It’s not the death of journalism or a sign that people are abandoning everything that is right and good in the world.
What it is, however, isn’t much better.
The “pivot to video” is the product of an internet that is run by Google, Facebook, and an advertising market with little regard for anything that isn’t video. They’re setting the rules, and media companies—especially startups—have to play the game.
News broke on Thursday that Mic laid off 25 staffers and will turn its resources to producing more video. This has become a common move in the past couple years as digital media startups have found that pageviews just don’t translate into very much money (Mashable made just such a move in April 2016).
These events tend to elicit a certain collective smugness and schadenfreude from technorati and Media Twitter. “Pivot to video” is now used with snarkful glee as shorthand for failure.
Perhaps that’s as it should be. There is a growing acceptance that the internet is simply bad at supporting the written word. “Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet,” wrote Ev Williams in January to announce that his writing-focused startup Medium would lay off 50 people. The company had raised $130 million in funding in an effort to build the next great print media platform.
The ad-driven media, as Williams put it, is dominated by two companies: Facebook and Google. They soak up the majority of digital ad spending and almost all of every new dollar that moves online. Both companies are important to digital media upstarts, and they’re both hungry for video that they can show ads against—and grab a chunk of the $70 billion spent on TV ads.
Consumers don’t necessarily want this video. Even millennials prefer reading their news, and websites trying to cram as much video as possible onto webpages has resulted in a terrible user experience—including the dreaded autoplay.
Backing up a few years, the reason for companies like Mic stems from a once-boundless optimism for new media companies. “I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today,” wrote venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a blog post.
He wasn’t alone. Millions of dollars poured into media startups that believed they could take advantage of people and ad dollars both moving to the internet. The smartphone explosion only made that seem even more of a gold rush.
Legacy media companies like the New York Times and Washington Post suddenly seemed vulnerable. Plenty of other media giants, worried about getting left behind, followed venture capitalists and plowed money into a growing number of startups. Newsrooms were built up, with even big-name journalists moving to online-only outlets. The calculus seemed to figure that even with Facebook and Google having already emerged as gatekeepers of both content and ad dollars, the market would figure it out.
Back to present day, the market didn’t figure it out. The Times and Post are flourishing not because they changed to become more like digital upstarts but because they have avoided the free-content assumption and convinced people that their content is worth paying for. Subscriptions still reign supreme—and those companies control those subscriptions without middlemen (though Facebook is working on a subscription product).
This is a good thing. The explosion of free stuff on the internet had led to a growing belief that everything on the internet would be free forever. It was not that long ago that both the Times and Post offered all of their work online for free. Words still have value that consumers are willing to pay for, especially when they carry serious weight.
Value for free words hasn’t translated. Display ads have not turned out to be lucrative enough to sustain these media upstarts, leaving no choice but to start feeding the video beast. This is what startups do when their initial thesis doesn’t work or the market changes—they adapt to the times.
The market didn’t figure it out
There’s plenty of skepticism about whether this strategy will work, but that’s not really the point. For now, Google and Facebook are pushing media startups in that direction. There is simply no option but to pivot to video for a company like Mic.
In its wake, however, are still plenty of words. Mashable had its own “pivot to video” moment, but this is still a print article, as are a lot of the things that appears on this website. Mic will still have words too.
“Pivot to video” isn’t the death of words, but is the end of venture capital-funded words that hoped to eventually find a supportive ad market. In its place, venture capital-funded video is the new hope. Whether the ad market (or maybe even subscription market) materializes is anyone’s guess.
And if it doesn’t, the words will still be around. There just might be a few less of them.
Say what you want about Donald Trump’s former almost White House Communications Director, but there’s no denying the dude’s got a way with words.
During the mere 10 days in his White House career, we had a chance to read some of Anthony Scaramucci’s “colorful language” from his wild interview with The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza. Now that he’s left his role he’s free to speak even more … freely.
In an interview with The Huffington Post published on Tuesday, The Mooch dropped some next-level inspiration and explained why on earth he decided to say all those utterly bizarre things to Lizza on record.
Here are his nuttiest quotes from the latest exchange:
“The Lizzas and Scaramuccis have been friends for over 50 years. My dad knew his dad from construction, and we were building a personal relationship.”
This quote is odd seeing as how Huffington Post editor Vicky Ward asked Lizza what he thought of the quote and he seems to remember their family bond a bit differently. “I’ve only known Anthony in his capacity as a Trump surrogate and then White House communications director,” Lizza told Ward.
“We are not and have never been ‘old family friends,’ though I think our fathers knew each other, so maybe that’s what he’s talking about. (The Long Island Italian world in that generation is relatively small.) But again, that would not be a reason to suppress an explosive on-the-record interview,” he went on. Despite this burn, Scaramucci reportedly still plans to take Lizza out for a beer (LOL).
“Most of what I said was humorous and joking.”
Ohhhhhhh. Right. So if that’s the case, Mooch, maybe next time you after you say things like “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock” or “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” consider adding a “JK LOL” so people know you are just a humorous jokester.
“Legally, it may have been on the record, but the spirit of it was off. And he knew that.”
Honestly, how could Lizza have known this conversation was spiritually off the record if it wasn’t declared? What is “spiritually off the record”? There is no such thing! If we’ve learned anything from this ordeal it’s this: When partaking in a conversation to a reporter that you don’t want to be made public, be sure to declare on the record that you are off the record.
“I think I have strep.”
You’re telling us that on top of Scaramucci’s eventful as hell week in politics — losing his job; being listed as dead by his alma mater, Harvard; missing the birth of his son; and rumors of his wife filing for divorce — he also possibly had strep throat? RIP.
“It’s fine. I mean, what am I going to do?”
This quote was reportedly in response to being asked about “the collapse of his marriage.”
“I am now going to go dark …”
“So what are you going to do next,” Ward asked him.
“I am now going to go dark …” Scaramucci said.
“And then?” Ward persisted.
“Then I will reemerge.” Mooch said, pausing. “As me.”
Let us anxiously await Mooch to reemerge from his silkycocoon of darkness, a beautiful and far more self-aware Mooch butterfly.
Uber is making sweeping changes at the company after an external investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed what many already knew—the company has a serious culture problem.
These changes–all approved by the board of directors —include dismissing Emil Michael, former senior vice president of business, and lessening the responsibilities of CEO Travis Kalanick, who is now on a leave of absence.
But perhaps the people who remain at Uber are still, in part, to blame.
Audio from Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, leaked to Yahoo Finance, revealed a cringe-worthy exchange between Uber board members Arianna Huffington and David Bonderman.
It seems that Bonderman thought it was funny to joke about women being in a board room and talking too much… at a meeting addressing a report about serious sexism problems at the company…. during a discussion about the need for more gender diversity among the company’s leadership.
Huffington, who has taken a leadership role for the investigation, laughed off the sexist joke from Bonderman, according to the audio.
Sounds like it’ll take a little bit more to laugh off that sexual harassment problem, eh?
Bonderman issued an apology. “I want to apologize to my fellow board member for a disrespectful comment that was directed at her during today’s discussion. I was inappropriate. I also want to apologize to all Uber employees who were offended by the remark. I deeply regret it,” he said in a statement emailed to all Uber employees.
In case you didn’t think that was bad enough, Liane Hornsey, chief human resources officer, made a joke about drinking. The report noted that the company needs to address alcohol consumption during work hours.
“I read yesterday if I say bloody, you all have to take a shot,” Hornsey said, shortly after saying that word. She seemingly laughs nervously and then adds, “But only after hours. Sorry.”
The last line of the more than 40-minute meeting was a stern recommendation to stay at the company, with several uses of the word bloody.
“I know you’re polishing your resumes,” Hornsey said. “I want to finish today by saying, put your bloody, put your resumes down, put your bloody phone down, that’s four shots, on the recruiters. And join with me to make this company everything it needs to be.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its newest findings on the American Health Care Act and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was having none of it.
The CBO’s latest report notes that 23 million people would lose health insurance coverage within the next ten years thanks to the bill the U.S. House has already passed.
Sanders summed it up in three words.
What a disgrace.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 24, 2017
The CBO’s March report on the initial AHCA proposal said 24 million would lose insurance in the same time frame so, progress?
The CBO also found nearly twice as many people would be left uninsured by 2026 as would under the current law, the Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama: “An estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”
Sanders campaigned on a single-payer health care program during his 2016 bid for president.
Meanwhile, the rest of Congress was dividing itself along partisan lines in the wake of the report.
Democrats lambasted the bill once again on social media.
CBO confirms: #Trumpcare would be devastating for people across New Hampshire & America, leading to higher costs for worse health care.
— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) May 24, 2017
Would you buy auto insurance if it didn’t cover major accidents? That’s what the AHCA does to health insurance. It’s called fake insurance. https://t.co/Go2W37kvfK
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 24, 2017
VERIFIED: #Trumpcare is a total loser for Minnesotans & Americans. We must keep fighting to #ProtectOurCare and stop this dangerous bill.
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) May 24, 2017
GOP members were more quiet about the bill, but some did weigh in, including two senators who focused more on improving upon the current law than touting the current AHCA bill passed by the House.
Paul Ryan noted the report’s assessment that the federal budget would be reduced by $119 billion, slightly less than the $150 billion reduction the previous bill was projected to bring — though the tradeoff is millions of people getting fewer health benefits. He didn’t mention that part.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, a reproductive rights advocacy group, summed up its impression of the bill’s score with a single gif: