This startup wants to solve podcasting’s monetization problem

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Let’s jump right into it…

This startup wants to solve podcasting’s monetization problem

Agnes Kozera knows a thing or two about helping content creators monetize their content. In 2013, she and a co-founder launched Famebit, a platform that helped YouTubers match with brands that were willing to sponsor their videos. The company was so successful that it was eventually acquired by YouTube in 2016.

Now, she and that same co-founder have launched a similar startup, and this one’s aimed at the podcasting industry. [link]

How we gathered an army of scientists to battle health misinformation

So I don’t typically mention my consulting work in my newsletter, but I’ve been working with an awesome startup that really aligns with my tech/media interests. It’s called Metafact, and it’s this amazing platform that has recruited an army of 11,000 scientists from around the globe to do battle with the health misinformation that plagues the internet. Think of it as Quora that only scientists can contribute to. Here’s an article on the company’s origin: [link]

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I have a secret Facebook group that’s only promoted to subscribers of this newsletter. I try to post exclusive commentary to it sometimes and have regular discussions with its members about the tech/media space. Go here to join. [link]

Other news:

"Despite the fact that PewDiePie’s audience had grown larger than that of any late-night talk show, many mainstream outlets still treated him like an exotic animal." [link]

A podcast that HBO produced to be listened in tandem with its hit show Chernobyl has been downloaded 10 million times. [link]

The streaming behemoths are currently engaged in an arms race to build out their children's programming. [link]

Some really good palace intrigue on how Shari Redstone finally wrestled control of CBS/Viacom away from her father and her plans to merge the two companies so she can launch a super duper streaming service. [link]

If you’re not listening to the final season of the Startup podcast, you should be. It’s probably the most intimate look we’ll ever get at what it’s like for a media company to get acquired. [link]

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How BuzzFeed is solving native advertising’s scale problem

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my tech and media newsletter. If you've received it then you either subscribed or someone forwarded it to you. If you fit into the latter camp, then you can subscribe over here. Or just click on this handy little button:

So I completed my final triathlon for the year and have officially switched over to training for the Richmond Half Marathon. I’m going to see Joker tonight but have already resigned myself to not liking it. And finally, I have a new article for you. Let’s jump right into it.

How BuzzFeed is solving native advertising’s scale problem

For a brief time, it seemed like every publisher was launching a native advertising arm, and that the business model might serve as the magic bullet to save online media against the scourge of the Facebook/Google duopoly. But then native advertising pioneers like BuzzFeed and Vice started reporting revenue misses. [link]

Want to interact with me directly?

I have a secret Facebook group that’s only promoted to subscribers of this newsletter. I try to post exclusive commentary to it sometimes and have regular discussions with its members about the tech/media space. Go here to join. [link]

Other news:

So the new Sports Illustrated is basically attempting to replicate the original Bleacher Report model several years after Bleacher Report determined that running a content sweat shop wasn't really viable anymore. [link]

The combined Taboola and Outbrain will generate $2 billion in revenue and employ 2,000 employees. That's $1 million in revenue per employee. [link]

Bombshell from this article: The company formerly known as Gizmodo Media has a larger web audience than Vice and Refinery29 combined. Nick Denton really knew what he was doing when he built that company. [link]

"TikTok prevents users from keeping track of the time by covering the clock displayed at the top of their smartphone screens. That means TikTok addicts like me can quickly lose track of how many minutes we've on the app" [link]

An interesting interview with the founder of Epic Magazine, which formed to create a more efficient pipeline between narrative magazine journalism and Hollywood. [link]

***

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Will 10 million people pay for personal essays?

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my tech and media newsletter. You can subscribe over here. Or just click on this handy little button:

Will 10 million people pay for personal essays?

Last week I posted a tweet thread that you should check out. It starts with a screen capture of a headline for an article that appeared behind Medium’s paywall. This article fits into a content category that I’ve noticed is proliferating on Medium. It’s what I call “shitty personal advice column.”

In fact, anytime I see someone bragging about how much money they’re making through Medium’s partnership program -- which allows users to place their content behind its paywall and get paid for the amount of engagement it generates -- I then click on their user profile to see what kind of articles this person is regularly producing, and it almost always falls under this category. Often, the person is publishing upward of two or three articles a day, with each headline over-promising and under-delivering on its premise. 

And this makes sense. If you’re going to make real money on a platform that’s doling it out based on the amount of engagement it receives, you’ll need to produce a high volume of low calorie articles that require very little original research and contain clickable headlines. And with engagement being one of the required metrics, you’d want to stick to inspirational content, with the kind of shareable aphorisms that can be found in most career advice columns.

Which is all fine and good, but here’s the thing: Medium CEO Ev Williams has stated his goal is to reach 10 million paying subscribers. No text-based platform has attracted that many digital subscribers. The New York Times only has about 3 million. So can you get 10 million people to pay up to $5 a month so they can be flooded with a high volume of dashed-off columns that were written and published in the span of a few hours? 

Of course it’s worth mentioning that Medium has hired dozens of editors who solicit freelance, reported pieces from professional writers. But in that sense it’s merely reproducing the work product that you see on every magazine website in existence. If Medium is to truly scale, it’ll be on the back of its partnership program. And I just don’t know how many times Medium subscribers will want to read essays bragging about how a Medium writer generated five figures in a single month on Medium.

YouTubers are outpacing television shows in viewership

Tubefilter has an article out noting that the YouTuber Mr. Beast hasn’t produced a single video in over a year that’s received fewer than 10 million views. 

Think about that for a second. 99% of shows on television receive fewer than 10 million viewers. And yes, I know that it’s not exactly apples to apples to compare an on-demand, free medium like YouTube to television, which charges its viewers a monthly subscription and bases its ratings largely on live viewership.

But still! The production costs for a Mr. Beast video are well below what it costs to produce a reality television series, much less a premium show like Game of Thrones or even the Big Bang Theory. It really is amazing to contemplate the power and influence wielded by the internet’s biggest stars, many of whom would have never succeeded in mainstream Hollywood.

The mysterious news app traffic bump

Right around the time that Facebook decided it would pivot away from news, publishers started noticing a very consistent uptick in traffic referrals from news aggregation apps. They're still scratching their heads as to why.

I doubt it’s a coincidence that publishers started seeing this traffic increase in the wake of the 2016 election, when people were starting to grow seriously disenchanted with the role social media played in spreading misinformation. I could see the appeal of turning to an app that employs real editors and curates mainly mainstream news sources.

Also, both Apple and Google took major steps to integrate their news apps into their mobile operating systems. That probably drove a lot of use and adoption.

The synergies of the New York Media/Vox Media merger

I’ve been reading a lot of the analysis on the Vox/New York merger announced last week, with two good pieces coming from Nieman Lab and Digiday.

While of course audience scale has to play a large role in the motivation behind the merger, I like thinking about the different things each media company brings to the table that the other company doesn’t have. Namely:

What Vox Media brings to the table:

  • A large podcast network. Sure, New York dabbles in podcasts, but Vox has 150 and counting, generating what Marty Moe told me is a solid eight figures in revenue.

  • Tech coverage. There’s The Verge and Recode. Sure, New York covers tech in Intelligencer (I’ve even written a few pieces for them), but it’s nowhere near the breadth of coverage that you see on Vox properties.

  • A huge video operation. Vox has been killing it on video, not only through its YouTube channel, but also by selling shows to services like Netflix and Hulu.

What New York brings to the table:

  • A nascent digital subscription business. Sure, it only launched within the last year, but Vox Media has only dabbled in memberships, and New York has a huge head start.

  • Ecommerce. Vox does some ecommerce through its publication The Goods, but New York Media’s The Strategist has created a sizable sales funnel.

  • A print magazine! Yes, I don’t know if Vox actually cared about this vestigial operation, but hey, maybe it helps their ad sales team a little if they can throw a glossy print ad into a large advertising buy.

The horrors of freelance web journalism

By now you’ve probably seen this horrifying tweet thread revealing the pay rates at some digital publications, but I thought I’d point it out anyway. I actually wrote recently about why making a living as a freelance web journalist is so difficult. 

Thanks for sticking around

I know my newsletter production has slowed in recent months, but I’m hoping to start producing again at a steady clip. I have newly recorded podcasts and a few article ideas in the hopper. Watch this space for more.

***

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at simonowens@gmail.com. For a full bio, go here.

How Harvard Business Review generated 2.5 million newsletter signups

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my tech and media newsletter. If you've received it then you either subscribed or someone forwarded it to you. If you fit into the latter camp, then you can subscribe over here. Or just click on this handy little button:

Hello! So for the past few months I’ve had one of those “good” problems in which I’ve been so busy with my freelance work that I haven’t had time to work on podcasts and articles for this newsletter.

Why don’t I just link to my freelance work here? Because most of it doesn’t really align with this newsletter’s subject matter. But occasionally someone does actually pay me to write about the intersection of tech and media, which is why I have two fresh articles for you to consume. Let’s jump right into it.

How Harvard Business Review generated 2.5 million newsletter signups

“Looking around the media world at the time, the value proposition presented to people to get them to give up their email address was pretty thin. A lot of times media sites just weren't even making it clear what you got and why you would even want to register.” [link]

Launching a journalism startup? How do you choose between nonprofit and for-profit status?

I interviewed several experts who regularly advise media startups about the calculus that goes into deciding whether your media organization should go the for-profit route or establish itself as a nonprofit. The decision is a lot more complicated than you might think. [link]

Want to interact with me directly?

I have a secret Facebook group that’s only promoted to subscribers of this newsletter. I try to post exclusive commentary to it every day and have regular discussions with its members about the tech/media space. Go here to join. [link]

Other news:

Because most YouTube views don't come within the first 24 hours of posting, you're seeing more publishers shift their efforts from short “newsy” videos to longer, more highly produced documentaries that are focused on evergreen topics. [link]

In many respects, Tavi Gevinson was the first teen influencer before such a thing existed, before Instagram even existed. She ruminates here about what it was like to be one of the first famous teens online. [link]

8% of Bloomberg's paying subscribers come from Apple News. That seems...not insignificant. [link]

I want to read a really long deep dive on Casey Neistat's 368. Is it just a vanity project? Is it really making money? What's its longterm business model? I was hoping he'd reveal these things on his YouTube channel but he's been mostly silent. [link]

The internet has finally disrupted the September issue of fashion magazines. [link]

***

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How Clive Thompson became one of the most influential tech journalists

Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my tech and media newsletter. If you've received it then you either subscribed or someone forwarded it to you. If you fit into the latter camp, then you can subscribe over here. Or just click on this handy little button:

How Clive Thompson became one of the most influential tech journalists

In this week’s issue, I provide you with an in-depth interview with Clive Thompson, a tech/science journalist who writes books and also magazine articles for places like Wired and The New York Times Magazine. Thompson has one of those careers that most freelance journalists dream of, so I wanted to dive deep into how he worked his way up through the journalism ranks. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t easy, and he spent the first 15 years of his career mostly broke. [link]

Want to interact with me directly?

I have a secret Facebook group that’s only promoted to subscribers of this newsletter. I try to post exclusive commentary to it every day and have regular discussions with its members about the tech/media space. Go here to join. [link]

Other news:

"If [Joe Rogan's podcast] were publicly traded, his podcasting business could easily fetch a valuation in the billions." [link]

"The average user with Twitter’s algorithmic timeline — now the default — follows 10% to 15% more people than those who have reverted to the old reverse-chronological timeline" [link]

What I find interesting about The Atlantic's subscription strategy is that it delayed its rollout in order to beef up its editorial staff. It recognized that it needs to offer a ton of value if it wants readers to pony up. [link]

Wow. ThinkProgress is laying off most of its staff and being rolled back into CAP. TP had a lot of influence on the national conversation. During its prime, it punched well above its weight in driving the news cycle [link] I did an interview with Judd Legum, founder of ThinkProgress, a little over a year ago to talk about how TP was adapting in the Trump era. [link]

It's always interesting to read about people who built up huge followings on YouTube only to just walk away from the platform. [link]

***

Do you like this newsletter? Could you do me a favor and recommend it to your social media followers? Here, I've even created some sample language for you to use:

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