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Plus, Casey Newton on what he learned in his third year running Platformer
On Twitter / X, there were lots of “dream job” jokes, but reactions were otherwise divided. Some saw the positions as a savvy business decision to cover Beyonce and Swift as the economic and cultural forces they’ve become. But others questioned whether these beats would come at the expense of local coverage, particularly given that Gannett laid off six percent of its news division last year.
But I’m most intrigued by another aspect of the move: Intentionally or not, Gannett is investing in coverage that has built-in distribution, courtesy of Beyonce and Taylor Swift fans.
Focusing on Swift (and the Swifties), there are dozens of fan accounts dedicated to providing news and updates on the artist. On Twitter, top accounts include @SwiftNYC (313K followers), @TSwiftLA (277K), and @swifferupdates (154K). On Instagram, there’s tswiftcandle (209K), swiftiesforeternity (121K), and taylorswift.updates13 (104K). And there are dozens more fan accounts with tens of thousands of followers each, many with a country-specific focus.
While these accounts have different approaches, many post multiple times per day and will often share posts from mainstream news outlets (here’s a recent example). And competition among accounts can be fierce, as they vie for the attention of news-hungry Swifties. In a 2018 Vox interview, Zainub Amir, who runs @SwiftNYC, explained, “It’s hard. The thing is … you just have to be really fast. The whole point of an update account is getting the news first.”
For Gannett, it’s one thing to invest in coverage with a large potential audience; it’s another to invest in coverage that fuels a robust fan economy, with dozens of popular accounts competing to share news with engaged followers.
And while The Swifties and the Beyhive are uniquely fanatical, the internet is full of engaged niches hungry for more quality journalism. For publishers, it’s worth thinking creatively about how to tap into these communities, particularly as existing distribution channels like organic social and search become less reliable.
To go deeper, read this Vox piece on the business of Taylor Swift fandom.
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And here’s the latest news in digital media:
Advance Local is planning to launch a New Orleans-based sports and news site, four years after selling The Times-Picayune.
NYT staffers marched through the office on Monday to protest the closure of the paper’s stand-alone sports desk.
WaPo launched a coffee blend, “The Post Roast,” in partnership with DC-based Compass Coffee.
The BBC is planning to relaunch its news website and app in North America to allow for more “localised and personalised” content.
More publishers are investing in Instagram, according to a Digiday survey.
SmartNews launched a new tab featuring more positive and useful stories.
TikTok is launching a feature that allows creators to label their AI-generated content.
Google’s Bard chatbot can now integrate with Gmail, Docs, and Drive.
Electrify Video Partners raised $85 million to invest in and acquire YouTube channels.
Max will launch a live sports add-on for $9.99 per month in October.
Casey Newton on what he learned in his third year running Platformer (Platformer)
An interview about NPR’s new website pop up that asks readers for donations (Nieman Lab)
An interview with The Independent’s CEO Christian Broughton on the company’s “global growth” plan (Press Gazette)
How streaming is changing music (WSJ)
TikTok stars are becoming best-selling cookbook authors (NYT)
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