POLITICO founder chides digital media caught in the ‘crap trap’

April 20, 2016
Category: Newsletters

Good morning.

  1. VandeHei’s unbridled take on present, future
    Jim VandeHei, a co-founder of path-breaking POLITICO who recently exited amid strategic disputes with the boss, seems to be doing a lot of thinking out loud. The latest musings come in an op-ed where he argues that digital firms are on a fatal path of “producing trashy clickbait so they can claim huge audiences and often higher valuations.” (The Information) He argues that they first thought they could produce high-quality content, realized it’s expensive to produce and deluded themselves into believing that misleading headlines, feel-good lists, “sexy photos and exploding watermelons” could bring a mass audience and fat revenues.

    He envisions state and local newspapers going down the tubes with their “flawed business models.” Ditto general interest magazines like TIME and Newsweek. Broadcast and cable TV, in his mind, will be hard-pressed and “clickbait machines such as Gawker” will die or be gobbled up. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Snapchat and a few others will be joined by new media entrants, such as Netflix, Apple and Vimeo. It helps explain why BuzzFeed, Vox and a few others are turning quickly to video content, though in his mind it will largely be video clickbait (he does demur, though, on those chortling over BuzzFeed, noting it will grow revenues by 50 percent this year.

    “Just like the Web destroyed the newspaper world; mobile will destroy the desktop world and on-demand video will destroy the TV and cable world,” he concludes. “But from the rubble will emerge a much better, more eclectic, more efficient way for all of us to watch, read and listen. It will be brimming with content we can be proud of — and happily pay for.”

    Mike Fourcher, a local digital news entrepreneur in Chicago, noted last night to me how VandeHei’s opus is all over the joint. Likewise how others have made similar points earlier and arguably better, such as Gabe Stein in a “hot” piece in February (Medium) and a recent one by Rafat Ali, largely a compendium of what he’s said of a similar sort for years. (Rafat.org) VandeHei might be more engaging if he offered a detailed opus on his POLITICO experience and how that undergirds (good or bad) his vision. And, as Fourcher suggests: “As someone who is busying running a news organization already doing what VandeHei ballyhoos, I suggest he stop by for a chat.”

  2. The New York primary
    Some of our cable TV friends maintained the fiction of a potentially close Clinton-Sanders race even as polls showed something very different. Reality didn’t stop the Fox Alumni Society from bringing us Britt Hume to improbably talk last night about an evolving “squeaker” on the Democratic side. Huh? Clinton crunched Sanders. But Fox offered no such ambiguity on the GOP side especially as Megyn Kelly waxed solicitously about “Mr. Trump” and Sean Hannity, who evinces the bearing of a pro bono Trump campaign aide disguised as a prime time host, fronted a de facto infomercial with the Trump children. The boys harrumphed about the indignities of the GOP delegate selection system and suggested the death of the two parties was imminent amid a populist revolt.

    MSNBC was rather more sober if no less head-turning. First we had Chris Matthews interviewing fabled political analyst Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One more time: Matthews and Abdul-Jabbar. Then Sanders strategist Jeff Weaver stood by a video election board and explained to reporter Steve Kornacki an alternate universe in which he sees Sanders winning the nomination.

    CNN brought back its Brady Bunch of screen-filling pundits and kept heralding a spanking new, on-message, consultant-loving Trump during a solid performance in which a generally firm grasp of the obvious was unavoidably repeated by CNN and its rivals for many hours. Even politics junkies were threatened with redundancy-inspired burnout and were well served by crashing early and reading what the primary meant as far as the limits of Sanders and Cruz. (The New York Times)

  3. New York Daily News dismisses an editor
    “The New York Daily News on Tuesday fired an editor after unearthing a pattern of deletions that made it appear as if a columnist had plagiarized work from multiple news outlets.” (Poynter) Daily Beast Executive Editor Noah Shachtman had accused King of plagiarism, while King took to Twitter to say he wasn’t to blame. Some said the editor shown the exit is Jotham Sederstrom. (CNN) The obviously straight lifts from The Daily Beast by somebody included the especially stupid mistake of reproducing a typo.
  4. Yahoo ‘death spiral’ continues as Verizon makes next stage
    It reporting crappy earnings again as its “death spiral” proceeded apace. (Forbes) Things are so bad, “No one really cares about this weak financial performance — it’s like caring that the crappy plumbing in an old house remains crappy — with the intense focus on the sale.” (Re/code) Thus, “Verizon Communications Inc was set on Tuesday to advance to the second stage of bidding for Yahoo Inc’s core assets.” (CNBC) Yahoo was said to still be reviewing initial offers that met a Monday deadline and were in the $4 billion to $8 billion range. (The Wall Street Journal) Those checking it out include a Japanese online retailer to Yellow Pages owner YP LLC with backing from AT&T. Verizon’s getting help from investment banks Guggenheim Partner, LionTree and Allen & Company, which means that whatever happens, the rich get richer.
  5. Lovely line about Michael Kinsley
    Reviewing a new book on aging by the wonderful Kinsley, who is 65 and afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, Dwight Garner writes: “It depressed me because of the realization that he is now more or less officially old, whatever that means in 2016, and we don’t have more books from him. Mr. Kinsley possesses what is probably the most envied journalistic voice of his generation: skeptical, friendly, possessed of an almost Martian intelligence. If we ever do meet Martians, or any alien civilization, he has my vote as the human who should handle Earth’s side of the initial negotiations.” (The New York Times)
  6. Viacom-Dish pissing match
    “In the latest dust-up between pay-TV giants, Viacom Inc. began warning Dish Network Corp. subscribers they may lose channels including Comedy Central and Nickelodeon late Wednesday because of a fee dispute between the companies.” Viacom was warning viewers of the satellite-TV services that they might now lost the creative joys of watching shows like “Broad City” and “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.” (Ad Age) Now there’s cultural purgatory!
  7. Annals of journalism
    With toothy ex-NFL star Michael Strahan headed to “Good Morning America” from “Live with Kelly and Michael,” we have unidentified “sources” telling The New York Post that Kelly Ripa’s chum, Anderson Cooper, is the “front-runner” to replace Strahan. (New York Post) Cooper fell short with a syndicated show a few years ago, but remains our only network news anchor to get slapped on the butt and dry humped by Madonna on a concert stage. (Poynter)
  8. Fox and Friends early-morning workout
    The Fox crew this morning egged on reporter John Roberts to discard his microphone, turn and run up the so-called Rocky steps in Philadelphia as they sat on a sofa and chanted, “Go! Go! Go!” with high school cheerleader fervor.

    Well, the crew’s Clinton-bashing ways might have been better spent exulting over Dan Balz’s analysis of the negative side of frontrunner Clinton’s polling. Her negatives are rising and outweigh her positives by 24 points, according to an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll.

    “That makes her seen no more favorably than Cruz is. Her only salvation is that Trump’s net negative is minus 41.” Get this: her near record lows include being minus 40 among men, minus nine among women, minus 39 among Whites, minus 25 among White women and a whopping minus 72 among White men. “Her favorability among Whites at this point in the election cycle is worse than President Obama’s ever has been.” (The Washington Post)

  9. There is other news
    CNN ever-so-briefly interrupted its own rehash of the New York primary this morning to offer a report of President Obama arriving in Saudi Arabia. There are rather significant issues to be discussed there. But don’t hold your breath awaiting extensive coverage. It was very soon back to whether Clinton was “putting Sanders in the rearview mirror” and a fruitless back-and-forth between Clinton and Sanders supporters, as well as TV ad spending in the primary.
  10. Mon dieu!
    Here’s looking at a glass half filled: “French daily newspaper Le Figaro will extend its ad blocker ban after being encouraged by the initial results of its weeklong trial, in which 20 percent of ad blocker users switched off their blockers.” (Digiday) Yes, France’s second-biggest paper was one of several to run the trial ad blocker ban. But that still means that 80 percent were still using the blockers.
  11. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
    JM Rieger will join The Huffington Post. Previously, he was video editor at Roll Call. (Email) | Emily Akhtarzandi will run The Atlantic’s Washington sales office. She is the managing director of AtlanticLIVE. (Email) | Job of the day: The Associated Press is looking for an editor. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Correction: Tuesday’s edition of this newsletter incorrectly identified Arne Duncan as the former U.S. Secretary of Labor. He is the former U.S. Secretary of Education.

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