Let’s finish with a couple of publishing hot takes…
Ben Thompson talks about how Grantland was a money pit for ESPN, but why it shouldn’t have been. Text is a gateway drug, and Bill Simmons is already proving it with how he’s monetizing his new podcast (that he started after ESPN fired him… the drama here is wild). Excellent analysis from Ben, as always.
Second: Trade publications thrive, while consumer ones struggle. But there are drawbacks. This is a long but fascinating read from The Washington Monthly: Confessions of a Paywall Journalist. One snippet:
Reporting about government hasn’t entirely disappeared from the mainstream press, either. Big national papers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal still do a decent, and occasionally excellent, job. Some newer digital publications have also stepped in to fill part of the reporting void. BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Slate, and Salon all have Senate Press Gallery credentials. And thanks to the internet, this reporting is available to anyone anywhere in the country or the world. But journalists at big national papers and newer digital sites tend to write for national audiences. What has not emerged is a class of news outlets that customize their coverage to the needs and interests of local readers the way the old bureau system used to.
Gathering news costs money, and that money has to come from somewhere. If there is sufficient demand for information, someone will gather it, as the rise of the trade press has demonstrated. The problem is that despite the struggle and innovation that has been taking place in the news media since the internet disrupted its business model, no one has come up with a profitable way to provide information about government to average Americans in ways they care about.
Journalism is in a transition I think we will look back on years from now and see much more clearly than we do now. But I hope (and think) it can thrive digitally. I think WordPress is primed to be there to help that happen, and it’s why I focus so much on journalism in this newsletter.