Within the past few months, there has been a revitalization, of sorts, within the media industry. Once again, there is tons of money being dumped into traditional media – Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for around $250M, Newsweek was purchased by IBT Media and is staffing up for a new run at the digital magazine market, and Pierre M. Omidyar (eBay Founder) is bankrolling a new mass-media project staffed so far with Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras.1

Vox Media new media thriving

Coupled with the reemergence of the traditional media, there are innovative new media companies that are thriving. Consider the case of Vox Media. Vox Media is behind SB Nation, The Verge, and the newer Polygon websites.2 Vox Media’s assets are thriving, with a total of well over 54 million unique visitors and well over 194 million page views a month, as of 6/13.3 Further, Vox Media just closed $34M Series D round.4 Though Vox Media, and many, many more new media and digital outlets are thriving, they still rely on advertising as the main revenue stream (with some exceptions, namely premium content).

The case of Matter.

Matter, a media-focused accelerator, is looking to help break the advertising based model of journalism.5 Although Matter, “supports and invests in media entrepreneurs building a more informed, connected, and empowered society,” there is a clear focus on creating a new business model for media and journalism.6 Although print media and other traditional media are struggling to create sustainable revenue models – beyond subscriptions and advertising – the quality of journalism has never been better. Thus, Matter is focused primarily on business model innovations: “the innovation most needed in media is business model innovation.”7 Matter has just announced its second cohort of startups.8

The case of beaconreader

Enter Beacon.9 Beacon – founded by the team that created Backspaces, who we interviewed a while back –  takes a wholly original approach to the media business model problem. rather than relying on ads or a traditional subscription, “Beacon empowers writers by letting you fund their work for $5 a month.”10 You subscribe to a writer, who receives the bulk of the your $5 monthly payment, but you get access to everything on Beacon. The goal is not to become a main source of revenue for the writers, just another stream. This is an extremely powerful model. Think about it. The page-view and CPM driven journalism rewards writers to go after the lowest common denominator. 11 Beacon rewards writers for doing just the opposite; for writing things that resonate with their audience.

The state of the media is strong, but the state of the consumers is not. Innovative approaches to traditional media and new media alike are paving the way for meaningful reporting. While the traditional business models of the media may be dying out, journalism, I would argue, has never been stronger. You just have to move beyond cat slideshows to find it.

  1. The Verge’s coverage of Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post
    Digiday, Capital New York, and IBT Media Press Release on the Newsweek transition.
    Mr. Omidyar’s blog post on the new media venture, and coverage from The New York Times. Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras were instrumental in bringing the NSA surveillance story to light, Jeremy Scahill is the author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” and the National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine.  

  2. Vox Media About Us Page

    The Verge, SB Nation, Polygon  

  3. According to companies advertising page.  
  4. Nibletz did a good write-up on the growth of Vox, and the D Round.  
  5. Matter website  
  6. FAQs  
  7. Ibid  
  8. Matter Two, the second cohort.  
  9. Beacon  
  10. Ibid  
  11. The funny cat slideshows are destroying our culture. It is disgusting. 1 in 3 Americans can not name the Vice President, “22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.”AlterNet Article, Salon Article, and NBC Article