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Plus, The AP partners with OpenAI
We’ve talked before in this newsletter about differentiation. On the internet – where distribution is free, content is abundant, and attention is scarce – publishers must define and consistently protect what makes them special.
This starts with content – original reporting, unique analysis, or compelling narrative, for example. But differentiation is most powerful when reinforced in additional ways.
In an interview last year, writer & analyst Ben Thompson explained why he created a distinct visual identity when starting his tech blog Stratechery:
I did want [Stratechery] to be visually distinct. I did a custom font, which back then was very rare… I had the orange. There weren't very many orange sites back then. And I did a lot of these hand drawings, which were very visually distinct…
What I was really thinking about was: [readers] follow an article… A day later, a week later, a month later, they follow another link. They're like, wait, I've been on this site before, it's triggering my memory. That's really (I think) the key moment. It's like, oh, yeah, I'm going to follow this guy on Twitter, or I'm going to put this site in my bookmarks, or I'm going to put my RSS reader, or whatever it might be. That's the key thing that I think you want to accomplish.
When Thompson began writing in 2013, he was an early pioneer of the operator-led media model, publishing analysis that drew on his industry experience, as well as business theory. His content was unique in its own right, but Stratechery’s color scheme and hand drawings helped establish it as a destination, a brand that readers would recognize and seek out.
Which brings me to an interview The Press Gazette published last week with Semafor CEO Justin Smith. The interview contains a few nuggets of news – Semafor is on track for its first profitable month; its site receives about 100K unique visitors per day – but I was particularly intrigued by the backstory behind Semafor’s brand color:
We did a mock-up – we looked at the ten-leading quality, global, journalism-based news brands in the world. And we had ten images of phones with the apps open to the homepage – and you just squint your eyes a little bit, and you cannot tell the difference. It’s just sort of, black and white; the New York Times, Washington Post, I mean, everything looks the same. It’s white, white, white!
Of course, the FT stands out for its salmon or pink – and that seemed like just a very sensible, easy and powerful way to zig when everyone else was zagging.
Like Stratechery, Semafor has ambitions to build direct connections with its audience. And, to this end, it appears to be thinking carefully about differentiation – orienting early coverage around scoops, focusing its product strategy on newsletters and events, and emphasizing its distinct “Semafor yellow.”
Semafor’s success, of course, won’t hinge on color choice. But, in the quest to build a trusted news destination in 2023, details matter. CEO Justin Smith certainly thinks so, calling Semafor yellow “one of the best decisions we ever made.”
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
The AP partnered with OpenAI. As part of the two-year deal, OpenAI will license AP content to help train its algorithms. The AP will get access to OpenAI’s technology expertise, with the goal of developing news industry standards and best practices around generative AI.
Twitter began sharing revenue with creators. The program, which launched last week, pays creators a rev share on ads served in their Tweet replies. Creators are eligible if they’re subscribed to Twitter Blue and earned more than 5 million Tweet impressions on the platform for each of the past three months.
Tucker Carlson is starting a new media co. Carlson and Daily Caller cofounder Neil Patel are looking to raise hundreds of millions to launch the venture, which intends to pursue a video-first content strategy and monetize primarily via subscriptions. The company is in talks with several potential distribution partners, though Twitter appears to be the frontrunner (Carlson has been posting free videos to the platform since his departure from Fox News).
Hollywood actors are on strike. Leaders at SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 TV and film actors, approved a strike last Thursday after negotiations fell apart with the studios over streaming revenue share, pay increases, AI, and a host of other issues. The actors’ strike comes alongside the ongoing screenwriters’ strike that began in May.
More on publishers:
The Guardian plans to launch a European edition of its website, supported by 11 new editorial roles.
NYT published data on its greenhouse gas emissions from 2019 to 2022.
More on platforms & AI:
Google fixed a Google News indexing bug, which had caused traffic declines for some publishers over the past ~3 weeks.
Engagement on Threads’ dropped last week according to data from Sensor Tower & Similarweb.
Elon tweeted that Twitter is still cash flow negative “due to a ~50% drop in advertising revenue plus heavy debt load.”
Stability AI released a new sketch-to-image AI tool called Stable Doodle.
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