There has been a lot said about the rough storm media companies are currently weathering. Over 2,200 people have been recently laid off from well-known media companies like Buzzfeed, HuffPo, and Vice.
The industry as a whole has had a tough time competing with social media giants for attention and ad spend. They need the reach that Facebook, Twitter, and Google offer but the incentives couldn't be further from alignment.
These issues have caused prolific writes to focus on attention-grabbing, click-bait articles that are written to appeal to people that click on ads. This has created a brand of journalism that doesn't build trust or credibility. It only serves quick serotonin rushes of readers that couldn't care less about where the article came from or how true the article is.
There have, however, a few companies that have been able to weather the storm and even thrive in it. Companies like Hypebeast, Barstool Sports, and Hodinkee have focused on building community and brand over all else. Then, when the time is right, they have been in a perfect position to layer on eCommerce and subscriptions.
Barstool, for instance, has a thriving apparel arm, a top 5 podcast, and their newly launched 'Barstool Gold' received 10,000 subscribers in its first 3 days.
Now do these companies rely on ad sales? Absolutely. But in a very different way. They don't need to be slaves to low equity clicks and they can pitch partnerships that will resonate with a very particular audience. That model can result in better performance for both the advertiser and the media company.
It will be interesting to see how media companies are able to evolve and if they are able to create destination sites rather than social media landing pages. I think it's culturally important for them to succeed so we get varying viewpoints rather than just content from a few publications based in New York City.