Discover more from Business Side
Vice is cutting 100+ staff
Here’s the latest in digital media:
Vice is cutting 100+ staff. The layoffs represent about 7% of the company’s 1,500 employees and come as the company restructures ($) its news division, including shutting down the Vice News Tonight show and the Vice News World brand. Vice’s co-CEOs explained the move in a staff memo: “We are transforming VICE News to better withstand market realities and more closely align with how and where we see our audiences engaging with our content most.”
YouTube Music is adding podcasts. The app has started rolling out a new Podcasts tab where US users can listen to podcast shows and episodes. The update also enables users watching podcasts in YouTube’s main app to continue listening in YouTube Music.
Amazon, Comcast, and Snap released Q1 earnings. Amazon’s advertising revenue grew 23% YoY, the highest increase among major ad platforms. Comcast reported ($) a 6% YoY decline in NBCUniversal’s ad revenue, excluding the Super Bowl and the Olympics from last year’s period. Snap’s overall revenue was down 7% YoY, and their 383 million daily active users just missed expectations.
NYT is experimenting with a new article format. This piece on Snap’s earnings, for example, is split into four sections: “The News,” “Why It Matters,” “Background,” and “What’s Next.” As WSJ’s Alexandra Bruell notes, the structure is reminiscent of Axios’ Smart Brevity format. It also appears inspired by Semafor’s new “Semaform” structure, which splits out news from analysis.
BuzzFeed’s CEO published “predictions” for digital media. In a post last week, Jonah Peretti predicted a renewed focus on news homepages, entertainment content “winning” the Internet, a rise in AI-generated media, and more partnerships between creators and media companies. Of course, these predictions align with BuzzFeed’s broader strategy and reinforce the company’s recent decisions to close BuzzFeed News and invest in AI and creators.
Let’s talk about all the layoffs.
To recap: BuzzFeed is shutting down BuzzFeed News and laying off 15% of its staff. Insider is laying off 10% of its US-based staff. Nate Silver is likely leaving FiveThirtyEight after “significant cuts” to the publication. And, as noted above, Vice is closing ($) its flagship news program and cutting about 7% of its staff.
As the song goes, “everything hits at once.”
All these layoffs inevitably raise questions. Are we at the end of an era? With newsletters, blogging, and homepages returning to popularity, is digital news going back to the future,? Do we need better business model alignment? Stronger brands?
Not that you needed it, but it’s a reminder that the digital news business is hard. The brands above are the winners. They made it to 2023. And they’ll continue to do good work, albeit under more difficult circumstances.
But as difficult as the digital news business is, there are some simple tenants at its core. You can often predict the success of a publication with just two questions:
Is their content highly valuable to a particular audience?
Do they control their distribution?
I’m oversimplifying. But if an outlet can pass this test, the rest usually figures itself out.
As we enter a new era, it will be easy to get distracted. Generative AI, creators, the metaverse. The list goes on. Publishers can’t afford to ignore these opportunities, but it’ll be important to assess them through a narrow lens: To what extent will they help create valuable content and build a direct audience relationship?
As publishers get leaner and navigate the fog of new tech, this focus will be key. Doing fewer things, better. For many, it will require unwinding habits and beliefs that formed over the last decade. It won’t be easy, but as another song goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”
Here’s more news from around the industry:
The editor of Wall Street Journal Magazine is resigning ($).
BBC chair Richard Sharp resigned after failing to disclose his Boris Johnson connection.
Twitter plans to allow publishers to charge users for individual articles.
Twitter is complying with a higher percentage of government requests and court orders under Elon Musk.
Clubhouse, the audio social app, is cutting ($) half of its staff.
The EU proposed ($) new rules that would require generative AI companies to disclose copyrighted material they used to train their systems.
ChatGPT is available in Italy after being blocked by the government over privacy concerns.
Elon Musk shut off OpenAI’s access to the Twitter API last December.
And before we go, here are a few interesting reads:
Digiday interviewed ($) Kat Craddock on her recent purchase of the food and travel site Saveur.
Nieman Lab interviewed the founders of RQ1, a newsletter that curates academic research on journalism.
The FT went ($) behind the scenes of Google’s Deep Mind / Brain merger.
The NYT profiled Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky, the decentralized Twitter alternative.
Thanks for being a part of Business Side’s private beta. Have a great day!