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Weekly Digest: US digital news giants, fighting “foreign agent” designations in Russia

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 digest edition will be the last one for 2021. We’ll return in January, but in the meanwhile make sure to follow The Fix on Telegram or Twitter so you don’t miss new articles. 

Vox Media announced the purchase of Group Nine Media, a digital publishing company that owns Thrillist, NowThis and other outlets. The deal will make Vox Media one of the biggest digital publishers in the United States.

According to the terms, Vox Media’s CEO Jim Bankoff will continue to lead the merged company, while Group Nine’s chief Ben Lerer will join the board. Vox Media will have 75% ownership of the new company, The Wall Street Journal reports

The deal marks further consolidation on the market of US digital news publishers. Previously, Vox Media acquired New York Media, which owns New York magazine and other publications; the company has also bought several smaller media companies.

As Recode (itself owned by Vox Media) notes covering the story, “the throughline for [this and other] deals… is scale: Get big enough, the rationale goes, and it makes it easier to sell ads, or subscriptions, or both.”

The New York Times, already the world’s leader on the news subscription market, revealed a new milestone for its reader revenue growth – it’s non-news products, Cooking and Games, both reached over 1 million subscribers each. 

NYT Cooking, “a digital cookbook and cooking guide alike,” now contains over 21,000 recipes available for paid subscribers. NYT Games, which includes products like Crossword and Spelling Bee, touts over 500 million uses this year. 

Recently, both Cooking and Games have been important tools for NYT’s digital growth, helping the company to both retain existing subscribers more effectively and attract new ones.

More from The Fix: Weekly Digest: The Atlantic’s Slate of Newsletters, The New York Times’ Global Growth

Across the Atlantic, The Guardian also announced an important milestone – 1 million digital subscriptions overall. Unlike The New York Times, The Guardian’s core digital coverage is not behind a paywall, but subscription provides additional features. The publication also promotes donations as a way to support its work. 

According to the paper, “just over 50% of the Guardian’s digital recurring support base – more than 500,000 subscriptions – now reside outside of the UK, with the biggest groups in the US, Australia and the European Union.”

More from The Fix: Toolbox: What can you learn from The Guardian, BBC, FT, NYT and WSJ about news innovation

In Russia, the court fined The Insider, an independent investigative outlet, for failing to abide by the regulations around the “foreign agents” requirement, particularly the rule to attach a large disclaimer to every publication. 

The Insider was added to the “foreign agents” as the Russian government intensified its crackdown on the free press during the summer. The outlet has been known for its high-profile investigations into the Putin regime, such as into FSB attacks on Alexei Navalny. 

Unlike many other outlets hit by this designation, The Insider refuses to comply with the rules – which get publications bogged down in bureaucratic scrutiny and make them less appealing to advertisers – and plans to appeal the fine. The outlet’s chief editor Roman Dobrokhotov fled Russia in August as the authorities opened a criminal case against him. 

More from The Fix: Meduza counters Russian authorities’ “foreign agent” attack with appeal to readers

Photo: Vox Media’s Facebook page


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