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Industry

The struggle of digital journalism

2,100 media jobs have been lost in 2019 already, and the majority are not in print.

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Digital publishers are struggling to profit from online journalism

Buzzfeed announced it would be laying off huge numbers of staff at both its US and UK operations, amounting to 15% of its staff globally. Vice also announced it would be laying off 10% of its workforce, whilst in the UK The Pool, a news website aimed at women, has fallen into administration with around 24 journalists facing redundancy.

The slow decline of newspapers and print media has been well-documented, with the blame falling at the feet of digital advertisers. So, why hasn’t digital journalism survived the cull?

The fingers are being pointed at Facebook and Google, again. By taking such a huge share of the digital advertising market, publishers are struggling to sustain their journalism and The Pool is the latest to fall victim.

Writing for the New Statesman, Clair Woodward warns of a future without quality journalism where all that remains is “cat videos and clickbait.”

She comments on the news of The Pool: “It was a bold, funny, relevant website for women that used a lot of great freelance writers, but it was all available for free, like the content of BuzzFeed, who announced editorial cutbacks this week. The Pool, like comedian Sarah Millican’s online women’s mag Standard Issue, found it couldn’t survive online without a subscription model.”

If the likes of The Pool, Buzzfeed and HuffPost can't make digital journalism pay when they're the experts... then the industry truly is in crisis

The layoffs at Buzzfeed come as a shock, as it was of the first media companies to position itself as an entirely digital publisher which understood what content would go viral and attract traffic to its site.

In an email seen by Press Gazette, Buzzfeed chief executive Jonah Peretti tells staff: “Unfortunately, revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run. The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again.

“These changes will allow us to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.”

Freddy Mayhew, editor of Press Gazette, told the BBC that whilst the media industry has moved with its readers to go more digital, it has yet to find a business model that can sustain its journalism.

He adds: "If the likes of The Pool, Buzzfeed and HuffPost can't make digital journalism pay when they're the experts, who purely publish online with no print offering, then the industry truly is in crisis."

If you have a news story, email summer@linkpublishing.co.uk or follow us on Twitter to have your say.


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