Digital No Man’s Land
A few years ago it seemed like traditional print publications would be forced into extinction and be replaced by a slew on upstart print-style digital pubs. Title’s like Mashable, Vox, Vice and BuzzFeed came out of nowhere to stake their claims in this new frontier. At the time all were free and ad supported. But we’re not just talking about any old ads. Pubs like BuzzFeed stubbornly held out for native ad dollars which could be seamlessly woven into the user experience and still generate revenue. These guys were convinced they had cracked the code on Print 2.0, and were bullish on the prospects of an ever-expanding audience.
What a difference a few years can make. Despite the high expectations these second tier publishers have seen their audiences and revenue shrink over the past two years. Inevitably this has led to cost cutting and staff reductions – in 2018 alone Vice, Refinery29, Mic, Buzzfeed and Mashable have all laid staffers off. Now there’s a real question on the long-term viability of this group.
The problem for these guys is a Malachi Crunch of competition. On one side traditional print publishers like the Washington Post, WJS, etc., have figured out digital and launched online subscriptions. On the other side, the members of FAANG keep adding feed-style infotainment features which scratch their users’ itch for op-ed style newsie content. Let’s face it, do you really need to read what the world thinks about a trending news story on Mashable when you can just see the comments yourself on Twitter or Instagram?
As a result of this squeeze the once promising field of article-style digital publishers is now facing an extinction of their own.