We’ve already reached the point that mainstream media organs require sugar daddies like Jeff Bezos, Carlos Slim Helú, and the US federal government just to operate on a reduced scale. And now that the era of free money is over, the decline is going to accelerate as more mainstream and mainstream-supported organizations fail.
Nearly 20,000 jobs have been eliminated across the media industry this year as premium outlets struggle to combat declining rates in ad revenue, according to Axios estimates. The report found that media companies can no longer rely on short-term capital to insulate them from ad declines because of “high interest rates and investor skepticism.” Thus, the cuts were industry-wide in 2023.
The Washington Post announced plans to offer voluntary buyouts in an attempt to cut 240 jobs. The Post has roughly 2.5 million subscribers, down from 3 million at the end of 2020. The Post is set to lose $100 million this year.
CNBC Digital cut around 20 editorial staffers last week. Vice Media Group laid off about 100 staffers this year and consolidated its businesses from five to two. G/O Media suspended Jezebel and laid off some 23 staffers.
Elsewhere, ad revenue for BuzzFeed declined 35% year-over-year. Ad revenue for Dow Jones, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, decreased 3%. Linear ads for television networks like CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery declined “12% on average,” per the report.
And this doesn’t even begin to account for media organizations using AI to replace hack journalists and editors. The situation presents a massive opportunity for alternative media companies that operate on a subscription model, but the challenge is to figure out what subscribers actually want/need and for which products they are willing to pay. The advertising model was always fake, it simply allowed the favored organizations to subsidize all the free viewers and thereby massively expand their influence.
It was also malinformative, as it permitted those running the propped-up organizations to believe that their businesses were sound and their products were hugely popular. But, as is so often the case with Clown World, most of that “succcess” was a manufactured and debt-inflated illusion.
So, the playing field is being levelled, to some degree, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily wise for any alternative organization to attempt to play on it. We’re not going to do anything right now, as we have our hands sufficiently occupied with delivering on our current projects. But it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for future ones.