An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, 1980 to the present

A project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

Archive for November, 2013

BuzzFeed, Vice and the next generation in serious news?

Noteworthy story in The Independent by Ian Burrell pointing out the investments being made at Vice and Buzzfeed to fund original journalism, including full-on investigative reporting.

The opportunity that both organisations have identified is to serve the so-called “millennial” audience of twenty-somethings who have supposedly turned their backs on mainstream news providers.

I’m not sure they’ve proven they can withstand the riptide that makes it so difficult for producers of original journalism to make money reliably, but these two built significant revenue streams first and now are seeking to enhance audience loyalty, which should only strengthen opportunities to make money.

“The media is a big place and we don’t need anyone else to fail in order for us to succeed,” he [BuzzFeed’s UK editor, Luke Lewis] said. “We have our own way of doing things and it would not necessarily work for any other publisher.”

Golden Age

Henry Blodget offered the most optimistic point-of-view among our interviewees with regard to the state of modern journalism. His basic premise is that there has never been more good information available to readers; that the web has, in fact, created a “golden age” of journalism. Bill Keller offers a more nuanced perspective in his New York Times column today, focusing specifically on foreign reporting. One of the issues, he suggests, is the growing role of freelance journalists:

The problem with the cutbacks in professional foreign coverage is not just the loss of experience and wisdom. It’s the rise of — and exploitation of — the Replacements, a legion of freelancers, often untrained and too often unsupported. They gravitate to the bang-bang, because that’s what editors and broadcast producers will pay for. And chances are that nobody has their backs.

He goes on to suggest that freelancers are often exploited, sometimes ripped off. In this context, he refers to a “freelancer in Yemen” and links to a page  to “name and shame” news organizations that don’t pay their freelance talent. The link points to a broken page, but more important, that journalist is Iona Craig. Iona can be found on a fascinating new “platform” called “Beacon” that is designed to help with some of the issues Keller identifies in his very good column; most importantly, the one about getting paid. Beacon may not be the ultimate solution to the Riptide, but it’s a step in the right direction.