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Plus, OpenAI partners with The American Journalism Project
In early 2014, Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell, and Dylan Matthews left their jobs at The Washington Post to start a new site, one that would use internet-native formats to help readers understand the context behind important news stories.
Instead of going independent, they launched their new venture (eventually named Vox.com) as part of Vox Media, in large part because of the company’s strength in technology. As Ezra Klein told David Carr at the time: “we want to improve the technology of news, and Vox has a vision of how to solve some of that.”
Expanding on the decision in the site’s launch post, Klein specifically cited Vox Media’s content management system, Chorus, as a key differentiator:
Vox is already home to modern media brands … [and] the engine of those sites is a world-class technology platform, Chorus, that blows apart many of the old limitations. And behind Chorus is a world-class design and engineering team that is already helping us rethink the way we power newsrooms and present information.
Almost a decade later, it’s striking to read a journalist talk about a CMS in such glowing terms. But at the time, the view wasn’t unusual.
Many publishers believed that proprietary CMS tech like Chorus would attract ambitious editorial talent and grow new revenue streams. It also made for a good story, garnering positive press and attracting investors with the promise of tech-like growth.
In 2023, that story has soured. Yesterday, we learned that Vox Media will no longer use Chorus to power its own sites, after deciding last year to stop licensing the platform to other publishers. The decision reflects a growing consensus: Building a CMS is hard and, it turns out, quite different from running a media company. Even for digitally native publishers like Vox, it’s difficult to compete against pure play tech companies like Wordpress.
It’s another sign we’re in a new era, one where it’s hard to imagine recruiting editorial talent with a custom-built CMS. Now, many ambitious journalists gravitate either toward large, influential, and talent-dense publications on one end or small, independent outfits on the other. Neither group is pitching their tech prowess as a primary differentiator.
Today, neither Ezra Klein nor Matt Yglesias, another Vox.com cofounder, works at Vox Media. Klein is an Op-Ed columnist and podcaster at The New York Times, and Yglesias writes a successful Substack.
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
OpenAI is partnering with The American Journalism Project. As part of the two-year partnership, OpenAI will give AJP $5 million to 1) create an AI studio to “assess the applications of AI within the local news sector” and 2) distribute grants to about ten AJP portfolio organizations to help them explore AI use cases. OpenAI is also providing up to $5 million in API credits to publishers in AJP’s portfolio.
More on publishers:
Leadership at G/O Media plans to continue publishing AI-generated stories, despite pushback from staff.
Bloomberg has reduced its average ad-load time (-15%) and page-load time (-40%) since shutting off open-market programmatic ads.
The Daily Mail is planning to sue Google over AI copyright issues.
Thousands of authors signed a letter urging generative AI companies to fairly credit and compensate writers when using copyrighted materials as training data.
More on platforms:
Threads launched several new features on iOS, including a “Follows” tab.
Bing Chat now supports Visual Search, which allows users to ask questions about an uploaded image or photo.
The video shoutout app Cameo laid off at least 80 staff, leaving fewer than 50 people at the startup.
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