The New York Times Style section published a story this week on This.cm, the Atlantic Media funded social platform we wrote about this summer. While there’s no doubt the platform has grown since August, not everyone agreed with the headline.
Meanwhile, independent media journalist Simon Owens had a story on his website that took a slightly less rosy view of the network. Owens points out that a network meant for sharing high-quality, longer pieces of journalism is most likely to be used in the evening hours, when users are looking for the lean-back experience associated with mobile devices. The problem, Owens pointed out to founder Andrew Golis, is that right now This.cm is optimized for desktop and clunky to use on mobile. Here’s what Golis had to say to that:
“All the decisions about how to approach it were premised on what is the most flexible and inexpensive way to test the idea,” he said. “There are a few problems that go with launching something as an app. One is you live and die by the Apple App Store. Secondly, it’s very hard to originate sharing inside of a mobile app. There’s tons of resharing inside mobile apps, but if you look at Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter, a lot of the original sharing has to start somewhere else, because it’s so hard to copy a link, leave the app, go into another app, and then paste it.”
Owens story has This.cm’s membership at around 4,800 users, a figure which undoubtedly increased with the Times story. (I can say for certain that my remaining six invitations to the platform were quickly snapped up.) But it’s not clear whether the exclusive vibe of the boutique platform will be enough to propel This.cm to the heights Golis has planned.
Andrew Sullivan — perhaps the archetypal news blogger, one of the earliest traditional-media journalists to embrace the then-new form — is calling it quits. The reasons: burnout, stress, health issues, and a general desire to do something else.
…I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
Sullivan, editor of The New Republic back in the 1990s, blogged on his own, for The Daily Beast, Time, and The Atlantic, and most recently under the independent brand of The Dish, launched two years ago as a test of his anti-advertising, pro-paid-content ideas for supporting online journalism. He got about 30,000 people to pay up, which generated around $1 million a year in revenue.
To understand Sullivan’s place in the blogging firmament, you should check out the lengthy interview he gave the team behind Riptide in 2013, in which he dove deep into his history with the medium, his views of its strengths, and why he (at least at that time) was still doing it. There’s a transcript on the Riptide site; I’m embedding the two-part videos below.
I knew it in an intellectual sense by the end of the ’90s. You just saw. At the same time, the ’90s was a time when there was this huge crash. I wanted, as a writer with a bunch of materials, to have a website. I thought I should have a website. Everybody else has a website. I had a good buddy. I didn’t know anything about it, so I said, “Would you please put my pieces up on the website so that there’s a resource I can build up?”…
Every time I called him up to say, “Could you post a new piece of mine?” He would be, “Fine,” but it wasn’t his day job. Eventually, he said, “Here’s this new platform called Blogger.com. Why don’t you put up your own pieces?” Politely. I was like, “Cool, sure!”
A new census from Duke’s Reporters’ Lab says that fact-checking sites are on the rise worldwide:
The 2015 Fact-Checking Census from the Duke Reporters’ Lab found 89 that have been active in the past few years and 64 that are active today. That’s up from 59 total/44 active when we did our last count in May 2014. (We include inactive sites in our total count because sites come and go with election cycles. Some news organizations and journalism NGOs only fact-check during election years.)
The survey also found that the use of true/false ratings scales was on the rise, though “Pants On Fire” hasn’t become the universal synonym for lying:
Many rating systems use a true to false scale while others have devised more creative names. For example, ratings for the European site FactCheckEU include “Rather Daft” and “Insane Whopper.” Canada’s Baloney Meter rates statements from “No Baloney” to “Full of Baloney.”
You may remember a year ago I posted this short piece that detailed the decline of free daily newspapers in Europe. (“Remember how, a few years ago, some thought that Metro and others of its free ilk would sweep into the space paid dailies were leaving behind? It didn’t work out exactly that way.”) I included this chart by Piet Bakker, perhaps the world’s top analyst of free newspapers:
Since free dailies have only one source of income — advertising — the economic crisis hit this sector harder than other print media. Apart from that, there is a general decline in print circulation, probably because younger generations don’t use print that often. This generation was always rather interested in free dailies but now increasingly uses mobile phones during the time that they used to read a free newspaper. And just before the crisis, many free titles were launched (in 2005-2007), which resulted in fierce competition among free papers, hurting the business model even more.
Bakker is also reviewing the situation for free dailies across the world in a 67-part series — the man has stamina! So far, he’s run through Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. (Estonians: Get ready!) He expects to finish Europe by mid-February, then move to the rest of the world.