Media job losses should serve as a warning
It has been a rough 2019 so far for the media industry, in particular the online media outlets. Buzz Feed, Huffpost and Vice have all laid-off quite a few people; so far, almost 3,000 workers have lost their jobs this year alone.
The fundamental problem with the online media space is its heavy dependency on advertising revenue. They make most of their money this way and they have had it pretty rough recently.
The wide adoption of ad blockers is no doubt one of the contributing factors to declining advertising revenue, and the other is the heavy reliance on two organisations – Facebook and Google.
Facebook and Google's power in advertising
Most successful online media outlets generate their revenue from clicks, with the only likely exception being the BBC; they are funded by TV License fees paid by UK citizens. New media's target audience tends to be millennials who are bombarded by short, frequent articles that often have sensational, eye-catching headlines; essentially click-bait. For examples of these, take a look at the front pages of BCC, Buzzfeed, Vice, et al.
Beyond the headlines, there is often not much substance. There are only so many list-type stories one can read, I imagine, before one starts to seek out "real news" versus 10 Things You Need to Know About Orange Cats.
Facebook and Google themselves generate quite a bit of their income from advertising revenue and they own the platforms that fund the smaller fish. Therefore, it is only natural that they put their own interests first. If someone else’s traffic suffers as a result, so be it.
This is capitalism
Online media outlets need to rethink their business model, and do so quickly. The media industry as a whole has been in a spot of bother ever since the Internet arrived, but some of the dinosaurs are still very much standing. Some of those dinosaurs moved very quickly once the threat was identified, and reworked their strategies to generate revenue from paywalls, online subscriptions and reader donations. When the advertising revenue gets diverted elsewhere, what’s next?
These lay-offs should serve as a warning
Whilst this problem is for online media organisations to work around and overcome, we all need to take this warning of things to come very seriously indeed. If we do not, the risk of the media space contracting into fewer and fewer hands becomes ever greater by the day. The result is that all of us end up having less choice when it comes to our news.
Power in media risks becoming concentrated and that can only result in narrower viewpoints and less press freedom. And that is never a good thing.