This hasn’t been a good year so far for online publishers.
Digital media stalwarts BuzzFeed, Vice and Verizon Media Group, which includes HuffPo and Yahoo, all recently announced major layoffs. New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo was so upset about the BuzzFeed layoffs, he wrote that they were “devastating to democracy.”
Manjoo noted that these pure-play companies relied heavily on digital distribution platforms controlled by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. These companies “have no economic incentive for symbiosis” with the media providers, he said, and instead can rely on user-generated content to attract audiences and advertisers.
Paradoxically, there’s at least one company that’s actually doing very well in the new digital media era: The New York Times.
On Wednesday, the Times announced Q4 2018 earnings that beat expectations, sending the company’s stock up more than 12 percent.
The reason was not a resurgence in print. In fact, print ad revenues dropped 6.5 percent from 2017 to 2018, and total print subscription revenues were up only 3.4 percent for the year.
But the company’s digital business is thriving.
The Times said it booked $709 million in digital revenue in 2018, bolstered primarily by 17.7 percent growth in digital subscription revenue for the year. The company added 265,000 digital subscribers during the quarter, for a total of 3.4 million total digital subscribers, up 27 percent from the end of 2017. It’s well on its way to reaching its goal of $800 million in digital revenue by 2020 and 10 million digital subscribers by 2025.
A lot of this growth can be attributable to President Donald Trump, whose disdain for the media is well known. The Times saw a big bump in subscriptions after Trump’s election, and its often-critical coverage of the president has found a devoted audience.
But there’s a larger point at play here, too. The Times was early to buck the business model of most pure-play digital media companies, which was to chase massive audiences by publishing free content that was optimized to go viral through social platforms such as Facebook. This led to a race-to-the-bottom of listicles and slideshows and “The one reason” clickbait headlines. In the meantime, as fast as these publishers grew their audience, all of the ad revenue growth went to the biggest platform aggregators, mostly Facebook and Google.
The Times did cooperate with Facebook on some of its initiatives, such as Instant Articles, which reformatted articles to make them more attractive on Facebook, particularly its mobile site. And longtime media watchers may have noticed that the Times headlines are sometimes a little more risque and catchier than they used to be, a possible concession to the massive competition from online publishers.
But the company’s digital business model has always been pretty straightforward: Publish journalism that people want to read, give them a taste for free and then ask them to pay for it.
So far, it seems to be working quite well. And not just at the Times. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 and made a number of changes on the back end but also put up a strong paywall. In a 2017 speech, Bezos noted that every time the Post made the paywall stricter, more people paid.
“This industry spent 20 years teaching everyone in the world that news should be free. The truth is, readers are smarter than that. They know high-quality journalism is expensive to produce, and they are willing to pay for it, but you have to ask them. We’ve tightened our paywall, and every time we’ve tightened our paywall, subscriptions go up.”
Now, digital media publishers are racing to follow the lead of the Times and the Post, with everybody from Bloomberg to Business Insider to Conde Nast instituting paywalls. Consumers may soon reach the burnout point with paywalls, leading to an opportunity for the kind of bundled product that has been so successful for the pay-TV industry.
But the lesson for now is clear. People will pay for quality journalism, if you give them an opportunity.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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