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article imageOp-Ed: Buzzfeed layoff massacre — Time to do something new?

By Paul Wallis     Jan 25, 2019 in Internet
New York - You have to wonder who’s going to be around to produce news, fake or otherwise. The chainsaw is back. Buzzfeed, icon of social news media, has been cutting deep, losing 43 of its news team, including the entire national news desk.
The Buzzfeed layoffs are quite enough to send a shudder through anyone in the news sector. They bring back memories of the slash and burn days of mainstream news media, and do call in to question the business models of just about all news organizations.
Buzzfeed cut:
• Health
• National desk, including the editor
• National security
• 100 people in total
In fairness, profitability and meeting costs is no trivial issue for any media organization. Doing business responsibly, without racking up debt, is no joke. Lines do have to be drawn. The question remains, however, now underlined by the layoffs, how do you “grow” while reducing human capacity to deliver news?
Do cuts work?
There’s another issue here, and it’s much less obvious. The fixes for lousy news organization structuring and models haven’t done a lot. Mainstream news went on a rampage of people-cutting, and isn’t much better off as a result. The business models are still outmoded, still “grab the cash any old how” for revenue, and not much new, let alone forward-looking, has been the result.
How do you “grow” news media?
News media seems to still have some image of itself as a sort of Daily Planet, with Superman as the mild-mannered growth engine. This image could only be more out of date if people were still publishing on the good ‘ol clay tablets. Forget fake news generators, gaga commentators, and the rest of the fast food packaging. To be interesting, to get revenue and readers, to get ad clickthroughs, and to get decent market share, news has to be useful.
What works, what doesn’t work
Let’s face it, the cookie cutters are getting old, and worse, stagnant. Celebrity culture, the global conspiracy by red carpet manufacturers, can only go so far, and it’s gone that far. Sleaze sells, but only if you’re the National Inquirer, or whatever that rag’s called.
This is a totally different, evolved, audience. Nobody goes online for this crap any more, because they can source it themselves.
“Useful” means:
• High relevance meeting specific user needs
• Good quality content, preferably unique and insightful
• Unique information, preferably well condensed and laid out
• Good links to references
• Of value to shoppers, researchers, PR, marketing, etc.
• Clear access to things people want or need.
• High value features of any kind, from intelligent marketing to one-off campaigns. (Promos can deliver more than revenue, y’know, Mr Ed.)
• Great presentation, using top quality media, and considered content to do something undeniably good.
“Useful” does NOT mean:
• Cluttered crap, with digressions, agendas, or anything that can’t be considered clean, reliable information.
• Implied porn, crime worship, or the rest of the good ‘ol do-nothing media ulcers promoted by hacks.
• Alt Right “urinal graffiti news” of any kind. Old and out of date, and only sells to de-evolved nutcases, anyway.
• Endless clicking of Next Pages and other online procedural crap
• Full of brain dead ads (People are sick of being sold something every damn second 24/7/365. Stop it, you fools, you’re killing markets.
• Some lousy imitation of Twitter or Facebook
• Mindless mid-market demography pitching everything to someone whose entire demographic probably died 40 years ago. Works on rednecks, but nobody else.
• Middle aged Wankers R Us exercises aimed at the youth market of ANY kind. (It’s amazing the youth market is still alive after being subjected to this claptrap for so many generations. How to train people for sales resistance 101. What the hell makes you think you can find the real youth market, anyway?)
Buzzfeed struck a pretty good medium in the useful categories, and managed to almost entirely avoid the un-useful stuff. I wasn’t much of an admirer when they started, but they grew up, they spread out, and added a lot of meaningful reach in the process, good pro work in news media.
Which is why I’m worried. This model IS working. It is delivering, and can you expect big revenue to come in fast? Facebook and Twitter had a pretty bumpy ride to profitability, in the same core market. Buzzfeed is in many ways the test crash dummy for new media, and it needs to get things right.
Any media business person will tell you that if you want to age a few decades in a day, monitoring cashflow will do it for you. You can be a 50 year old 30 year old in a few enlightening hours.
However – It’s not all about cashflow. Media is like champagne (excuse the sarcasm or not) in that the bubbles are high visibility, but the good stuff is what sells it.
Modern marketing’s “despise the market” neuro crap doesn’t work on this level, at all. People identify with information. They follow commentators, experts, doyens, mavens, and the rest of the Audubon Society’s Least Wanted, because they like it.
Hard product blues
Think about it – What does news media actually deliver? News, maybe. Imagery, sure. Vibes, definitely, rabid or otherwise. All at breakneck speed, the original 5 second attention span incarnate. News media shoots itself in the foot, where its mouth usually is, with this breathless haste. World ends, now the sports news.
Screw that. News media around the world is sitting on high value hard product which it could market anywhere on Earth, and it’s not doing a damn thing.
How about these for market resources:
• TIME Magazine archives?
• News Corp archives?
• The New York Times archives?
• ABC, CNN, BBC, etc.
Good journalists and editors can turn anything in to a package. You don’t even have to produce physical product, just pack it for download at $X per package.
A few possibilities:
• The Collected Wisdom of Donald Trump
• Rush Limbaugh, The Shy Years
• Everything America’s Invented Which Some Geriatric Idiot Didn’t Develop And Is Now Made By The Chinese
• Teresa May, The New Messiah?
• Jacob Rees Mogg, Unhyphenated Bastard or Saint?
• The Big Brexit Embarrassing Colouring Book For Morons
• Everything you always wanted to know about someone or other
• Classic interviews with….
Honestly, there’s an entire thesaurus going begging here. It’s all saleable, it’s all good, it’s all worth doing.
Marketing Plus
Another thing media and its various plug-ins could do is try marketing pitches, way beyond direct marketing. What can you market online, without annoying the genome out of the whole of humanity? Try it, it’ll work. New tech odds and ends, in particular, will get attention.
Good luck, BuzzFeed, but for god’s sake don’t cut your own throats like the old media news did. What about that public offering that didn’t happen, for example? That’s hard money, and a lot of it, to cover the gaps while you grow. Investors, if nobody else, know you need space and time to build. Give it a shot, and try the many options available.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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