We are in a period of immense uncertainty and change, particularly for traditional news outlets. Our colleagues in the newspaper business face a challenging few quarters. With the price of newsprint up dramatically, increasing home delivery prices alongside inflation is causing consumers to rethink subscriptions. Publishers that have relied on digital-display advertising are also affected by an industry-wide slowdown in programmatic advertising, as reflected in the most recent Big Tech earnings reports.
The drop in tech companies’ ad revenue reflects a fundamental shift in user behavior. The fourth wall has been broken.
People are recognizing that:
Twitter is less a town square than a gladiator arena, overseen by a private company trying to sell advertisements and $8 checkmarks against a discourse that’s increasingly angry and hateful;
Facebook is no longer the place to share birthday wishes and news articles but now best serves as a marketplace for selling your couch to your neighbors;
Alphabet is facing a decline in the volume and quality of the third-party cookie data vital to its programmatic advertising business. Once able to organize the world’s information through the web, it is also facing the threat of artificial intelligence able to answer questions and convey information better than a Google search.
A pessimist would argue this is all bad for letting readers discover new journalism. I would argue that as users grapple with these challenges, there’ll be a renewed interest in human-powered reporting, journalistic standards and practices, and a flight to quality from readers seeking trustworthy journalism, well-edited and curated. I also believe there will be an increase in “ethical advertising” as brands look to get out of the social media mud.