Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we gather five important news stories from the world of media in Europe and across the globe.
The coronavirus delivered a real traffic bump. As interest in news and trusted information rose overall, media audiences in Western countries are soaring.
Last Friday, The Fix ran a piece on the distribution of this spike in traffic across Europe. Interesting insights: the traffic is distributed unequally across different countries and types of media. Countries that went into quarantine earlier (i.a., Spain, Italy, France, Ukraine) saw a bigger spike in traffic. Also, a “flight to quality” meant that tabloids underperformed as audiences tuned into public broadcasters.
At the same time, some new evidence suggests that people may already experience news fatigue. Nieman Lab reports that “traffic bump to news sites is pretty much over already” in the US. Sustained attention is difficult to maintain, even in the case of such big stories such as the coronavirus.
Financial hardship faced by the media is hardly news to anyone. Still the scale of budget tightening seen this week has been remarkable.
The Financial Times, The Guardian, and The Telegraph joined the effort to cut expenses. FT will impose pay cuts for highest-paid staffers, while The Telegraph will switch to a four-day workweek. The Guardian and The Telegraph will also furlough up to 100 workers.
Across the Atlantic, Condé Nast, a global publishing house which among others owns Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker announced considerable pay cuts and some layoffs. Worldwide many are calling on governments to step in.
Financial troubles mean media have to come up with creative ways to earn.
In the US, Vox Media launched a contribution campaign to compensate for advertising losses. In recent years the company built a robust advertisement-based model, and helped it become profitable before the pandemic. It will be interesting to watch whether the contribution campaign will bear fruit.
One of the ways to earn money might be to get into digital events. Yet, as The Fix’s recent article puts it, digital events are just like meatless burgers: interesting and potentially promising, but have to get the recipe just right if you want it to become a mass product.
As wariness about Chinese governments has intensified in the wake of the pandemic, The Daily Telegraph stopped publishing its China Watch section, which was funded by the Chinese government.
As The Guardian puts it, this decision has been taken “amid growing scrutiny of how Beijing is using the pandemic to grow its influence in English-language media aimed at western audiences”. In March, China expelled journalists from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post; according to New York Times, China is wary of American investigative reporters taking a look into China’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
This week, American technology and retail giant Amazon has cut commission rates for affiliate sales. Amazon’s affiliate program has created a considerable worldwide industry, which will be impacted by the move. Some media organizations will suffer as well: a number of outlets, such as BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Vox Media incorporate Amazon affiliate sales in their revenue model.