The Huffington Post reflects on a very bad week for journalists:
More than a thousand people in the media industry have lost their jobs in January, in what has been one of the most brutal months for industry layoffs in recent memory.
Big media companies ― including HuffPost, AOL, Yahoo, BuzzFeed, a bunch of newspapers under Gannett, and other brands ― saw sweeping cuts as executives blamed Google and Facebook’s duopoly in the online advertising market for the ongoing decline of digital media.
The scene was particularly grim at BuzzFeed on Friday, where many talented reporters were getting the axe as the company began cutting its staff by 15 percent. By the end of the day, BuzzFeed was expected to lay off about 220 people.
Employees said on Twitter that the outlet’s national security desk and its Spain bureau were completely decimated. One outgoing editorial staffer told HuffPost that at least 38 had been cut from the news desk. That staffer said one reporter was at Sundance working for BuzzFeed when the individual was laid off.
BuzzFeed is reportedly mulling a merger with Group Nine ― a big digital publisher that owns Thrillist, The Dodo and others ― to save itself. Group Nine, of course, has had layoff woes of its own over the past few years.
The writing has been on the wall for some time for modern journalism.
Newspapers are not profitable, and they are completely dependent on advertising for revenues. The problem is that Google and Facbeook dominate internet advertising, and people are reading physical copies of the papers less and less because they can just read news online for free. Revenues are being squeezed from both directions.
Most newspapers today just reprint a ton of wire stories from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse, with a thin smattering of local stories and opinion columns. But why waste money buying a newspaper (and supporting your local Democrats) when you can just go right to www.reuters.com and read there?
Another problem for journalists is that they are being outcompeted by bloggers, who are hobbyists that write for fun and usually for free (or for very limited financial compensation at best). People can also get news from TV, from talk radio, Youtube, and even from Twitter now. Journalism as it is currently practiced is stuck in the past.
Furthermore, the media has deeply alienated almost half the country with their relentless advocacy of extreme left wing politics. Like many other companies corrupted by the left, this has severely impacted their bottom line. The appearance and instant success of right wing media such as Limbaugh and Breitbart clearly shows a huge portion of the American public was not being served by traditional journalists. Instead of trying to reach these people, journalists responded by doubling down and becoming even more ideologically extreme.
Many of the journalists at these publications and websites are shell shocked and can’t believe this is happening. Modern journalists are deeply ignorant and sheltered people who have little expertise in anything they write, as illustrated by Ben Rhodes’ famous quote:
“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing,” Rhodes told the New York Times magazine.
It didn’t used to work like this in journalism, for reasons beyond the scope of this piece, but it does now.
This is coming as a huge shock to journalists and the left. This is because journalists are venerated on the left, and are treated almost like a priestly caste. When you hear a story about your local church closing down, that’s about how the left feels when they hear about layoffs at the local newspaper.
So, what now? Is journalism doomed? Is the newspaper business finished?
The answer is probably not. What will happen is the big assets and brands will be bought up by leftist billionaires who like the idea of having their own paper, and they will be used as propaganda tools to promote the political views and interests of these billionaires. It’s best to think of the Washington Post as Jeff Bezos’ blog, with the “journalists” as paid bloggers promoting his ideas. Most of these glorified blogs will continue to insist they are mainstream, free, and independent.
The big digital-only assets will meet a similar fate. Gawker, as an early example, was bought out by Univision who rebranded them as Gizmodo Media Group (though Univision is now looking to divest itself of Gizmodo but can’t find any buyers because the properties are losing money and are nearly worthless). Buzzfeed, as mentioned in the linked Huffington Post piece above, is seeking someone to buy it, because they too are in deep financial trouble.
There are only so many billionaires out there, however, and most will not want to scoop up these properties, especially if they already own one or two. Those publications which aren’t bailed out will probably collapse in the next couple of years. They won’t be replaced as the market is oversaturated with leftist media.
The wire services such as AP and Reuters will be fine. They will become the only game in town for “raw” news reporting.
New websites will eventually replace the collapsing internet “titans,” like Buzzfeed and Gizmodo, but these sites will mostly function like group blogs and will be not for profit. Many will likely be de facto arms of political parties.
The story of the media in the coming years will be, like with many other industries, one of collapse and consolidation, with a shrinking market and fewer customers than ever interest in paying for their product.