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What have we learned from The Messenger’s launch?
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With that, let’s jump into today’s edition:
Yesterday, The Messenger officially launched.
Reactions from industry observers have been largely negative. Criticisms include:
A reliance on articles that summarize news reported by other outlets
Short articles that don’t do much more than embed a social media post
An uninspired website design
Given The Messenger’s high-minded language leading up to launch, many were expecting a publication that took the tone of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, or Semafor.
But it looks like The Messenger is playing a different game. The homepage has the vibe of the New York Post, HuffPost, or Daily Mail. Political reporting sits next to tabloid-esque articles, such as this piece about Britney Spears. And the site is heavy with programmatic ads.
The Messenger’s Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeford was previously the editor-in-chief of People Magazine. And the company’s Chief Growth Officer Neetzan Zimmerman is a mastermind at aggregating viral stories from across the Internet. (He single-handedly generated around 70% of unique visitors at Gawker in some months.)
The Messenger is making a bet that it can create a destination where many readers will come for both hard and light news. HuffPost reportedly reached profitability pursuing a similar strategy, and BuzzFeed’s decision to keep HuffPost indicates continued optimism.
But it was a different era when HuffPost, the New York Post, and Daily Mail grew their reach and converted a meaningful portion of their audience into recurring visitors. The Messenger’s ambitious hiring plans will create pressure to grow traffic quickly, and with social and search weakening as referral sources, replicating that strategy will be more difficult today.
Here’s the latest news in digital media:
The NYT reaffirmed its commitment to its style of objectivity. In a 12,500-word piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, Publisher A.G. Sulzberger laid out his view of journalistic independence, anchored in “open-minded inquiry.” Against the critique that reporters are inherently biased, Sulzberger argued that “independence is only compromised if a reporter’s preconceptions undercut the goal of genuinely open-minded inquiry.”
More details have emerged about the Forbes acquisition. 1) Buyer Austin Russell will finance the deal with money from entities including Sun Group, which has ties to Russia; 2) Russell has six months to pull together the funding to finalize his 82% stake; 3) The Forbes family will relinquish its 5% stake; 4) Integrated Whale Media will retain an 8% stake.
Reuters defined its AI framework. Editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni presented several pillars to the newsroom: 1) Reuters will lean into new technologies such as generative AI; 2) Editors will be responsible for the integrity of Reuters journalism, including when AI is utilized; 3) The newsroom will be transparent with readers about how AI is used.
More on publishers:
Vice officially filed for bankruptcy, as a consortium including Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management, and Monroe Capital take control of the company.
The Washington Post created a "Deep Reads" section to highlight its narrative journalism.
The LA Times & ABC are streaming a Hulu documentary about movie executive Randall Emmett.
The Guardian’s EIC shared that investigative journalism & legal attacks are driving consumer revenue.
An apparent cyber attack prevented The Philadelphia Inquirer from printing its daily newspaper.
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