"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.
"sales, editorial and events staff are all impacted".
So not just event staff.
There will more than likely be events to run in the near future.
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.
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/
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).
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 :-/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Been tried. Many times. By numerous entities, and some media orgs themselves. It doesn't really work. The issue is people.
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.
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.
Interestingly enough, NYT now gets 2 times the money from subscription as it gets from advertising.
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.
At some point it becomes more profitable to just use subscriptions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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)
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."
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.)
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.
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.
These are all circumstances affecting nearly every media company right now.
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.
And now it’s shrinking because she wanted it to.
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?
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.
Basically just stop trying to make more money. You don't need any more. Do something to make the world better.
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.
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?
This lockdown has devastated media advertising across the board. Events require in-person experiences which are just not possible in the near-term.
What “impact” could one expect to have by investing in a media organization, other than pushing an agenda?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And, yes, a number of magazines in recent years have added premium events to their revenue streams.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
You can't actually think he's beyond reproach, can you?
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.
Getting people to come back will require making them feel safe, regardless of whether the government says they can open.
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.
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.
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.
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.