There’s another amusement in this Buzzfeed and Huffington Post (and before that, Yahoo News and so on and on) business contraction. Which is that they all tried to go after the bit of the news business that experience would suggest isn’t profitable anyway:
BuzzFeed called time on its UK and Australian news operations in May last year despite elevating its reputation from list-driven click-bait journalism into a serious online news publisher.
Serious news, whether online or not, isn’t really something known as being all that profitable. The Times if famed for having not made its owners money for generations now. The Guardian requires a hedge fund to pay for it.
Further downmarket there have been grand fortunes made in the newspaper and news industry, of course there have. Both the Mirror and The Sun have at times thrown off grand rivers, raging floods, of cash for their owners. But they are also rather more like click-bait than they are serious news publishers.
Now, it’s true, a new technology can make that old unprofitable thing profitable to do. But that is not, I think, why the new online start ups all tried to crowd into that serious business that so rarely makes money. The owners, or the managers, saw themselves as being serious journalists. As news is what serious journalists do then therefore that’s what their platforms should be doing. The click-bait, the stuff for the proles, might even be a route to get there but it’s not the real thing, is it?
This compounded by the American experience. Where newspapers were geographic monopolies and so grey – and jeez can an American paper be turgid – news could indeed be profitable. Until, of course online made the geographic monopoly fade even as those online sources were trying to capture the grey market.