Navigating a Fast-Changing Landscape

May 14, 2024

1. Industry continues to struggle, but finds a new way forward

The big picture: Layoffs continue, as advertisers pull back, social media algorithms change, and demand declines. News fatigue has set in, while trust in the media has reached a new low.

Yes, but: 2024 is different in a pivotal way. The U.S. presidential election is upon us. Some in the media business are bracing for a “Trump bump,” a surge of public interest and subscription revenue generated around the election. 

What else? Media resources are being channeled toward AI, which is expected to transform the responsibilities and processes of journalists, broadcasters, creatives and advertisers to cut costs and complement storytelling. 

In this edition:

  • The lay of the land for traditional media
  • How to rethink media strategies and land impactful stories
  • Major reporter and editor moves from the past few months

2. Mainstream journalism stalwarts face AI “coopetition”

Job losses among print, digital, and broadcast news organizations increased by nearly 50% in 2023, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

  • The pace has only accelerated in 2024. Fast Company tracked staff reductions at the Los Angeles Times, NBC News, Sports Illustrated, Time, Business Insider, and other prominent publications. 
  • The union representing Conde Nast journalists reached an agreement this week for $3.3 million in total wage increases. The agreement follows a round of 250 layoffs last November.

As newsrooms continue to shrink, however, “coopetition” between the news industry and AI is intensifying.

  • Thomson Reuters CEO Steve Hasker said that the international news wire has an $8 billion war chest to spend on acquisitions and investments in AI. “These models need to be fed,” Hasker said. “And they may as well be fed by the highest-quality, independent fact-based content. We have done a number of those deals, and we’re exploring the potential there.”
  • Axios CEO Jim VandeHei said AI will “eviscerate the weak, the ordinary, the unprepared in media.” Axios is leaning into live events, a membership program centered on its star journalists and an expansion of subscription newsletters.
  • The New York Times this week finalized its AI initiatives team, tasked with “leveraging generative artificial intelligence and other forms of machine learning for the benefit of our journalists and readers.” The team’s initial focus is machine-assisted reporting tactics, while ensuring effective and responsible AI use.
  • Axel Springer paved the way for AI-news partnerships, as it cut a deal with OpenAI for annual payments in exchange for the use of its publications’ digital archives. Other publications took note and started their own partnerships. Financial Times is partnering with OpenAI to enhance ChatGPT with attributed content and incorporate FT journalism into prompts and responses. Dotdash Meredith also agreed to license its content across publications to train ChatGPT.

But not not all publishers are embracing third-party AI tools:

  • The New York Times sued OpenAI in December for copyright infringement, asking for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages.” The Times has spent over $1 million to date on the lawsuit.
  • Eight newspapers (prominent regional dailies) owned by Alden Global Capital are also suing OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement and diluted trademark claims. There is potential for over 60 newspapers to join the suit. 

3. Explore new avenues for media engagement

  • The infamous HARO (Help A Reporter Out, powered by Cision) shut down earlier this year, but its creator is back with a new database for media inquiries. Meet HERO (Help Every Reporter Out). HERO averages 20 inquiries per issue, from journalists at the Today Show, Washington Post, USA Today, Business Insider and more looking for sources. HERO is now partnered with MuckRack to verify all sources and integrate the two platforms together.
  • Startup publications we’re watching:
    • Semafor: Founded in 2022, the site is rapidly expanding and still very much in the startup phase. Semafor is actively recruiting top-tier reporters and last month hosted the World Economy Summit, where over 100 interviews took place.
    • The 19th: Since 2020, The 19th has created digital, newsletter and event content that empowers women and the LGBTQ+ community.
    • 404 Media: Founded by alums from Motherboard/VICE, 404 explores how technology is shaping and is shaped by society. The outlet’s current focus is on digital news and podcasts.
    • Puck: Covering the “intersection of Wall Street, Washington, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood,” Puck has scaled its newsletter reach while also producing podcasts for The Ringer and Audacy.

4. Editor and reporter moves to watch 

Below are some of the big media shakeups from the first few months of the year. As editors and reporters transition to different roles, remember that relationships are #1. Reach out to schedule briefings and stay on their radar, and keep up with their new beats.

  • Diane Brady, executive director of Fortune Live Media and editorial director of Fortune CEO Initiative (previous: assistant managing editor, Forbes) (PR Newswire)
  • Sharon Goldman, AI reporter, Fortune (previous: senior writer, VentureBeat) (X)
  • Brad Stone, editor, Bloomberg Businessweek (previous: senior executive editor) (New York Times)
  • Dana Wollman, senior technology editor, Bloomberg (previous: editor-in-chief, Engadget) (X)
  • Phoebe Connelly, senior editor for AI strategy and innovation, Washington Post (previous: Next Generation Initiative Lead) (Washington Post)
  • Laura McGann, senior editor, Washington Post (previous: executive editor, Grid) (X)
  • Christina Passariello, San Francisco bureau chief, CNBC (previous: deputy business editor, Washington Post) (Talking Biz News)
  • Laura Reston, deputy op-ed editor, New York Times (previous: senior editor) (Editor and Publisher)
  • Gabriela Riccardi, news editor, Quartz (previous: section editor, Quartz) (X)
  • Julie Bort, VC/startups editor, TechCrunch (previous: editor-at-large, Business Insider (Talking Biz News)
  • Cassie McGrath, healthcare reporter, Healthcare Brew (previous: reporter, Boston Business Journal) (X)

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