March 30, 2018

Innovative New News Brands That Rise Above The Noise

In the last twenty years, news media revenue models have taken a series of gut punches. 
BAM! Craigslist eviscerates classified ads, eliminating a huge chunk of revenue for newspapers.
POW! Millennials sound the death knell for print.
WHAM! Cable-cutting starts to loom over cable news, an otherwise bright spot in the news universe.
POP! Facebook changes its algorithm and online news video ops at Buzzfeed and Vice are forced to slim down.
In the face of two decades of tumult, the innovators fight on. Is anything working?
We have rounded up a few startups that are in the ring and have survived at least the first round. What do they have in common?
  1. Focus, especially on must-have content designed for professionals
  2. Anything but ads. No programmatic, for the most part, for these new entrants. Sponsorships, subscription, branded content drive revenue.
  3. Simplicity. All the new entrants are time to do a great job at one thing—not 20 things—and it shows in the scope of their content, their design, and their delivery strategies.
(BTW, we are upping our link count in this week's newsletter—everything highlighted in yellow is a link.)

Smile And Say "Cheese"

It’s been a long time since the financial news cable shows have had any real competition, but with cable itself increasingly under pressure, Cheddar—an up and coming digital news company—sees white space. CEO Jon Steinberg points out that the median age of CNBC and Fox Business viewers is 67. Where's the opportunity? Millennials who love new and innovative formats, of course. We think he made the right choice, because after only two years, Cheddar has a top line of $11 million, with a second channel on the horizon. Cue Big Cheese jokes.

Burst Into Tiers

"Subscription" for news sounds so old-school—it screams of magazine blow-in cards and musty stacks of National Geographics. But call it a "SaaS model" for news and suddenly you're hitting a different line item in someone's discretionary budget.
Jessica Lessin, founder of tech news brand The Information, is leading the charge on what is, if not a completely new model, at least some damn smart strategy. You've probably noticed that nearly every industry utilizes subscription services, but it can be tough to find the right price for your product. Lessin's answer: great reporting and application of the SaaS model, with all of its optimization via segmentation and tiers. Lots of tiers. Whether you are a student or a hedge fund, you'll have to look elsewhere for one-size-fits-all.

Travel Broadens The Mind

Most travel websites are covered with cheap airfare pop-ups and annoying video ads promoting random restaurants. But that’s not the case at Skift, a B2B travel news website that gets 30 percent of its revenue from branded content. This can range from a campaign with American Express on infrastructure innovation to simple videos with other big brands to a new book and a documentary. This kind of integrated advertising has helped Skift make a profit without skimping on interesting content for its customers. 

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