor-in-chief) laid the ideological groundwork for the US to invade Iraq, one of - if not the biggest crimes of the 21st century. [1] The Atlantic sold the Iraq War with reporting that relied heavily on war hawks, neocons in the Bush administration, and at times complete fabrications. It it is hard to shed a tear for an organization which helped create a conflict resulting in the deaths of 1.2 million Iraqis.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Goldberg#Views_on_Iraq

Interesting, thanks. I guess that explains David Frum being a contributor.

with citations such as...

This covid tracking project is part of The Atlantic's data journalism: https://covidtracking.com/about-project

I will completely disagree with the above statement and claim that The Atlantic were biased and lacking real statistical data in their reporting.

with citations such as ...

Their subscription model is strange—it’s $49 per year, which isn’t a lot, but it FEELS like a lot because there is no monthly option like most publications.

But events are a huge portion of business for pubs like The Atlantic. It is sad to see these cuts though because they are really putting out some of the most important thinking around this crisis right now, cutting stuff that digs beneath the surface and highlights the broader trends at play.

Real Journalism is very expensive.

I fear the day when all the financially viable "news" is some YouTube channel with no investigative staff powering it, but caters to a niche that doesn't care about accuracy or integrity to sustain itself.

I don't know - I would argue that Scott Manley and Tim Dodd do a better job then any mainstream media on reporting on Space news, and the tech youtube community is better then almost anyone save maybe Ars Technica.

The Tech youtube community is centered around clickbait and shoehorned brand warfare to generate views.

There are some worthwhile youtubers, but the vast majority create useless content to keep you watching.

>Scott Manley and Tim Dodd

Space is very very niche. But The Economist and Nature have provide some pretty good space content in recent memory.

Events? I would have guesses ad revenue -- it's tanking most places.

They host the Aspen Ideas festival which I'm guessing is often a big revenue driver. Many publications (the New Yorker for instance) have moved to hosting these events to diversify their revenue streams. Whoops.

A number of organizations that make a chunk of their operating income off events and have made them virtual still seem to be trying to collect possibly reduced but still hefty ticket prices. There's one event I was planning to attend in June that's now virtual and the $650 registration is a bar that I'm having a bit of trouble getting over.

And, yes, a number of magazines in recent years have added premium events to their revenue streams.

Why don't the magazines get together and offer a package deal? Kind of like cable but for print media. I know Apple has something like that but I'm not an Appostle. If I could pick the publications I want I would be on that in a heartbeat.

It's my fault - I let my print subscription lapse because someone gave me their free New Yorker gift subscription. I didn't feel like I could keep up with both plus the Atlantic RSS feed still has a lot of good stuff for free.

what is really the minimally-functional enterprise size for a journalistic organization? you need reporters, editors and fact-checkers. that is the atlantic model. or, if you want just reporters, we can have pure indy reporting on massive platforms where it is a pure marketplace of ideas. the future does not appear to favor the atlantic model.

Off the top of my head:

- Sales (for ads/sponsorship to actually make said revenue)

- Tech (for managing said traffic to make said revenue)

- Social media/distribution (for sourcing said traffic to make said revenue)

- Data Analysis (for analyzing all of the above)

- Legal (not directly related to revenue but is essentially required for journalism at this level)

Even the "indie" journalists often have teams in these areas working for them, just with less visibility.

you are right, the overhead is bigger than i thought. i suppose if one wants to be a youtube journalist, google somewhat takes over the role of sales, tech, social media, and even data analysis if you count their optimization of pushing your videos to key users. either you pay out of pocket or put yourself at the mercy of google.

I guess I would have assumed that these positions would all have been furloughed months ago since I don't imagine very many of them fit the qualification of "essential"

I would have assumed that most of the work at The Atlantic is knowledge work that can be done remotely, so there would be no reason to furlough.

Might be hard to get the scoop for stories... although everyone is in the same boat.

I hope this isn't indicative of larger business troubles.

They've provided some of the most quality editorial over the years.

Thankfully John Oliver, podcasts, paid individual-contributor newsletters, and documentaries are taking over long-form investigative journalism and news-aggregator sites and social media are increasing their reach, but I still feel there's value in "traditional" editorial institutions.

I cant view the article, is there a way around the paywall?

I can’t tell if that’s an actual request, an extremely clever meta-comment on the viability of online journalism, or a bit of both...

Giving them the benefit of the doubt. Great meta comment. Next time add an archive.is link too.

It highlights a very real and very hard to solve problem with newspapers though.

I read a dozen sites on the internet, a dozen newspapers. I can't afford to pay a $10 monthly subscription fee to all of them so in the end I end up paying nothing to any of them.

If, however, I could pay a reasonable monthly fee which would give me access to all of the newspapers I read then I would do it. It's easier than getting around adblock or searching for open alternatives.

Lots of them are free with your library card. Plus, you don't need to subscribe to everything. Those dozen newspapers all cover the same stories for the most part, pick whichever one has the best writing on the topics you are most interested in and just stick with that.

Doesn't Apple news plus do that or something?

I just picked 2-3 publications I really like and I subscribe to those. I'm not paying for everything, but I am paying for some.

Works great unless you use Cloudflare DNS.

Axios doesn't have a paywall, so I'm going with meta comment

I'm surprised how much rationalization towards the billionaire class is being employed to reason against sympathy and sustenance for the working class individuals impacted by this.

The billionaires have all the advantages, and often hold a moral and political posture that they promote socially that are at odds with these actions.

Please don't take HN threads further into generic ideology. It always leads to repetitive, predictable discussion, which is off topic here, and usually turns into flamewar as well.




My mother just yelled at my sister this week telling her “she’s not mature enough to get married” because her personal trainer job is currently on hold and my mom is paying her rent. This is something I’ve seen quite a few “conservative” parents do to their kids: they don’t think about what the kids are dealing with they just see that they aren’t making money and scream at them. It’s something she used to do to me before I finished college and it made getting out of bed and other every day things super hard. I used to be conservative but the total and complete lack of empathy people have even towards their own kids pushed me away from it.

I'd suggest that yelling aside your mom might have a point. The fact that she is paying you sister's rent sounds extremely generous and unless your family is independently wealthy probably a financial hardship for her. Had you ever considered that the empathetic view of her side might be that she is being put in a difficult position of having to choose between paying her child's rent and being in a financially stressful position hence the yelling? Chalking it up to the by product of political leanings seems like a rationalization.

I happen to know they’re not in a remotely financially stressful position.

There is a very old saying: “conservatives have no hearts, but liberals have no brains.” It’s quite apt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of people have plenty of (very warranted) empathy, who can’t wrap their minds around what it really means to be spending $2 trillion a month keeping the economy shut down. Innumerates who think “the billionaires should just pay for it.”

What does the “billionaire class” have to do with this? The total cost of bailouts in the US so far is $6 trillion. That is 45 times as much money as all US billionaires earned last year. It is as much money as all US corporations earned in profits in the last four years.

99% of all income isn’t earned by “the billionaire class.” It’s earned by the rest of us. We’re the ones who will be paying for the COVID-19 economic shutdown, because we’re the only ones with enough money to do it.

B/c billionaires got everything, they also want to feel good about themselves & righteous too. Thus you see a lot of virtual signaling

Concentrated wealth (i.e. The 100 or so billionaires that exist in the world) is able to more nimbly direct their money to change the world. However, when they're wrong, they're using 1/100 of the world's wealth/productivity to be wrong.

Less concentrated wealth (i.e. Some form of socialism + wealth redistribution) is going to be much more likely to be caught up in red tape, meander, and not reach consensus. On the other hand, being wrong isn't as impactful.

You get to choose between the 2012-2016 US Congress (nothing gets passed - good or bad - because no one can reach consensus and no one has the power to unilaterally decide) and FDR (nimbly navigated a war but definitely overreached on a few decisions and imprisoned the entire US Japanese population lol).

Are you using FDR, a democratically elected president, as an example of a nimble but unaccountable billionaire?


your claim is that the atlantic is failing _specifically_ because they post too much anti-trump content?

it would be pretty easy to disprove this to yourself by observing that magazine/newspaper sales have been in decline since before trump was a presidential candidate.

No. My claim is they are failing because everyone with a single neuron in their head already knows their position on this issue, and they do not seem to be capable of offering a perspective on anything else anymore. Their "reporting", if you could call it that, is 100% predictable, and is, therefore, not worth wasting one's time on.

The whole "Orange Man Bad" thing is the most vapid, discussion-stifling meme I've ever seen, and it's really disappointing that the right has adopted it wholesale. It's practically a guaranteed response to any criticism of Trump whatsoever, no matter how measured or ultimately warranted. Calling people "NPCs" for disagreeing with you is really revealing, and I don't think it leaves the impression that you believe it does.

You can't actually think he's beyond reproach, can you?

Atlantic is left wing, as are Vox, Buzzfeed, and numerous other troubled properties cited in the article. I remember actually enjoying the Atlantic a few years ago, but their unfortunate editorial decision to focus on partisanship has crowded out other, more substantial topics for which they were once known.

As long as they follow the guidelines of the medical experts, everything should work out in the end. We are all in this together.

As long as we ignore that the economy is in very deep trouble, the economy will be fine.

The economy is in trouble because of the virus, not because of lockdowns or following advice of medical experts.

People scared to die or spread a viral infection to loved ones => reduction in eating out, going to concerts, or traveling => major economic pain for the service industry.

Obviously the voluntary actions people are taking is having an effect on the economy. But when you declare that entire sections of the economy are illegal ("non-essential"), then this has an even bigger impact. Now businesses that could have tried to stay open with certain precautions are simply out of business. This puts even more people out of work.

Also, the voluntary actions people are taking are affected by how they see this pandemic, which of course are in turn heavily affected by media reporting (and also how other countries have reacted).

I'd guess the hairdressing and restaurant industries (for starters) would not agree.

The restaurant industry would be wise to note that the steep decline in customers preceded the lockdowns, and are being very slow to tick back up in states that have lifted theirs.


Getting people to come back will require making them feel safe, regardless of whether the government says they can open.

People like me stopped going to restaurants well before governors were even seriously talking about lockdowns, and won't be going back for many months, if not many years.

That said, at least in the US, there are quite a lot of people that will go back as soon as lockdowns end. And in-person service is a big deal, because people dining in drink a lot of booze, which is a big moneymaker. If I ran a restaurant, I'd be praying for this moment.

A dataset showing that restaurants had zero customers during lockdowns can't possibly be accurate, since they're still open for takeout. I'm sure there's some real trend being exhibited here, but how do we know people aren't just not using OpenTable?

I'd figured wording like "fill tables" and "restaurant reservations" made it clear enough they were talking about eat-in, not takeout?

Isn't it more like

Government orders businesses to close => restaurants, concerts, stores are closed => people can't eat out, go to concerts, buy stuff => major economic pain for the service industry


Restaurants saw a decline in bookings before those lockdown orders, and haven't bounced back to normal in opened-up states.


Your comment is funny because in essence, it's kind of true. Economy only works as long as people keep buying (heh) into the idea. I agree that the form of our economy can change substantially but human cooperation via barter and trade is a sound institution on this Earth, and this pandemic has shown that if people are unhappy with circumstances, they will simply pretend as if everything's fine.

Makes me imagine an "end to civilization" where there is a large contingent of folks pining to return to normalcy while the world literally burns.

In so many words, we fucked up our economy because we didn’t have a robust/flexible/scalable approach to managing the quarantine.

It’s an epic fuck up for sure, it’s getting even more epic now that places like California are still extending the lockdown.

We didn’t have the courage to lockdown sooner, and now we don’t have the courage to open up sooner.

California's not still extending the lockdown. Restaurants are beginning to reopen, and almost all businesses are expected to open in June.

So I’ll believe that when I see it. The deadline got moved three times already.

Sure, that's fair, but I think there's reason for optimism this time. Many counties are actually opening faster than they'd planned at the beginning of the month.

I genuinely can't tell if the parent is being sarcastic or not.

I would say that if it cannot be decided whether a comment is sarcastic or not, then it actually sits in the saddle point of the truth.

Can't gauge if you're being sarcastic or serious honestly.

Yeah, and if that doesn't work, they can also, to quote none other than Joe Biden, "learn to code".

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