Good morning! Today’s newsletter is brought to you by Chris.
Pugpig is the publishing platform that powers the world’s leading media brands. Get in touch if you’d like to arrange a demo or come and say hello at the INMA World Congress in New York!
I had missed the launch of The Messenger – and having since read up on it, I’m not sure I had actually missed anything. As Brian Morrissey points out in this excellent examination of the site’s launch, its stated appeal appears to be hearkening back to an imagined era of “impartial and objective news”, while its actual strategy seems to be… being a Daily Mail-lite SEO-driven business. Leaving aside the impossibility of ‘objectivity’, I don’t know how you’d look at what’s happening in the digital economy and decide this is a viable strategy.
Morrissey states: “It has a classic mullet strategy of “non-partisan news” in the front and clicky nonsense in the back. As Jay Rosen noted in a conversation we had last month, news needs new subsidies, and SEO operations have long been a key subsidizer, particularly after viral traffic fell off a cliff. Search traffic dropping by a substantial margin will prove a death knell for many.”
Morrissey’s argument is based on the idea that people are nostalgic for an early era of digital publishing, when succeeding this way seemed possible. But it wasn’t – and there’s precious little about The Messenger’s current content that isn’t easily replicated elsewhere, watering down that nostalgia even further. We desperately want new models for digital news outlets to succeed, but this doesn’t seem like it actually is a new model.
Our own Peter Houston has been taking a lengthy look at how local media can get in on the AI game. You’d have to have buried your head in the sand to avoid all the hype around AI in the newsroom over the past few months, but there’s a big gap between being aware of something and knowing how to start experimenting with it. Well, in this article, Peter sets that all out for you.
And speaking of AI – don’t do this. Effectively, “On Sunday, the Irish Times’ editor Ruadhán Mac Cormaic said the organisation had been duped into publishing a computer-generated article. “It now appears that the article and the accompanying byline photo may have been produced, at least in part, using generative AI technology.” Look, we’re going to see a lot more of this, so everyone needs to be a bit careful about it. But really I included it for that subheading, that is a very special pun.
A lot of the conversation around BuzzFeed News’ collapse and Vice going bankrupt have focused on them both as distinct brands, with unique voices and reputations. I even argued that we need to start really interrogating anyone who argues that a strong brand voice is a differentiator in the market. But while that’s true, this article from Margaret Sullivan argues that we need also look at the digital advertising ecosystem on which they depended. Which is also very true!
More from Media Voices
Some local media organisations have been benefiting from AI for years. I explore what it looks like in practice in this extract from our new report, Practical AI for Local Media.
Our special Practical AI podcast documentary explores how local media organisations have got started with AI projects, the benefits they’re seeing, the challenges they’ve faced and what advice they would give to other publishers looking to get into AI. This episode and our corresponding report have been made possible with the support of United Robots.