BuzzFeed, Vice and Vox were new media darlings. They promised to deliver valuable millennial readers to advertisers and their established-media investors, and pioneered distributed content models that relied on social media rather than home pages as the best destination to consume their content.
Prospects are starting to cloud. Investors are demanding results for the vast valuations they’ve awarded digital news, and BuzzFeed and Vice are missing revenue targets. Revenues from distributed content aren’t living up to expectations – the big social platforms are holding on to new revenues, rather than sharing. Millennial viewers aren’t enthusiastic about the cable TV shows Vice is producing, while BuzzFeed’s much-touted serious news division is a lower priority than its Los Angeles video content studio. There are rumours of spin-offs and philanthropical support.
A bigger problem is Facebook’s prioritisation of personal stories in its news feed, which will see fewer publisher stories in user feeds. While spokespeople for digital news organisations are putting a brave face on Facebook’s changes, it can’t be easy to base your business model on the whims of the social media giant, which will always put its users and investors ahead of content providers.
More: Financial Times (£)