Business models Weekly Digest

Weekly Digest: Launches and Closures

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every Friday, we bring you five important news stories from the world of media — and try to put them in a wider context.

This week, we focus on five stories of media channel launches and closures. They showcase which business models are working out and which have missed the mark — as well as remind that some media outlets have to close not due to poor business results but because of censorship.

US media veterans have launched Quake, a subscription-based podcast company. The company has announced six exclusive podcasts from “big-name personalities in politics and media”. A subscription costs $4.99 per month.

While podcasting has long relied on the free, ad-supported model, recently there’s been more attempts by big companies, most notably Spotify, to create exclusive podcasts only available with a subscription. As Axios puts it, “there’s a growing trend of podcast companies poaching top talent to launch exclusive shows”. Quake hopes to join the party.

American journalist and former editor of Slate David Plotz launched City Cast, a network of daily local podcasts. Local media has been taking financial hits for years, but Plotz believes that podcasting might be a suitable medium to launch a successful, for-profit network of local dailies. 

The founders plan to launch daily local newsletters to complement the core podcasts. City Cast will be owned by Graham Holdings, a conglomerate that owns several media outlets, including Slate. According to Nick Quah’s Hot Pod, “while [City Cast] is still very early in the exploration process, [Plotz] has a rough feeling that [its] business model will eventually be organized around some combination of advertising and subscriptions over the long run”.

YouTubers, podcasters, newsletter authors, and other online creators often find it difficult to do collaborations and split revenue. Stir hopes these days will soon be gone. The company, whose aim is to help individual creators run their business and share revenue, is launching a public beta version, after raising $4 million in funding.

As noted by Axios, “Stir’s tools can be used for big collaborations, like splitting revenue on a YouTube series, or tiny collaborations, like one newsletter writer referring their audience to another newsletter”. As the pandemic has caused more individual journalists to launch their newsletters and podcasts, the industry could certainly use a tool to make their work easier.

Remember Quibi? The mobile streaming service was launched in the spring with high expectations and a $1.75 billion funding — but effectively failed. This week, the company announced it would be shutting down in just six months after its launch.

As we wrote back in July, Quibi’s failure is partly a story about pandemic-induced changes in media consumption. Quibi was centered around quick, on-the-go mobile consumption — and faced some very unfortunate timing launching at the time when most people watched videos from their couches with more time on their hands. Still, according to reporting, there have been more systemic issues, including Quibi founders’ apparent failure to fully understand their service’s core audience.

While Quibi is closing due to bad luck and some poor business decisions, a Thai news outlet is being forced to close by the court for reporting on protests. Voice TV channel was “under fire for their reporting of the youth-led pro-democracy protest movement” and critical stances towards the government, according to The Guardian. The court ordered Voice TV closure on all online platforms.

Human Rights Watch has already accused the Thai government of “[misusing] Thailand’s emergency decree to censor the media” and claimed that this move “is part of a bigger effort to bully and control the media into becoming a government mouthpiece”.

Bonus — Five more stories you might want to check out:

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