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Weekly news digest: Less news is good news?

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.

Facebook is seeking to deemphasise political and current events content in news feeds across many countries outside the United States, Axios reports.

This move will likely impact news media in different European countries; among the countries where the company is testing new changes are Sweden, Spain, and Ireland. As Axios notes, “the changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.”

Facebook’s tests show users like the changes, and they might also help counter misinformation, which current events topics are particularly prone to. In the future, the changes are likely to be expanded to even more countries.

Twitter has launched its “Super Follows” feature, which will allow creators monetise their tweets.

According to the announcement, users will be able to enable a monthly subscription of $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 a month “to monetize bonus, ‘behind-the-scenes’ content for their most engaged followers on Twitter.” For now, the feature is available only to select iOS users in the United States, but it will be expanded in the coming months.

This launch is part of Twitter’s and other platforms’ push towards enabling monetisation of user-generated content. “Super Follows” enables different potential opportunities for journalists and news outlets (and also potential controversies), though it’s too early to assess their impact.

The New York Times moved its Wirecutter parallel, which is dedicated to product reviews and was acquired by NYT five years ago, behind a paywall. Readers will be able to access several stories for free, but then prompted to pay $5 monthly or $40 annually for access.

The change is interesting as it once again highlights the shift in leading business models for digital media outlets. As Wall Street Journal notes, “up until now, Wirecutter has generated revenue primarily through affiliate partnerships with online sellers, including Amazon.”

Even though the partnerships will continue, subscription-generated revenue has proven a more successful and promising model over the past years, both for The New York Times and news media overall.

Substack, another platform for writers to generate reader revenue, continues to acquire big names with Salman Rushdie, a renowned novelist and essayist, joining the site. 

According to The New York Times, “the Booker Prize-winning author has reached a deal with the newsletter platform, where he plans to publish fiction and interact with readers.” The financial details of the deal are not disclosed, though Rushdie said “it was far short of what he would normally get for a book advance.”

Substack boasts over 500,000 paid subscribers now – fewer than for news media giants like The New York Times but still a considerable number – and continues to acquire notable names after having raised around $83 million at a $650 million valuation earlier this year.

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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