Media Oxpecker: A Week in the Life

Media news you missed while you were busy
joining the “real” media.

  • It feels like a lifetime ago, but the week started off with news that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is investing $50 million in BuzzFeed, an investment which values the company at $850 million. Explaining the decision, Chris Dixon says that Andreessen Horowitz views BuzzFeed as a tech company, not a media company:

    BuzzFeed has technology at its core. Its 100+ person tech team has created world-class systems for analytics, advertising, and content management. Engineers are 1st class citizens. Everything is built for mobile devices from the outset. Internet native formats like lists, tweets, pins, animated GIFs, etc. are treated as equals to older formats like photos, videos, and long form essays. BuzzFeed takes the internet and computer science seriously.

    Why does the distinction between media or tech company matter?

    The issue is that, generally speaking, media companies don’t make for good venture capital investments. VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz aren’t looking to fund nicely profitable companies; they are searching for home runs, the one or two investments that make a fund profitable despite lots of failures. This means a focus on companies that can scale.

    And how does a company like BuzzFeed scale? Om Malik points to native advertising:

    The risk for native ads is that at scale they can lose potency, much like the more traditional banner ads. As such I have mixed feelings about native advertising, so it would be interesting to see what BuzzFeed does to scale, because it would actually create a template for the traditional news houses. The good news for BuzzFeed — it now has money and thus time to experiment and come up newer & bigger sources of revenue and profit.

    Whatever lies ahead for BuzzFeed, Andrew Beaujon says we must resist the urge to write about BuzzFeed in list form. “BuzzFeed-y” headlines don’t scale.

  • How BuzzFeed and Vice are making video an integral part of their business.

  • Take your pick: David Carr on why the recent newspaper spinoffs are a death sentence or Rick Edmonds on why it’s not so bleak.

  • Despite what Ferguson police might have you believe, you do have the right to record the police:

    As a resident of the U.S., you have the right to record the police in the course of their public duties. The police don’t have a right to stop you as long as you’re not interfering with their work. They also don’t have a right to confiscate your phone or camera, or delete its contents, just because you were recording them. Despite some state laws that make it illegal to record others without their consent, federal courts have held consistently that citizens have a First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their official duties in public.

  • The Columbia Journalism Review says President Obama is hypocritical for criticizing the arrest of reporters by Ferguson police while his administration continues to threaten New York Times reporter James Risen with jail time if he does not identify a confidential source.

  • It took a public shaming in order for Gawker Media to address Jezebel staff complaints about commenters posting violent rape GIFs to harass its editors and writers, which revived the timeless debate on how to handle web comments. Annemarie Dooling says forcing commenters to use real names isn’t a panacea:

    To believe that a system of name verification would deter uncivil discourse, we’d have to believe that all off-color comments are the results of malicious intent, that is, comments specifically for the purpose of aggravation, to cause harm or instill fear. Purposefully hurtful comments would be embarrassing or harmful to attach to your name, the opinions you want to hide from your family and job. But, the truth is that many vitriolic comments come from readers who are proud to associate these views with their identity.

    Which is why Nicholas Jackson says we should just get rid of comments entirely:

    Plenty of people have argued that comments can have value, and that publishers should invest in moderators and the development of tech-based solutions that can cut out the irrelevant and offensive. It’s interesting, though, that nobody making that argument—as far as I’ve seen—has worked as a comment moderator for a large publisher before … Steve Climaco, a Gawker employee who “started out as a mod and worked my way up” … has personally been deleting—one by one—a lot of the problem comments described by the Jezebel team. His takeaway? “[W]e need people like that always because your average human being is kind of a douche bag.”

  • Remember Bustle, the disruptor of women? Bryan Goldberg’s website raised an additional $5 million in venture capital funding and received nearly 14 million unique visitors last month.

  • Zeynep Tufekci on how algorithmic filtering of news feeds (looking at you, Facebook) can affect public awareness about news events such as Ferguson:

    What if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure. Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?

  • What happened when Mat Honan liked everything he saw in his Facebook feed for 48 hours?

    My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages. Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post.

  • David Roth on the de facto demise of Sports on Earth:

    “What I thought was so cool about it is that the default audience for sports seems, by internet attitudes, to be perpetually aggrieved, entitled, and largely conservative white middle class men,” Jeb Lund told me. “And it was refreshing that SoE seemed to challenge those attitudes on matters of sex, race and labor rights almost as a standard policy.”

  • How Carey Jordan designed the cover of Washington City Paper’s Beer Issue using hops and malt.

  • 13 editors on how they think about diversity in their newsrooms.

  • Why it’s so hard to catch your own tpyos.

  • And finally, have you ever been shunned by Pussy Riot … on weed? Baltimore City Paper managing editor Baynard Woods has:

    “So you’re the one,” she said so accusatorily that I thought she might push me in front of a subway train … I was a bit flustered and not eloquent, because my feelings were mixed. I usually don’t mind being hated, but I did not really want Pussy Riot to hate me. That somehow put me in a class with Putin, which was a horrifying thought.

Jason Zaragoza read the news this week, oh boy.

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