This week, we hear from The Wall Street Journal’s Editor of Live Journalism and Special Content Kim Last. She talks about the role of live journalism at the publication, how they adapted when the pandemic hit, and what they are doing to bring events and networking to life virtually as their Future of Everything Festival approaches.

In the news round-up, we discuss Dollar Shave Club pulling its funding from Mel Magazine, ask if Substack Local can solve the issue of news deserts, and test Peter’s knowledge of monthly newspaper subscription prices as Reuters goes behind a paywall. See you on Wednesday for the Publisher Podcast Awards ’21!

The full transcript is live here, or see below for some highlights:

The role of live journalism

When people are like, ‘What is live journalism?’ It’s really another edition of The Wall Street Journal in the same way that there’s a print edition, there’s a digital edition, there’s video, there’s audio, there’s social media. And there’s also this exciting new, growing live component.

I like to think of us as a start-up inside a well-established, well-oiled machine, which is the Journal newsroom.

Events as a live magazine

The big thing we look for is, we source for newsmakers, we source for story ideas. We think of our sessions and our events as almost like a live magazine, if you will, or a live edition of the Journal print paper.

We investigate ideas, we talk to interesting leaders across business and media and technology. And we look to have them say things that are really interesting that we then want to disseminate to our audience.

How the pandemic changed live journalism

The measurement of success was butts in seats, and just making sure that room had the buzz and the energy. Like you want it to be, to quote Hamilton here, ‘In the room where it happened.’ And all of that, obviously was turned upside down, once the pandemic hit.

We had to quickly and swiftly put a pause on everything that we did, and go, ‘Okay. What does it mean to be virtual? Do people actually want to tune in and watch webinars? What can we do to go beyond the webinar and look and feel?’

The future of events

I think we are headed towards a future of hybrid events. If I were to take out my crystal ball, I think the real plus side of this has been the reach of building new audiences through our virtual programmes.

And the reach of convening a newsmaker – or newsmakers plural – who we would have a tough time getting them to commit a whole day to us getting them to fly in a plane, to show up at this particular time and this particular moment.

So there’s a real value to sort of that virtual flexibility

Key stories:

  • “I’d rather leave at the top of our game than die by a thousand paper cuts:” MEL Magazine reinvented men’s media, and now it’s hoping for a second act
  • MEL Magazine to stop publishing after mass layoffs from owner Dollar Shave Club

News in brief:

  • According to new forecasts, the advertising industry is poised to return stronger than ever this year. Marketing budgets are usually the first thing cut in a recession, but because there’s a big predicted consumer bounceback, everything is looking much rosier than in 2008.
  • Facebook is bringing its local news section to the UK, so users can see at a glance what is happening within their home town or city simply by adding that location to their feed. “We want to drive traffic to local sites, helping publishers reach new audiences,” they claim.
  • Buzzfeed has said the pandemic contributed to a 16% drop in revenues from its editions outside the US. It’s reduced its operating losses by 60% this year by selling off operations in Germany and Brazil, as well as closing news operations in the UK and Australia.
  • Platformer’s Casey Newton has launched a ‘virtual newsroom’ with other independent reporters called ‘Sidechannel’. Sidechannel is a Discord server which paid recipients of his newsletter will be able to access. It’s kicking off this week with Mark Zuckerberg as their first guest. 
  • Vox Media has acquired Cafe Studios, a podcast-first publisher focused on the intersection of law and policy with politics, news and business. The acquisition will help Vox Media expand its subscription offerings, events, and expert voices. 
  • TikTok is financially backing the production of a new series from publisher NowThis called VIRAL, which will feature interviews with public health experts and a live Q&A session focused on answering questions about the pandemic. It’s the first time TikTok has funded a series directly from a publisher.
  • Newsletter platform Substack has announced Substack Local, a program to support a new group of up to 30 local news writers on its platform. 
  • Reuters has put its newly redesigned website behind a paywall. It now wants readers to cough up $34.99 a month to access its content – the same as Bloomberg’s digital subscription.
  • Reach plc claims that their regional news titles in print and digital will cover the entirety of England and Wales for the first time by the end of 2021. They’re planning to launch newsbrands in seven areas where they don’t currently have a presence, joining 19 new sites that went live last year.

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