Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context. This week, we are exploring news stories around media business models.
Daily Telegraph plans to link journalist’s pay with the popularity of their articles. With the plan being in an experimental mode for now, the publication plans to use its “Stars” system, which measures metrics like the number of views and the number of subscriptions brought by an article.
The plan drew sharp criticism from some journalists, notably from the publication’s own journalists. According to The Guardian’s sources, the plan “alarmed and dismayed” Daily Telegraph’s staff for fear it will “seriously warp… editorial priorities.” Another concern is that journalists often don’t get to choose the stories they are working on – as one of The Guardian’s sources put it, “if you’re doing reviews or environmental reporting you’re screwed.”
However, the consensus against Daily Telegraph’s decision is not universal. As The Fix’s Jakub Parusinski argues, “we need more experimentation with performance management tools, not less” as the industry struggles to retain top talent, and problems at Daily Telegraph are likely caused by a challenging work environment at this publication rather than by a specific decision to incentivize article popularity.
More from The Fix: The Daily Telegraph isn’t wrong to try “pay for popularity”
Speaking of the media industry losing top talent, many prominent (mostly American) journalists have left their publications to start an independent Substack newsletter in recent months. The bid tech is noticing – and competing.
As Axios reported this week, Facebook is exploring paid deals with creators for its new publishing business. For now, the company is testing the new tool with a small number of chosen writers.
According to the report, “Facebook plans to build tools within the platform that allow writers to monetize their websites and newsletters with subscriptions, and possibly other forms of revenue down the line.”
More from The Fix: Twitter buys Revue amid newsletter acquisition frenzy / Beginning of a newsletter arms race
Newsletters aside, podcasting presents another hot news media model. One of the largest players in the field is Vox Media.
As Digiday notes, Vox Media doubled its podcasting revenue in 2020 compared to 2019; the company expects similar growth this year. According to the company’s executive quoted by Digiday, “Vox Media’s strategy is to launch a podcast show, make it a hit and translate it into a sustainable revenue stream through brand sponsors and advertising.”
With its new science show “Unexplainable”, Vox is trying to expand into the field of popular podcasts not tied to the news cycle.
More from The Fix: Models for news media in 2021
With the rise of Clubhouse, the growth of audio is not tied to podcasting only. According to Digiday, publishers are finding audiences on Clubhouse and are thinking hard about monetisation.
Hosting Clubhouse talks and panels typically takes up less resources than organising other virtual events. Successful cases in the US include Insider, Yahoo Finance, and Cosmopolitan. Although they are not earning money on the platform yet, they are actively working on the ways to start doing so.
For example, one way to use Clubhouse is to turn followers into paying subscribers by offering free trials. As Digiday notes, the novelty of Clubhouse means it’s too early for publishers to build long-term strategies for working with the platform – but it’s definitely important to pay attention to Clubhouse’s growing popularity.
More from The Fix: The ups and downs of Clubhouse