Venture capital kingpin tells media content's not king

Good morning. Here's our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.

It's a sobering thesis for elite media: "Content isn't king."

That's the argument of Benedict Evans, an influential partner at the hotshot Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, in a blog post where he contends most content is fungible and increasingly not associated with any particular platform or brand name.

It's scale that's critical, not quality or the prestige of a brand. Gulp.

Alan Mutter, a San Francisco media analyst who flagged the post, notes in a note how "Publishers ALWAYS tell me they will have a great business because people value their content. Not true. In a digital world, content (like news, music, weather, stock prices, realty listings) is accessible on any number of platforms in any number of bundles (HuffPo, Spotify, cable TV, Google/Apple News, FB/Snap)."

And, except for cable TV, Mutter says, "almost all those platforms are accessible for free (watch for hyper-skinny and cheap cable bundles in the near future)."

When it comes to TV, Evans contends that even as tech companies spend tons of dough on original programming, there are too many players on the buy and sell sides for anybody to dominate. And the only one to really gain "platform leverage" out of such video content is Amazon due to its Prime service, while it also proves that Netflix isn't alone in commissioning and buying great television.

"Prime has become a third pillar to Amazon’s business, next to logistics and the e-commerce platform, and Amazon is always looking for ways to add more perceived value to it, preferably with no marginal cost – TV content that it owns outright is exactly that...Cancel the subscription delivery service and you lose access to all Amazon TV shows."

So, for Amazon and its leader Jeff Bezos, content is king in a fashion, though "The puzzle is whether any of the other tech platform companies (all of which are experimenting with commissioning original TV) have a similar opportunity...Google and Facebook don't have subscriptions to cancel."

"Nor, really, will you fundamentally change your search behavior if Google discovers the next 'Game of Thrones,'" writes Evans. "That is, cancel Prime and you'd lose Amazon, but what do Google & FB have to cancel? Without some platform decision to lock you into, content is marketing, and revenue, but not a lever."

Adds Mutter, "The people who establish themselves as the go-to places to consume content are kings, not the creators of it. Because even the most important story broken after months of work by a news organization will quickly be copied and shared by competitors and aggregators, the competitive (and, therefore, economic) value of the content is minimal (and demonstrably shrinking, per the long-running contraction of the publishing and music industries)."

Pick your apocalyptic adjectives, nouns

Word that two more Republicans senators won't support Sen. Mitch McConnell's Obamacare overhaul is "a stunning blow" (Bloomberg), "a stinging defection" (The Wall Street Journal), "a potentially fatal blow" (Politico) and is "killing for now a seven-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement" (The New York Times).

Oh, Breitbart joins in what some at the White House probably claim is left-wing fake news by conceding the two senators' move "will imperil the bill's chances of passing." And on "Trump & Friends" this morning, reporter Kristin Fisher conceded, "Make no mistake, guys, this is a major blow for President Trump."

Finally, we have media consensus! Red states, blue states, one America!

Delta's response to Coulter

"When conservative firebrand Ann Coulter launched a tirade on Twitter against Delta Air Lines over the weekend, the company pushed back publicly – calling her accusations 'slanderous,' 'unnecessary' and 'unacceptable.'"

"Delta's direct and quick public response, as well as social media users' eagerness to slam a controversial pundit they disagree with, led to many people on Twitter applauding Delta and criticizing Coulter. That's a big change from other recent viral incidents in which fliers clashed with airline staff, most notably the passenger who was dragged off a United Airlines flight earlier this year. In those cases, the internet sided largely with the aggrieved customer." (Fortune)

The point: Delta didn't screw around.

Hiring a civil rights reporter

The Texas Observer, the progressive news magazine founded in the 1950s due partly to the notion "that most of mainstream media was, at best, ignorant of civil rights and, at worst, complicit in protecting racist institutions" is hiring a full-time civil rights reporter.

Editor Forrest Wilder explains the move (with funding help from the Ford Foundation) as partly reflecting a bunch of recent federal court rulings that the Republican-dominated state legislature intentionally discriminated against racial minorities, notably via new voter ID laws or GOP-led redistricting. But those losses "don’t seem to have deterred Republicans."

As publisher Mike Kanin conceded that, for sure, it's had reporters whose work converged on civil rights "but we have not had anyone focused full-time on civil rights in a formal way. Our staff is small – just 12 people at the moment – so for us this is a serious commitment of resources."

"Al Jazeera in the crosshairs"

"The Trump administration is once again sending mixed messages on Qatar and the crisis among U.S. Gulf allies." (ABC News) What a surprise! But getting much less attention is how the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, wants Qatar to shut Al Jazeera, which it started in 1996.

It's why one has to give the network credit for covering the attacks on its existence via its English-language, London-based media show, "The Listening Post."

The American right's caricature of Al Jazeera aside, it's long infuriated many Arab rulers who prefer their state-controlled media. It was the first Arab news channel to give voice to Israeli officials and gave extensive coverage to the Arab uprising (some would say it went a bit overboard and was too sympathetic).

Check out this segment on what it faces, which includes reference to President Trump as "untroubled by nuance of the geopolitical kind" as he's signaled support for isolating Qatar.

And speaking of Qatar

The Washington Post's fine and popular political blog, The Daily 202, included a rather prominent banner ad across the top yesterday that proclaimed:

"QATAR
Destabilizing the Middle East
Funding Extremists"

The ad was ham-fisted and, no surprise, was paid for by SAPRAC, the Saudi Arabian Public Relations Affairs Committee.

A student's best friend

For 10 years attorney Frank LoMonte has run the Student Press Law Center, a Washington-based nonprofit that supports students in First Amendment cases. Here's a nice profile published by both Poynter and the American University School of Communication as he heads to the University of Florida.

Oh, what state arguably has the greatest protections for high school and college students? Bzzzz. Try North Dakota, in part thanks to LoMonte's efforts.

Ebony's ignominious award

"Magazine folks generally love awards, but this is one prize they’re probably not going to frame and hang on the wall."

"Ebony magazine received the distinct dishonor of a 'Thumbs Down Award' from the National Association of Black Journalists, who blasted the publisher for its continuing failure to pay scores of freelancers. If that’s not bad enough, the magazine is also the target of a lawsuit brought on behalf of its aggrieved, unpaid contributors." (MediaPost)

R. Kelly's "cult"

Jim DeRogatis, co-host of the long-running "Sound Opinions" rock music radio show and former Chicago Sun-Times rock critic, surfaces in BuzzFeed to write that parents have told cops that R. Kelly is running an abusive "cult."

"Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle – Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee – provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records."

Lead of the day

Writes Chicago's Howard Tullman, who runs the city's big tech hub, "These aren't the best of times for the tech industry. Every day another jerk emerges as the latest poster boy of ego and entitlement, someone who can't figure out how to keep his hands to himself and/or his ugly mouth shut. And the many feeble attempts and faux justifications made in the name of speed and scale doesn't really advance the discussion or explain the situation, either." (Inc.)

Meanwhile, Recode's Kara Swisher tells NBC's Megyn Kelly this about Silicon Valley culture: "It sounds like a fraternity, it sounds like idiotic juvenile behavior and that’s all part of it. ‘We’re just boys having fun’ and being toxic at the same time.” (Recode)

Gen Z's media habits

"Seventy-three percent of people aged 2 to 20, known as Generation Z, have video game consoles, 7 percentage points more than the next-most-likely gamers, millennials. Generation Z is also fondest of tablets, with 78 percent having one in their homes. But as Gen Z is still so young, it’s possible they’ll lessen their video game and tablet habits as they grow up. People between 2 and 20 account for 26 percent of Americans and is the most racially diverse age group." (Recode)

"Arrogant, insufferable and dangerously unhinged"

Once again, you saw such a description in The Washington Post. However, this time it wasn't about Trump but the Washington Redskins after a low-rent move to embarrass their quarterback amid botched contract negotiations.

Morning babble

"Senate GOP Health Bill Collapses" was the CNN "New Day" chyron, while MSNBC's "Morning Joe" went with "Fish or Cut Bait Health Care Plan Abandoned." "Trump & Friends"? It went with "Clinton's Kremlin Controversy." Huh?

But as cable was briefly (only briefly) deflected from its 24/7 Russia obsessions (albeit of different sorts) by the health bill collapse, an editorial in the frequently Trump friendly Wall Street Journal argues that "pre-emptive disclosure" is the antidote to politically damaging future revelations since “Mr. Trump somehow seems to believe that his outsize personality and social-media following make him larger than the Presidency. He’s wrong.”

Co-hosts Joe Scarborough at MSNBC and Alysin Camerota on CNN read that line with fervor, with CNN pundit Errol Louis calling it "perfectly sound advice." Yes, validation can be found in the oddest places.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

  • Profile picture for user jwarren

    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

Comments

Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon