Was Jezebel a victim of keyword blocking?
PLUS: Writing fiction doesn’t pay
Welcome! I'm Simon Owens and this is my media industry newsletter. If you've received it, then you either subscribed or someone forwarded it to you.
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Let’s jump into it…
Was Jezebel a victim of keyword blocking?
You’ve probably heard by now that Jezebel is essentially being shut down by its parent company:
Jezebel’s editorial staffers have been laid off and G/O Media is further “restructuring” its other editorial teams, Spanfeller wrote, resulting in a loss of 23 jobs in total. Jezebel’s former editor-in-chief Laura Bassett, who left the company in August citing poor working conditions for staff and is one of several EICs to have left G/O in recent months, listed seven Jezebel jobs lost. G/O Media said the other 16 eliminated positions are “spread across all sites.” (Jezebel has been operating without an editor-in-chief since Bassett’s departure.)
My sneaking suspicion is that Jezebel is a victim of programmatic keyword blocking. G/O Media is almost entirely reliant on open programmatic advertising, and a site that constantly writes about hot button issues like abortion access just can't thrive in an open programmatic world.
Mark Stenberg had a good piece the other week about how keyword blocking is essentially defunding the news.
Speaking of Jezebel…
Ernie Smith wrote about the broken advertising model that’s wreaking havoc upon the media outlets that chased scale at all costs:
I wonder if the big problem is that we focused on scale when we should have been focused on nailing down the audience. If we focused on millions when we should have focused on building ourselves a liveable wage. And if we put too much of an emphasis on global at the cost of local.
Hüseyin Kilic grew Interesting Engineering into a media behemoth with over 15.5 million social media followers.
Subscriptions never became the media industry’s silver bullet
The Rebooting surveyed 200 publishers about their subscription operations and found that most of the low-hanging fruit is gone:
Subscription businesses are maturing. We found was only a minority were still in hyper-growth mode of over 20% growth. Instead, most publishers are seeing modest growth in subscription revenue, with the most common growth rate (30%) being under 10%. That’s a natural evolution, as subscriptions become what BlueConic’s Patrick Crane calls a “forever business.” …
… Churn is a looming focus. While getting new subscribers ranked as a top priority, churn was tabbed as the top looming trend in subscriptions. Inevitably, the maturation of these businesses mean that the focus will shift from top line growth to driving higher revenue per subscriber, as the Times is doing with its bundle strategy.
Subscriptions are incredibly important to the media industry in a way they weren't 10 years ago, but they never became the silver bullet we hoped they'd be.
The Information continues to see robust subscription growth
It’s been over a decade since Jessica Lessin launched The Information, and while we don’t know the exact size of its subscription business, Adweek reports it’s still experiencing robust growth:
The consumer team launched Information Pro, an all-access subscription product, in February. The premium tier costs $999 but is often discounted to $749, and it provides subscribers access to proprietary org charts, databases and surveys.
From its launch to the all-hands meeting in July, Pro generated 400 new subscribers and almost 1,000 upgrades by July, according to DiGuido. In total, the product had brought in close to $800,000 in revenue.
On the consumer front, The Information was 104% to its goal in the first quarter, but it encountered an unspecified slowdown in growth in the second quarter. For the first half in total, consumer subscriptions were 99% to goal, George DiGuido, vp of growth, told staff.
I’m looking for more media entrepreneurs to feature on my newsletter and podcast
One of the things I really pride myself on is that I don’t just focus this newsletter on covering the handful of mainstream media companies that every other industry outlet features. Instead, I go the extra mile to find and interview media entrepreneurs who have been quietly killing it behind the scenes. In most cases, the operators I feature have completely bootstrapped their outlets.
In that vein, I’m looking for even more entrepreneurs to feature. Specifically, I’m looking for people succeeding in these areas:
Niche news sites
Video channels like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram Reels
Interested in speaking to me? You can find my contact info over here. (please don’t simply hit reply to this newsletter because that’ll go to a different email address. )
The enduring influence of Hot Ones
How ingenious was Complex Media when it launched the Hot Ones series on YouTube? It's the only video series in the entire BuzzFeed portfolio that potential advertisers ask for by name:
If you break it down, “is First We Feast worth $160 million?” asked a former BuzzFeed executive who left this year. “I don’t know. But any show that [any client] would ever ask about was about [“Hot Ones”].”
A media buyer who controls clients’ digital media budgets echoed that “a lot of” their clients want to work with Hot Ones, particularly in the CPG category, they said on the condition of anonymity. But they would not disclose what portion of budgets go to that show in particular.
How pro athletes are benefiting from the rise of the Creator Economy
This is a great trend: it used to be that pro athletes didn't have great career prospects after retiring from their sport, but now they can leverage their stardom to launch their own media brand:
One of the fastest-growing areas in sports media is the athlete-led video podcast, with players recapping the week that was, interviewing teammates or other guests, and teeing up rivalries …
… It’s an opportunity too good for companies in the spots media space to ignore. So Bleacher Report, the digital sports brand owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, has made it a priority, launching video podcasts hosted by the likes of Buffalo Bills star Von Miller (The Voncast), Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons (The Edge with Micah Parsons), Los Angeles Dodgers all-star Mookie Betts (On Base with Mookie Betts) and University of Colorado star Travis Hunter.
Do you sell a product targeted toward marketers, media executives, or professional creators?
What a coincidence! That’s exactly who reads my newsletter. You can find out how to reach them over here.
Writing fiction doesn’t pay
This is a great deep dive into why it's so difficult to make a full-time living as a novelist:
A few years ago, a literary agent told me that “writing books is not a career,” which didn’t quite compute in the moment. Of course writing books is a career! I thought. What this agent meant was: writing books is not the kind of career that’s also a job. Without any other revenue streams, it’s highly unlikely that someone could make ends meet or support a family by writing novels. Most novelists have day jobs, and the majority of those who don’t are either independently wealthy or juggling a handful of projects at once, often in different mediums like film, journalism, and audio.
In fact, most book publishing doesn’t pay
Reading this story about an author who struggled to earn out her $20k book advance in two years, the thing that struck me is she could have achieved the exact same result in the same amount of time by converting 100 of her readers into newsletter subscribers paying $100 a year:
Here’s what happens when you earn out: Nothing. No one throws beads, confetti, nada. No one even notices. They’re busy. They’ve moved on. They’re not neurotically checking the sales portal or pathologically over-working to try to make those figures tick up, up, up. Which only makes sense, of course. My little book was everything to me, and a blip, a rounding error to everyone else. Which is why I cried that humid, gloomy afternoon in my car, realizing that, hard as I tried, I’d gotten it all wrong.
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