You might have noticed that Rethinking News has been on a hiatus in recent weeks. That's because I've decided to wind it down and launch a different newsletter.
My plan with Rethinking News was to write a series of posts arguing that ad-based business models were harming the quality of journalism. I expected these posts to get significant interest and drive signups for my newsletter. In this way, I hoped to build an audience that was sufficiently concerned about the state of the news industry to support a new, ad-free news organization.
But my conversations with journalists at other news publications revealed a more nuanced situation than I expected. In recent weeks, I've had off-the-record conversations with more than a dozen reporters at major news sites. Most told me they didn't face significant pressure to chase clicks—some didn't even have access to data about their own traffic. One source told me that Vox, where I worked until 2017, had recently phased out formal traffic goals for reporters.
To be clear, I don't think this means that everything is copacetic at ad-supported news sites. There are still some publications out there that are aggressively chasing clicks. I'm sure the editors at other publications have access to traffic data and use that information as they hire and evaluate reporters. At the margin, that probably has negative consequences.
But the news business has evolved a lot since the mid-2010s, when it was more common for editors to evaluate reporters directly on their traffic. Until I started asking around, I didn't realize how fast things had changed. Learning this made me question how distinctive a marketing pitch about the harms of ad-supported journalism would be.
An even more important reason I'm winding down Rethinking News is that I've recruited a co-founder. I couldn't be more excited. Not only will it be more fun to have a collaborator, but I think we'll be able to create a substantially better publication together than either of us could do alone.
The new publication will be a return to my roots; we'll cover economic policy, technology, and related topics. I've had a number of long-time readers tell me that they'd prefer to read a publication focused on these topics, and I've finally taken their advice to heart.
Subscribers to Rethinking News will start getting the new publication automatically. If you'd rather not get the new publication, just click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of this email.
If all goes well, the first post will come out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I'd like to ask readers a favor: please help me name the newsletter. Please click here to fill out a short six-question survey.
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Image by EM80 from Pixabay.