The recent mass exodus of staff at The New Republic has called attention to the ways profit driven media entities are reshaping communications.
The carnage was the result of the magazine’s new owner, Chris Hughes’ belief that the publication could no longer be run as a “charity”, and the implementation of a series of measures that he believed would make the magazine turn a profit.
Hughes has promised that TNR will not “devolve into a click-bait factory”, but it remains to be seen how he plans to reconcile preserving the “voice and values” of the publication, with making a profit.
Following Hughes’ announced changes, a former TNR staffer derisively called the new New Republic “another BuzzFeed”.
While there is much debate around the journalistic integrity of BuzzFeed and similar platforms, the site boasts a higher number of unique visitors in the U.S. than The New York Times.
In November 2013, BuzzFeed reported more than 130 million unique visitors, a 350% year-over-year increase. By comparison, The New Republic reported an estimated 1.5 million unique visitors in January 2014.
Buzzfeed is also profitable. By early November of this year, its CEO Jonah Peretti had announced that the company had increased its revenue by two-thirds this year, surpassing $100 million.
Despite gaining its popularity from stories like ‘39 Renaissance Babies Who Can’t Even’ and quizzes such as ‘Which Weird Subculture Wedding Will You Have?’, BuzzFeed has added serious journalism to its offering, and now includes an investigative reporting unit and foreign correspondents.
In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, Hughes also points to platforms including Vox and Politco as examples of media that, like BuzzFeed, are driving innovation in the industry in a way that is also profitable. These are the platforms where journalists are “using new techniques to tell vital stories and make passionate arguments”. They are, as Hughes sees it, the future of journalism.
Although the masthead shake-up at TNR suggests that many staffers are not prepared to deviate from the magazine’s tradition, the proposed changes show that an increasing number of publications are targeting Millennials and moving into the digital sphere.
This raises the question – how does this changing media landscape effect successful communications strategies?
Digital platforms have indeed changed the ways we consume content. The increasing prominence of these news sites calls for innovative communications strategies that meet the demand for content that travels.
The new TNR, like sites including Vox and BuzzFeed, wants videos, interactive graphics and smart use of social media. Successfully targeting these platforms therefore requires pitching content that lends itself to multimedia storytelling over traditional long-form journalism.
The rise of profit-driven media entities also signifies an increase in the idea of marketing content to readers and selling articles as products. To do this, media entities like BuzzFeed, and even Vox, are using dramatic headlines that will make a good Facebook status or Tweet to increase the probability of the article being shared on social media.
This has created a more sensationalised standard for getting content picked up by these outlets.
While discussing BuzzFeed’s use of native advertising, Peretti told New York Magazine that he doesn’t care whether a post is written by a journalist or sponsored by a brand – it’s about crafting a message that will reproduce.
Regarding the future of The New Republic, Hughes has said, “We need to do the same type of journalism that we’ve been doing, full stop. We also have to make sure that it takes multiple forms”.
Long-form journalism may not be dead, but as Peretti and Hughes have suggested, successfully navigating the changes taking place in the media industry will require developing messages that can be shared across multiple platforms as part of digitally integrated communications campaigns.