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Weekly Briefing: Friday, October 20
Semafor's first year, The Generalist's new subscription, and more
And welcome to Business Side’s Weekly Briefing, where we elevate the biggest stories of the week, provide benchmarks from other publishers, and share what other media operators are saying.
Let’s get to it.
Semafor’s first year. The two Smith’s (Ben & Justin) reflected on lessons learned from their startup’s first year.
A few takeaways:
They’re bullish on coverage that combines “the authority of legacy media with the openness and diversity of sources that has always been the best of the internet.”
They believe that a verticalized approach to general-interest news helps reconcile reader demand for dot-connecting journalism with advertiser demand to reach narrow, topic-aligned audiences.
They’re interested in expanding into more undercovered regions after the success of Semafor Africa, which employs 16 journalists and reaches over 100k newsletter subscribers and nearly 500k monthly web visitors.
The Generalist’s new subscription. Three years ago, Mario Gabriele founded The Generalist, a newsletter that publishes deeply-researched essays on tech and investing. Yesterday, Gabriele introduced Generalist+, a $200/year premium offering “designed to make you a better investor.”
The Generalist recently crossed 100k (free) subscribers to its newsletter and, with an affluent audience of investors and technologists, subscriptions is a natural next step.
In contrast to free Generalist essays, which balance storytelling and analysis, a Generalist+ subscription is “designed to be highly tactical.”
The subscription includes four products:
Letters to a Young Investor: A “monthly email correspondence on the craft of investing between [Gabriele] and a legendary investor.”
The Braintrust: A series where “high-performance founders answer big questions – and share the tactics and frameworks behind their success.”
The Watchlist: A database of 50 promising startups, curated by Gabriele.
Ask Mario: Access to private Q&As with Gabriele.
The Daily Wire’s new app. The Daily Wire is launching an entertainment app for kids, planning to invest at least $100 million over the next three years.
The company is positioning the service against Disney, which Daily Wire co-founder Jeremy Boreing says "pushes all the worst excesses of the woke left."
The new service will be available to the over 1 million subscribers of DailyWire+, the general entertainment service.
It’s another example of a news company making a big bet in non-news content, building a lifestyle & entertainment bundle alongside news.
Semafor stats, one year after launch (from Semafor):
500,000 engaged newsletter subscriptions
3 million monthly readers on and off platform
Thousands of live event participants
40 global marketing partners
Wirecutter has 120 journalists – about 30 in New York and the rest “scattered about the country.”
The Daily Mail has 18 social video producers – spanning London, New York, LA, and Sydney.
Puck has held “nearly 15” commercial events this year.
The portion of publishers who post to Twitter/X every day fell from 75% to 50%, in a Digiday survey.
The Epoch Times reached $122 million in revenue in 2021, powered by pro-Trump ad campaigns that attracted criticism from fact-checking groups.
The Barclay family has put forward a £1 billion offer for The Telegraph.
Of young Latinos, 71% said they feel represented in mainstream U.S. English-speaking outlets, and 44% said mainstream outlets don’t “get” Latino cultural nuances.
FT chief data reporter John Burn-Murdoch tweeted that many traditional publishers aren’t keeping pace with modern reporting techniques critical for covering Gaza/Israel:
“With the proliferation of photos/footage, satellite imagery and map data, forensic video/image analysis and geolocation (~OSINT) has clearly been a key news gathering technique for several years now. A key news gathering technique *completely absent from most newsrooms*... ‘According to a spokesperson’ just doesn’t really cut it when the primary evidence is right there.”
Ebony CEO Eden Bridgeman Sklenar shared her vision for Ebony in a CJR feature that was critical of the company’s sponsored content policies:
“You’re going to the Ebony experience for creative content that’s making you think and expanding your idea of possibilities of upward mobility—whether it’s career relations, financially, whatever it might be.”
The Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand reflected on his publication, which inspired many tech enthusiasts and recently digitized its archives:
“The idea of the Whole Earth Catalog in the ’70s was to confer agency. So you went from being passively disinterested to becoming actively interested in a lot of things. Every one of those reviews was like a half-open door of something you might well do with your young life. A lot of people went through those doors.”
AJP’s Loretta Chao explained their requirement that a local nonprofit partner with a local foundation before AJP will contribute funding, in a CJR feature about new models for local journalism:
“What we’re suggesting is that, given that newsrooms are part of the fabric of society, it makes sense that they should be a thing that philanthropists who love their communities also care about.”
Mail Online’s Phil Harvey talked about one successful TikTok format, part of the strategy that has made The Daily Mail a top news brand on TikTok:
"It's very easy to talk about video as one thing, but within video there's tonnes of different ways we can approach a story. A great example of that is the brilliant Tiktok explainers that we're making seven or eight times a day. These are really short form, very highly optimised pieces of content that give the viewers exactly what they want to know.”
Literally Media’s Oren Katzeff on collaborating with creators:
“When I talk about collaborative creators I’m not really talking about the top two percent that do very well. They don’t really need us. There’s not a ton that I can do for them either… But there’s a massive percentage of creators who are not making that much money. And so with them, if I can put the audience and revenue opportunities in their hand again, grow their brand and hand in hand grow ours, the business model makes a lot of sense.”
Wirecutter EIC Ben Frumin on the product review ecosystem:
“The truth is, most players in this space don’t test products at all. Most players in the online product review and affiliate revenue space are kind of skeezy. They have a certain cynicism for their readers, and they’re like, ‘Here’s some stuff we found on Amazon without ever physically interrogating these products.’”
At least 21 journalists are among those killed, as of October 19.
The Guardian parted ways with a long-time cartoonist, reportedly over concerns that a cartoon perpetuated an anti-Semetic trope.
The BBC has taken six reporters off air as the company investigates tweets that seemed to support Hamas.
Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Samira Nasr apologized for an Instagram post about the conflict.
An ITV presenter is facing criticism after asking a British-Palestinian MP if she knew anything about the Hamas terrorist attack in advance.
Puck is launching a new event series.
Air Mail is launching a style vertical.
Time is launching a FAST channel on Amazon Freevee.
The LA Times launched a cooking spice called “California Heat.”
Jeff Bezos is interviewing final candidates for the WaPo CEO job – reportedly Bloomberg L.P. senior adviser Josh Steiner and former Dow Jones CEO Will Lewis.
The editor of BBC’s Newsnight departed as the program faces budget cuts.
Five NYT journalists from the former sports desk are joining the business desk.
Bloomberg News cut fewer than 20 editorial staffers.
Tucker Carlson’s company received a $15 million seed round led by a new VC firm that invests in conservative-friendly companies.
An activist investor is building a stake in News Corp and plans to recommend changes to the company’s conglomerate structure.
LADbible acquired Betches for $24 million, with potential for another $30 million based on performance.
AI & Copyright:
A group of authors sued Meta, Microsoft, and Bloomberg for allegedly using the Books3 database to train their AI models.
YouTube is pursuing the rights to let creators use AI-generated voices of famous musicians.
Google is experimenting with including news headlines on the Google.com desktop homepage.
YouTube is launching a new feature that suggests additional news from authoritative sources when someone is watching a news video.
Google News cut an estimated 40-50 jobs.
Apple’s latest iOS update could depress Apple Podcasts’ download numbers.
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