The platform era is over. What comes next?

The platform era is over. The statement has so much supporting evidence that the idea is now beyond dispute. A decade ago, a lot of energy was focused on how to use social media algorithms to send torrents of traffic to your site. But let’s be honest, it wasn’t that this led to a healthy, revenue-positive business. It just juiced the traffic to both legacy sites and a raft of businesses targeting Millennial audiences of various stripes. The digital media start-ups often had rocket boosters in the form of VC funding, and many of them were never revenue-positive. The entire strategy was to become the media empires of the 21st Century, but like so much in media in the 21st Century, this was really a roll-up play. You got big and bought up the smaller, often weaker competitors.

The New York Times is a bit late to the party in writing about this, and I think that they focus on the news industry because it is the anxiety that grips their staff (and shouldn’t). Publishers like the Times began building direct relationships with audiences more than a decade ago with their metered paywall. It’s worked brilliantly, and you could argue that they are now one of the winners of the digital media era, much more so than BuzzFeed, which shuttered its news division because of the brand dissonance between news and aggregating what obsessed the internet on any given day for social media audiences and a lack of a business model for that content.

Not that the collapse of social media traffic and search to a lesser extent doesn’t have negative consequences for the Times and other reader revenue-driven businesses. They need to think about new methods of audience acquisition, but at least they have a solid business that they can build on.

It brings me little joy to highlight not just this story but the wider trend of digital media properties that were built to cater to Millennial women are in trouble. The pioneering feminist site Jezebel is up for sale. Axios highlights how this is part of a larger trend and lists all of the other sites and media properties in that space that are suffering as well.

I especially note the decline of The Skimm, which is a really smart newsletter property that I used to highlight in presentations seven or eight years ago. I think they missed an inflection point around that time. Honestly, they were Axios before it was launched - smart brevity.

However, the end of the platform doesn’t mean that this will end the pain for local news operations. Despite moving out of the newsroom in 2019 and to a media-adjacent software company in 2022, my roots are in local news, and I still think about how to solve its problems. I think that we are seeing a new on-ramp for local news micro-start-ups: the humble newsletter. It has become the MVP - minimum viable product - for a local news startup. More than social, more than a site, having a newsletter is the core MVP for someone looking to create a new, local news outlet.

However, I also like to see new policy solutions to the problem. Washington DC - where I lived on and off for almost eight years - is doing something novel: It is creating a fund that will allow its residents to support the local news outlet of their choice. It will be interesting to see how they define a local news outlet and how they will enforce the use of the vouchers, but it is interesting.

And if newsletters are the MVP, we see successful newsletter operators looking for what comes next. The folks at Inbox Collective highlight ways in which newsletters writers are adding products that extend the connection that they have with audiences with private, premium communities on Slack or Discord. As someone who worked in community media and then bringing community to larger media brands, I find this trend fascinating. It’s not a fast or easy play but for established media creators and brands, it can be an extension to deepen the relationship and hopefully increase revenue.

This is a great story from on how a Zimbabwean journalist grew to understand the business side of journalism and has been able to achieve successful digital transformation. I like the piece because it applies not only to large media businesses but can be applied at just about any scale.

And from the US, we have a few examples of how local news entrepreneurs are launching new ventures. I think that small-scale local news outlets will serve a lot of communities where the major chains and groups have retreated.

I know that there are a lot of people out there trying to get ahead in media, and these five steps are solid. I will highlight one of the five skills because it took me a while to appreciate the power of soft skills. When you’re starting in media, you are rewarded for your hard skills, but you won’t rise through the ranks by mastering those hard skills alone. And for a lot of people, that’s OK. However, if you want to rise to management, you also need to master soft skills.

Navigating the pros and cons of AI in editorial organisations

A thoughtful piece to reflect on during the weekend. Of the insights, managing and navigating trade-offs is one that really resonates with me. There are rarely perfect solutions in life, and it’s important to measure, weight and consider the pros and cons of any decision.

From the theoretical and managerial to the tangible, The Fix looks at how newsrooms are developing AI guidelines. When I was a journalist and then editorial leader, I often said that I was a traditional journalist who used cutting-edge digital tools. That meant that my decisions were always grounded in core journalistic values. They provided me with principles to assess the trade-offs of new technologies in my work.

This week in Twitter: New subscription plans coming

Musk has always said that he wants to build Twitter into a super-app. Here is the problem with what he is doing with his new subscription plans: He’s trying to charge for activities in the app that have been free up to this point such as commenting, bookmarking and posting. And subscription products shouldn’t be used to manage abuse on a platform - Musk’s obsession with bots. He should use some of that technical brilliance that his fanboys constantly talk about. Sure, it’s just a $1 annual fee, but it feels like a really bad, desperate way to fight bots.

The response has been uniformly negative. It’s a bad idea along with a lot of the other bad ideas. Musk definitely seems to be living the Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things”. He has succeeded in breaking a social media brand. That much is sure. /

How India’s Jagran New Media is using AI to increase engagement

Jagran is an innovative Indian publisher that has used new technology and change management to drive its business. As part of a Google News Initiative-funded project, they rolled out new data tools that helped their entire organisation make more informed decisions that drove higher levels of content engagement. And now, they are leveraging AI to accelerate their progress. It is an excellent example of how AI can be used responsibly and effective to drive editorial success.

AI in the media industry has created a new pathway for optimising ad, subscription, or service revenue through tools like predictive analysis, recommendation engines, customer journey mapping, audience segmentation, and avant-garde advertising and subscription models.

A really interesting overview of how local broadcasters in the US are driving revenue with new OTT streaming services. One local TV group in the US went from zero in 2019 to 25% of its digital revenue by 2022. And again, AI is playing a role. It is really undeniable that AI is playing a huge role in media operations.

This outdoor ad campaign by Guardian Australia reminds me of my days at the BBC. In 2005, we had a write-once publish to six platforms CMS that delivered headlines to video billboards in mainline train stations such as London’s Victoria station. It is really stunning what that kind of presence can deliver.

This piece struck me because I was just having a conversation today with a member of the team at the Blue Engine Collaborative about the challenges of local journalism, particularly on the revenue side. The News Revenue Hub advocates a free-to-all, no paywall method that works to build trust between local news providers and their audiences so that readers become members. One point I will very much agree with them is that it requires experimentation. You need to try things and learn what works, and those learnings then need to be scaled up across the organisation.

This week in platforms

Ok, this quote grabbed me. Ben Smith, one of the founders of Semafor, talks about the changes at EX-Twitter. And the quote in the headline isn’t the only one colourfully describing the social media landscape now: “social media is now like walking through a nuclear wasteland searching for radioactive nuggets.” Read this. It’s fun, entertaining and bracing. But this is the most important point in the entire piece: “If you keep costs very low, yes. You can make money and build a traffic-based media business. But everything has to be very cheap. So you can’t do journalism.”

There are still wealthy investors who will buy a title like The Telegraph in an effort to influence politics and society.

Watching the battle between the platforms and news outlets, especially smaller ones, in Canada, has been heart breaking. Facebook turned off the spigot all the way, and for so many outlets, their traffic has taken a major hit. Now publishers are aligning themselves with the platforms in an effort to reverse their traffic losses.

Speaking of how platforms can throttle traffic, this report outlines how EX-Twitter under Musk is engaging in anti-competitive censorship by limiting links not only to news publishers but also rival apps. If Twitter had that much market power left, it would be hauled into court. But Musk is driving his clown car into the ditch so it just doesn’t matter anymore.

This was something that caught me a bit by surprise. Of all of the platforms, I find myself spending more time on LinkedIn these days. But the cuts show how soft the ad economy is right now and how much it is impacting media.

Rethinking Retention: It’s about relationships management not churn management

Retention is one of the major themes for publishers this year. In a report launched at the beginning of the year, Minna Technologies and FT Strategies found that among 50 subscription businesses, 68% said retention was their top priority. It’s why the Media Collective - Pugpig (where I work), Manifesto Growth Architects, InDigital Marketing and Piano - decided to take a closer look at retention. With Laura Graham of Manifesto Growth Architects, Jonny Kaldor, our CEO and co-founder at Pugpig, James Kember, Pugpig’s digital growth consultant and I spent a lot of hours putting the report together.

What we found is that publishers are thinking about engagement loops rather than unidirectional conversion funnels. Whether a user is unknown, registered, subscribed or lapsed, they are prioritising retention efforts on maintaining a relationship with all members of their audiences regardless of their level of engagement. For this reason, we reframed retention as an issue of relationship management rather than churn management. It is about establishing a relationship with the right users and realising that saving at all costs - usually with discounted offers - runs the risk of depressing ARPU.

In the Retention Economics report, one of our key findings was that once a user became known through registration publishers found that they could market a number of other products to them. It meant that publishers could generate revenue from non-subscribers by marketing events, e-commerce and a range of other offerings to them.

With pandemic restrictions ending, events are roaring back, especially for “professional publishers” such as Axios, Bloomberg and Semafor. After a soft start to the year with major publishers pushing back their tentpole events, events have come roaring back for these publishers. Axios had set a goal of earning $10m a year in event revenue, and they have made that already in the third quarter.

They said that it wasn’t about the volume of events but rather making sure that the right people, influential and powerful, were in the room. They also use the events to create digital content that runs in podcasts or video content after the events.

What is the future of podcasts?

Podcasts seem to be on a bumpy trajectory right now. Major podcast producers are cutting staff and cutting back on output. We are definitely in a period of transition. As The Guardian points out, one new trend about podcasts is about hosting them in front of a live audience, creating an event that can be distributed electronically afterward.

And The Economist is finding that podcasts are working well both free ones that add to their audience but are now creating podcasts just for their paying subscribers.

The largest public radio station in the US, WNYC, recently laid off 6% of their staff and cut back on podcasts. Specialist digital-to-broadcast or digital-only podcasts are being cut back. Instead, broadcast-to-podcast appears to be the new model. This is a pretty major shift, and it looks like live events and the big footprint of broadcast is going to be used to amplify podcasts rather than niche podcast creation.

The Athletic recently shuttered their local sports podcasts, and as media analyst Simon Owens says, there are few examples of local podcast success. “They often don't have enough scale to attract national advertisers, and most local businesses aren't sophisticated enough in their ad buying to target podcast listeners.”

I remember how challenging it was to make a local podcast work when I worked in public radio in the US, and it got harder over the four years I worked there. Podcasting had become much more competitive, and launching a new podcast in this crowded space became more challenging.

Bundling has become one of the major subscription growth strategies of 2023. Whether it is bundling local newspapers in Norway or the New York Times all access bundle, these multi-product bundles are proving popular, and multi-product users have higher loyalty.

The Washington Post announced that it was offering voluntary buyouts to about 240 positions this week. Their projections both in terms of traffic, advertising and subscription had been overly optimistic, Washington Post interim CEO Patty Stonesifer said. The paper is on track to lose $100m this year, and its subscribers numbers are down.

The Great Social Media Traffic Collapse: Adding nuance to the off-platform activities debate

News circles were abuzz last week with more data on the extent of the collapse of referrals to their sites from social media. As Axios points out, this is a trend that has been playing out over the last few years, which only leaves publishers with a question of what to do next.

I can attest that there has been tension in audience development. Some social media advocates have continued to push for more off-platform activity as a goal unto itself. While others (including me with some important caveats) have said that off-platform needs to be put in the context of overall editorial and business goals. The most important thing with respect to social media is that it needs to be in the service of broader goals for a publisher such as converting unknown users to know. To achieve that, you can use off-platform audience development to build awareness organically and then use paid campaigns to build subscribers to your newsletters or podcasts.

Building direct relationships with audiences is a strategy that is working. We have multiple examples of how precarious renting audiences on social media has been from the social-media-driven publishers such as BuzzFeed or Mic or large traditional publishers such as Reach in the UK. The FT, the New York Times and the Independent in the UK have all been successful in building direct relationships with audiences, and the Indy isn’t achieving success through a focus on paying subscribers. These strategies of converting unknown users to known and building up subscription businesses have built more resilient businesses. I agree with Axios when they write: “The over-reliance on social media traffic kept news publishers from focusing on building stronger consumer products of their own.”

And for many publishers, a focus on consumer social media networks have caused them to overlook networks like LinkedIn for certain kinds of content. My overall view is that the volume that networks like Facebook used to drive to publishers left them to pursue relatively simplistic social media strategies

Can local podcasts be successful?

I have shared a number of posts over the past year that call into question the podcast strategies for a range of companies including audio streaming giant Spotify. I’m going to highlight this first story which covers a meeting at New York Public Radio, which recently cut two podcasts. This is the reality:

Having moved on from US regional public media in April 2022, I must admit that the coverage of this meeting sounded very familiar.

The cuts to the studio's podcast division reflects an industry-wide inflection point, as the proliferation of podcasts has made competition for sponsors brutally competitive.

That is the overall issue, but candid comments from New York Public Radio CEO LaFontaine Oliver also speak to a culture in US public media that might not be as audience or product-focused as necessary. “Oliver also bemoaned the fact that he felt that the podcast division was far too invested in creating podcasts the newsroom wanted to hear, and not what New Yorkers wanted to hear,” Rivlin-Nadler wrote. Ouch.

But US public media aren’t the only local podcasts that are struggling to gain reaction. Media analyst Simon Owen highlights how The Athletic has shuttered most of its local podcasts. As someone who is producing a lot of this research for our customers at Pugpig, I wonder what audience - both size and characteristics - are required for a successful podcast. I don’t have the answer right now, but I know that in the work that I’m doing right now knowing which question to ask is the most important first step.

Leveraging mobile tools and technques for local journalism engagement

My day job is focused on mobile in a way that it hasn’t been through most of my career, but I have always tended to think of mobile in a very expensive way. And texting - good ‘ole SMS - is a powerful tool because of its low cost and ubiquity. This piece from the Reynolds Journalism Institute has a step-by-step process on how to use AirTable, Twillio and the Forminator WordPress plugin to allow community sports supporters to submit game results. They have developed the process with low or no-cost tools so that local news outlets can replicate it. So much of my career has been about coming up with systems like this so, of course, I love it!

Continuing the theme of local, mobile community journalism, Better News has a case study with the Charlotte Observer on how their mobile newsroom has worked to engage “historically underrepresented communities”. Of the takeaways, a few stand out for me. As a former library board member, I see that they have partnered with local libraries, which I think can be an excellent way to connect with the community. Partners are so important as both entry points into communities and also as ways to amplify your coverage. One partnership that I started but wasn’t able to carry on as much as I wanted was with our local schools. Young journalists had lost their printed student newspapers so having an opportunity to highlight them in the newspaper was a way for them to get the experience and exposure that they wanted. I think local networks are critical to renewing local communities that have suffered from underinvestment and disruption. I saw the power of engagement events when I was a local news editor. It helps build relationships, and one the favourite parts of my job was being out in the community. And my own example shows why it’s important to retain these connections that you build. You can quickly lose credibility with the community if you drop in and then leave without a trace.

An interesting overview that could be said of any technology adoption process. It requires leaders who are able to cross boundaries in your organisation and understand the needs of both internal stakeholders as well as your audiences. Working as a digitally-oriented journalist, I often said that I used cutting-edge tools but remained rooted in traditional journalism values, and this piece explains how your business strategy and editorial values shouldn’t change. You need to remain committed to your North Star goals. AI will affect how you achieve those goals not the goals themselves. And one last thing, data was important and will only become even more so in the age of AI.

On our old Macs, my wife Suw said that she knew when she had landed on a news website because the fans would spin up due to the heaviness of the sites. They were overloaded with trackers and ad tech, and this review by the Press Gazette adds some data to what we experienced.

(Note, using Ghostery during some training I was doing several years ago, I once showed an Indian ad ops person how I could track each of 111 trackers that they had on their site. His jaw dropped.)

I recently was having a discussion on the News Product Alliance Slack with a person who was gathering data and anecdotes about what it required to launch a successful podcast. The editorial employee was adamant that a quality podcast would cut through and become successful with no marketing or audience development strategy. Almost everyone who weighed in had data and examples of why this wasn’t true.

Competition for attention and money in the podcast industry is only increasing, and here is another data point as Malcom Gladwell’s podcast company lays off half of its staff and replaces Gladwell as president.

DAUs and new users are down at Threads, and Meta is seeking new ways to re-engage people after a promising start. (I’ve started rotating days to use the new social media platforms. It’s Wednesday today, which is BlueSky day!)

How much will individual contributors make for allowing their content to be used to train AIs? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This is interesting. The Telegraph is up for sale, and Germany’s Axel Springer is interested in buying it.

How independent media outlets are diversifying their revenue streams

One of my favourite media management quotes is from Jim Brady who said that when it comes to building a sustainable business, there are no silver bullets only shrapnel. The first two items in the newsletter today reinforce that both from a strategic view and also from a practical view at the Financial Times. Anita Zielana outlines a great process with three short case studies from independent media from around the world for diversiying revenue streams. One case study that leaped out at me was URL Media, which is a network of BIPOC (US acronym for Black, Indigenous, and people of color) media outlets. They provide support services to this network including audience development, recruiting and philanthropic funding development. All of the examples speak to the creativity that is needed to make a modern media business thrive.

I also like the onion principle of revenue diversification, which recommends that publishers focus on core existing revenue streams and build out from there. This helps a publisher leverage existing capabilities to grow from a solid base.

The FT is a good example of so many solid management techniques - from their North Star framework to their embrace of data. And this has meant a diversified set of revenue streams that mean solid results.

In this week’s Pugpig Media Bulletin, we covered a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism that added some qualitative data to their quantitative data on subsciption trends. While the cost of living crisis (inflation) was the top reason that people cancelled their subscriptions (especially in the UK), the second biggest reason is that people didn’t perceive value from the subscriptions. They simply didn’t develop a habit of using it. The importance of good subscriber onboarding and building habits with new subscribers immediately is a theme that we touch on often at Pugpig Consulting.

This week in Google: Shifts in podcast distribution and giving publishers a choice on LLM training

Podcasting is in transition right now, with podcast publishers and distributors making changes. Google has announced that it will retire its podcast app next year and point users to YouTube Music. Users have long been using YouTube to listen to or even watch podcasts so this leans into audience behaviour.

Digital publishing professionals in my social media feeds were noting that Google had released a tool that allows them to block their sites from being scraped from generative AI.

I am highlighting this expansion of a local news provider in the US because it provides a great playbook of community-centered engagement and design. They have held house parties and other community meetings that not only gives people a voice in their future direction but also builds relationships between the publisher and community.

In one of the first battles in the rising AI economy, Hollywood writers have largely achieved their aims. It sets a good standard on how workers can respond to AI, but it is a question whether other workers that will be affected by AI such as marketers and journalists will have the same bargaining power.

Social Media: Canadian journalism students and nonprofit outets suffer in battle with platforms

Canada passed a bill earlier this year that required digital platforms like Google and Meta to negotiate with news publishers on payments for their content. Meta decided to block all Canadian news content rather than comply with the leigislation. Critics of the legislation said that any benefit from it would flow to major publishers but leave small publishers out. And now small publishers such as student and nonprofit community outlets are cataloguing the impact of the legislation on their efforts to reach audiences. “It’s having an outsized effect on small publishers. Gizmodo spoke to half a dozen student journalists and station managers who say the ban on news links, intended to hurt big-name publishers, has instead hamstrung their vital ability to fundraise, recruit volunteers, or engage in community outreach.”

One of the dangers of AI was that it could be used to quickly and cheaply generate disinformation and scams. Social platforms are rushing to develop new rules to manage this tsunami of dangerous content. It’s going to battle of attrition between the platforms, the propagandists and the grifters.

What services should local newspaper groups centralise and what shouldn’t they

Friday and Saturday, I got to catch up with two friends in the industry, Greg Piechota of INMA and Damon Kiesow, the Knight Chair in Journalism Innovation at the University of Missouri. Greg and I talked about a lot of things including the cost of developing an app for a news organisation and where apps sit in the conversion funnel for publishers. I came away thinking that the presumption of app development being pricey might be due to the high cost of in-house development. And I would have said that before I joined Pugpig because I’ve always been more on the buy side of the buy versus build discussion. We also talked about the business models that support local journalism. I’m more sceptical of advertising-supporting models than Greg is. I’m definitely a reader revenue convert. I say convert because I thought that digital advertising would provide more revenue than it has. And it still can, but the real revenue is in direct sales and not programmatic or network ad sales. However, the real issue might not be down to advertising-supported models versus reader-revenue supported models but rather those newspaper groups that are solely focused on local and those like Gannett and Reach that try to balance the demands of local and national publishing.

Damon and I talked about a lot of things including what Press Forward means for US local news, but one of the topics that really interested me was a research idea that he had. When thinking about the future of local journalism, there is a question about what services can be shared and what services are best locally controlled and executed. Large newspaper groups like Gannett (Gatehouse before it) and Reach have centralised a lot of services to try to reduce costs in the face of declining revenues. It’s a very typical business strategy, but if it was the answer, both groups would be performing better than they are. Although Damon appreciates that it runs counter to conventional wisdom, it is worth thinking about what services make economic and operational sense to centralise. Centralised and regionalised reporting has been a mixed bag to be sure, but I also would argue that centralised direct sales has failed to deliver. The local relationships that both reporters and ad sales staff have are core to the business. Back-end services can definitely be centralised, although when I was at Gannett in 2014-2015 the HR function was so centralised that HR partners had to cover multiple states. It really is a good question, and we both thought that the first step was convincing people that it was a reasonable question to ask. To be honest, it is the kind of industry research that needs to happen, and I wouldn’t mind doing it (if I wasn’t already busy with my day job).

Speaking of Reach, as someone who consulted with Reach on Engagement for a couple of years (2016-early 2018), I still have a soft spot for them because their teams were so dedicated and innovative. They have needed a strategic pivot because their current strategy simply isn’t working, and I welcome the fact that they are trying to diversify their revenue from advertising and platform-driven volume. Here is a bit of straight talk that I hope my friends don’t mind. The first challenge with these paid-for products will be to convince customers that they are worth paying for. Some of their brands have lost a lot of equity in their communities.

Very apropos of the discussion about internal services, the New York Times has an interesting piece from a member of their print hub team. The Print Hub at the New York Times takes copy that was written for digital platforms and edits it for print. It shows how digital-first these processes have become, and it also pulls back the curtain to let readers understand how the sausage is made.

This story shows that the local journalism crisis is a North American story, not just a US story, and in many ways, the headlines out of Canada about job cuts and the wholesale shuttering of titles has been starker than in the US over the last year. This headline was incredibly shocking, and it’s unclear what happens next.

As someone who has worked in local print, TV and radio media in the US, I find this fascinating. The crisis in local media in North America is undeniable. Press Forward is just one effort to respond to this crisis. Another comes out of US public radio. Public radio provides invaluable services to local communities across the US. My first full-time journalism job was in western Kansas, and I used to listen to High Plains Public Radio reading service for the blind. It was a service intended for the blind or visually impaired, but for me, it was a great way for a poor journalist to listen to what was, in effect, an audiobook service. But the news service was spread out over thousands of square miles, and they often relied on local newspapers for material. It will take creativity and a lot of different experiments to address the crisis. I think small digital outlets will be the foundation, but I also see public radio playing a role as well.

Revenue pressures are not just on local journalism groups but also on digital creators such as the writers on Substack. Like bigger outlets looking to increase ARPU through bundling, Substack creators are looking to diversify their revenue by adding podcasts.

And in today’s review of AI headlines, we have news out of the UK of AI 'editorial ‘co-pilots’’ but also a bit of news about efforts to monetise archives. Again, this is about creating resilience at publishers by leveraging technology not just to squeeze costs from the business but also to add revenue. This is promising.

And my friends over The Mix look at the challenges that generative AI pose to publishers. This article looks at the challenge that AI chatbots could pose. As we often say at Pugpig, now is the time to lean into creating direct relationships with audiences. Instead of worrying about what Google, Microsoft and others do, this is the time to act.

Welcome to the Push Era: How to build loyalty with loosely connected mobile audiences

I don’t often share a post from work, but when I do, it is because I think it’s worth it. For a while, I’ve been thinking about what comes next after the Platform Era in publishing, and while I think this overlaps the Platform Era, I think it is right to say that we are now in a new era, which I have come to call the Push Era. In the Platform Era, publishers came to rely on platforms to distribute their content and build their audience. In the Push Era, publishers use newsletters, podcasts and push notifications from apps to connect with audiences directly. These tools and techniques build loyalty and habits that lead to subscription, membership and app downloads.

In the article, we also reviewed techniques to increase mobile conversion that we have used at Pugpig Consulting and also recommended by membership and subscription Poool’s Madeleine White. As audiences shift to mobile, that is the place to convert users to members, subscribers or simply known users. But mobile provides unique challenges. We go through a number of techniques used in the Push Era to increase engagement with distracted mobile audiences and build the relationships necessary to convert them.

In the Push Era, relationships with customers become more important than ever. “‘Audiences’ suggest passive consumption, while ‘communities’ suggest interaction and participation.” Operationally, it’s a mix of data and relationship-building.

The big news at the end of last week in US local journalism circles was the launch of Press Forward, a half-a-billion funding programme to support local newsrooms and also to enable business and technology support for the local news ecosystem. When you look at the amount of money that has flowed out of local journalism, even half a billion dollars is a drop in the bucket, and they know it. But they hope that this funding attracts more. “If wisely deployed, however, the new funding will have a multiplier effect, attracting meaningful additional dollars to the cause of local news, and building solutions that scale.”

This is an interesting bit of research. The common impression is that young people aren’t engaged with news. But a survey commissioned by the Medill School at Northwestern University paints a different picture with almost a third engaging with news almost daily. However, those who engage daily with newspapers is low, only 5%, but they have much higher engagement with local TV news.

Interns at the Star Tribune in Minnesota were called on by senior management to help them understand how to reach people their age. Some of it isn’t surprising including newsletters on things to do for young professionals, but I think it’s worth noting about different price tiers that are more appropriate for their income.

I think that we’re going to see more collaborations in publishing and other industries as they try to adapt to AI.

Clubhouse? I had almost forgotten that this app existed. It now is pivoting to be more like a messaging app It’s too bad that Telegram and Meta’s WhatsApp already have this market pretty sewn up.

‘Non-profit media isn’t a business model, it’s a tax status’ – great advice for non-profit media management

The Texas Tribune not only helped inspire a wave of non-profit newsrooms in the US but also sold its experience in the space as a way of earning revenue. So when it recently announced its first ever layoffs, questions were asked. Andrew Ramsammy has a reminder for anyone who suffered from romantic thinking about the non-profit model. “"Non-profit media isn't a business model, it's a tax status." Andrew offers some very useful advice for people looking to launch a non-profit. First off, it’s important to acknowledge that non-profits suffer from the same business challenges that for-profit companies do. He also points out that a large donation might lead an organisation to expand beyond its long-term revenue streams. Yup, and also philanthropy often comes with reporting requirements and many times a requirement to cover specific issues or areas. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

For my money, I would explore B-corp status. It has its own requirements, but I think that it helps align the missional aspects of journalism with the business. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to make money, but it does mean that your missional goals are baked into the enterprise.

While much of the attention in English-language media is about the travails of local media in the US and UK, The Fix rounds up efforts to support local media across Europe. This really describes a common issue: “Local media often prioritise community service over economic viability. This leads to precarious financial standing for the outlet in the medium and long term. Lack of funding also puts more pressure on the journalists and reporters as they would then need to do their work on a voluntary basis.”

This is a great piece about the hit model of media. “In an apparent contradiction, the internet both fragments and concentrates attention.” Yes, and with every new format - like podcasts - there is a period of massive expansion when new players can rapidly stake a claim to attention before major players get involved. It’s an exciting time, but eventually, consolidation takes place. A thoughtful piece maybe to read over the weekend.

One of the things that my master’s degree gave me was a deep appreciation of the power of qualitative research. I’m a data geek at heart, but I learned how critical adding qualitative data is in terms of product development and research. Here is a case study from Oz about how Nine uses a community platform to conduct qualitative research to canvas its audience in a much more informal and consistent way.

I had heard about this through the former Guardian employees’ network. I was at the Guardian when we launched the local project, and while I had my doubts about the positioning of the project, I was saddened to see that it only had a year-long runway to test the idea. The journalists were doing exactly the right things. It’s good to see one of the team take what they learned and apply it to the modern local model. It’s another data point in how newsletters are now the MVP - minimum viable product - of local journalism.

Media companies might not be presenting a united front on the IP issues related to AI, but The Guardian has joined a growing group of major news groups that are blocking OpenAI’s GPTBot crawler.

We are now onto our second and third round of stories about Mark Thompson taking the helm at CNN. Personally, I think that 24-hour cable news channels are an anachronism. They are powerful when a major news event demands live coverage, but most news doesn’t require the wall-to-wall coverage that can be done on a 24-hour channel. However, the ability to go live when you need to and have the capacity to be on demand at other times, I think there is something compelling there.

Poynter highlights a story that was making the rounds in journalism Twitter last week about a family in Pennsylvania that was fighting each other over the sale of four titles it owns to vulture fund Alden Global Capital. And Poynter calls for new policy to prevent more consolidation in local media in the US.

Social media and creator economy roundup

I have to say that there was a time when I thought that Substack was pivoting its way to oblivion, but it finally seems to have put the product features together that have created a compelling network media play with newsletters, podcasts and a social network coming together to support the creators.

And we have more news about Meta stepping back from news as it faces more regulation globally. Canada is trying to make its case for a new law that requires Facebook to pay news outlets. Meta isn’t biting and will continue to block news in the country. And in Europe, Meta is closing its new tab. Also in Europe, it is considering a subscription offering that would eliminate ads.