The Jolly Teapot

Freshly brewed links, served by Nicolas Magand

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Filtering by Tag: media

Subscription cannot be the only business model for journalism to survive

This week I learned that my previous employer, the Global Editors Network, had been shut down. Like I said on Twitter, I loved working right in the center of the media industry crisis: advertising revenues shrinking, fierce competition for subscribers’ money, misinformation and distrust, platforms-dependency, &c. This crisis has many, many faces and it is just sad to see one organisation like GEN – who was trying to help journalism – close doors like so many other journalism entities, mostly newspapers.

The topic of journalism sustainability is obviously very close to my heart, and the other day I stumbled upon this very good post by the journalist David Bauer, currently head of visuals at the Swiss newspaper NZZ, in which he lists “challenges, questions, assumptions” around the media industry. Every entry of this list had me nod in agreement; this point in particular is worth noticing:

Media organisations need sustainable business models, but (hard) paywalls are at odds with maximum impact and public service, especially for less affluent people. How can we make it work for all sides?

Exactly. Subscription cannot be the only business model for journalism to survive. Affordable and accessible news have to be quality news too. In a recent interview, the Information’s Jessica Lessin said:

Getting existing and new news organisations to see [subscription] as a path for them is really important to me because I really feel it’s how premium content journalism will survive.

I really admire Lessin’s success with the Information, and I am very interested in their upcoming product, Ticker, but I hope “premium content journalism” will be something limited to a few organisations or specific verticals, like tech and business news; another business model ought to be successful for newspapers. I believe that’s why Lessin says “a path” and not “the path.”

Like Bauers writes: “How can we make it work for all sides?” Indeed, a journalism split between “premium content” and “regular content” would not, in my opinion, serve the purpose of journalism well.

“Media execs are good at aping, not at innovating”

Om Malik, about the state of the media industry, and how media execs historically never anticipated any of the changes brought by technology, namely the web, social media, mobile, etc.

Who is to blame? When posed to people in the industry, especially those on the business side, such questions often elicit a list of usual suspects dominated by technology companies. They may even include consumers on the list. Basically, anyone might be on there except the media companies themselves. And I, for one, am sick of this blame game.

Brilliant piece.

What happens to web traffic patterns when Facebook goes down

Chartbeat's Josh Schwartz, on the Nieman Journalism Lab, sharing what the web analytics company found when Facebook went down for 45 minutes in August 2018:

What did people do? According to our data, they went directly to publishers’ mobile apps and sites (as well as to search engines) to get their information fix.

Publishers must be happy about this : it means most users did not — after all — forget about them. It simply means they prefer to wait for their Facebook feeds to show them some news rather than visiting websites individually.

The users' blind trust or naïveté in the news feed is what has been problematic in the last couple of years: How accountable must algorithms be when it comes to news and informing the public, especially when we know that is how most people get their news?

This is a whole other debate, but then :

Google Chrome Suggestions, a personalized news feed built into Chrome’s mobile browser, is up 20×.

Facebook is the biggest fish in this pond and it — understandably — gets most of the attention but Google is right there, and this Chrome "personalized news feed" should also be questioned, along with YouTube, Google search results, and Google News.

Another interesting part:

Mobile traffic has seen double-digit growth and surpassed desktop, which saw double-digit declines.

Smartphones have definitely replaced PCs as the main — and sometimes only — computing device.

On the lack of diversity in newsrooms

Must-read from Jelani Cobb, on The Guardian:

The article represented not simply a case of a journalist missing a story. The story, to me, spoke to the problem of what happens when the demographics of the Times – and American newspapers in general – look nothing like the demographics of the communities they cover. The people who are most likely to appear in these kinds of stories are the least likely to have a say in how those stories are told.

The lack of diversity – all kinds of diversity – is not only a problem for newsrooms, it is a threat to good journalism.

On that topic, I remember a very interesting piece from Owen Jones, also published on The Guardian a few years ago:

More than half of the top 100 media professionals attended a fee-paying school, even though just 7% of Britons overall did; and 43% of newspaper columnists were educated in the private sector. This is not just an unjust waste of talent, leaving aspiring journalists from more humble backgrounds unable to pursue their dream. It helps to ensure that the media reflects the opinions, prejudices and priorities of a gilded elite.

I'm afraid this is not a UK-only issue.

By the end of this year, Bitcoin could be using 0.5% of the world's total consumption of electricity

Some worrisome numbers about Bitcoin on Eurekalert! Science News:

A single transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month. By the end of this year, he predicts the network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts--as much as Austria and half of a percent of the world's total consumption. "To me, half a percent is already quite shocking. It's an extreme difference compared to the regular financial system, and this increasing electricity demand is definitely not going to help us reach our climate goals," he says. If the price of Bitcoin continues to increase the way some experts have predicted, de Vries believes the network could someday consume 5% of the world's electricity. "That would be quite bad."

You would think the world would know better by now, 2018, about how we are destroying our planet, but sadly, nothing seems able to stop us if there is some extra money to be made.

Last week, I worked on trasncribing and editing an interview of the former editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, mostly about journalism and climate change. Rusbridger made so many great points, but this one resonated most with me:

If we believe that [climate change] is the biggest story of our lives — which it probably is — and then you look and see how that translates into how the media covers it, there’s a terrible mismatch between this immensely important story and the way the media deals with it now.

I'd be curious to see how many of the publications covering blockchain and cryptocurrencies news are carefully mentioning their monstrous electrical consumption, and how many actually talk about the following climate impacts.

My bet is most of them just don't.

To end this post on a lighter note, an old gem from the Onion.