Media Oxpecker: The Kindness of Funders

Every week Occasionally, we round up media news you may have missed while you were busy shopping.

  • RIP Thunderdome: Digital First Media pulled the plug on its 3-year-old Project Thunderdome this week. What’s a Project Thunderdome? Ken Doctor explains:

    The idea of Thunderdome was to use DFM’s scale to provide its many local properties with a deeper, richer product than they could produce on their own. Thunderdome produced national-ready topical sections on core topics that could also be localized …

    For 20 years, national news chains have bobbed and weaved through different ideas about national news centralization — first in print and then in digital. Only more recently, as the financial vise has tightened further, has accepting such centralization been seen as an inevitabilty. (Consider Gannett’s recent efforts to print sections of USA Today in some of its local dailies.) If it’s inevitable, the big question is execution: How good a product are you giving the readers, and is it better than what individual papers can do?

    Execution matters, but so does the patience — and attention span — of the people writing the checks. Says Alan Mutter, “[Digital First Media CEO John] Paton ran out of time and resources to pursue his vision because he had the wrong financial backers.”

    No one should be happy that Digital First hit the wall. All this episode proves is that digital publishing – which remains the only imaginable way forward for newspapers and other legacy media – is even harder than we think … If digital publishing is so tough, then why are so many new entrants coming out of the woodwork? The answer, quite simply, is that content has become a hot area for venture investing. To name but a few examples, Vice Media has raised $70 million, Vox Media has raised $60 million and BuzzFeed has raised $46 million, according to Tech Crunch, which raised $25 million itself … Because venture investors favor exponential growth in audience and page views over such traditional metrics as revenue and profitability, they are content to underwrite these new digital ventures in the hopes that they will grow to the point they will merit an IPO or be acquired by a well-heeled player.

    For his part, Paton says the company will increasingly focus on “local.” Now if only there was an example we could use here to explain that concept, maybe a group of papers that really gets local and does it well. Oh well, can’t think of one at the moment.

  • “Nobody holds the secret to making the transition from print to digital. He that is first may later be last. And today’s databombs and Snowfalls may quickly become tomorrow’s unbearable clichés.” — The Dylan Theorem of Journalism Innovation via Jack Shafer.

  • Speaking of journalism innovation, you’ve been checking out the weekly It’s All Journalism podcast, right?
  • “We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters … Err on the side of the Times, not XOJane.” New Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read bans internet slang and strikethrough corrections.

  • LEO Weekly’s April Corbin on the eight types of racists you encounter in the comment section of crime stories.

  • NPR’s April Fool’s Day stunt shows that most readers don’t actually click through links before commenting on them.

Some links from the past few weeks we’ve been meaning to share:

As many of you have noticed, The Oxpecker has been away for awhile. Thanks to all seven of our loyal readers for inquiring. We’re going to try to make this a regular thing again. It might appear bi-weekly, possibly even weekly again. Who can say for sure in these uncertain media times?

Jason Zaragoza doesn’t know, he just works here. Get more industry news delivered right to your inbox by subscribing to the AAN newsletter. Just like the Oxpecker, it appears “occasionally,” but usually once a week.

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