Another One Bites the Dust: Money and Media
The Dissolve was one of the best places on the web for film criticism. I liked a lot of their features like Forgotbusters which reexamined movies that were top money makers when released and then vanished into the sands of time. There was also One Year Later which took a fresh look at movies one year after their release date to see if the critical appraisal held up.
I suspect that we will see a lot more of this kind of stuff in the next few years because it seems that a lot of print and on-line media organizations are still struggling to be profitable in the on-line economy.
Print media largely never made money off of subscriptions or sales at the newsstand. The subscription was a loss-leader and the real profit came from advertisements. As much as people like to hate-read or rage against the fluff of the New York Sunday styles section but it pays the bills for the in-depth reporting of the front page. Full-page ads from up-scale retailers also pay the ads.
Other magazines like The New Republic, The Nation, The National Review, and the American Conservative largely survived on the patronage of wealthy benefactors. Alt.Weeklies like the Village Voice and Boston Phoenix also needed advertisements.
This all collapsed with the Internet. The Boston Phoenix and Bay Area Guardian shutdown. A lot of local newspapers went to thrice weekly or on-line only forms. The on-line media that seems to thrive is often seen as being ethically dubious because of “sponsored content” and/or being entirely about fun and entertainment. Buzzfeed is usually held up as the prime example of the sponsored content evil. I like some stuff Buzzfeed does. I also like their lighter side. Buzzfeed Tastes tests are amusing. A lot of sponsored content is clearly labeled as such. This listicle on 13 Nutella Facts is not labeled as sponsored content but there is a thought in my head that Nutella must have paid something for it. I am not as opposed to sponsored content as Andrew Sullivan but I do think it should be clearly labeled as such and do worry about sponsored content creep getting in the way of factual-reporting.
Other companies that seem to thrive are Thrillist and Eater which are largely about how well to do urbanites can spend their money on food, booze, and maybe some other recreation. I like thrillist and check them out but I would not want to live in a world where most media was thrillist and there was no reporting on the goings on of local government and events or culture with a critical eye.
I don’t know if there is anything or anyone to blame for awesome publications like the Dissolve closing. Sam Adams notes that a lot media fails after a few years. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who like long and in-depth reporting also pride themselves as not being marketable to and patting themselves on the back for varying degrees of anti-consumerism. Lawyers, Guns, and Money or Gawker is a great place to find a Sunday Styles hate read. They will also spend a lot of time talking about an in-depth report that appeared on the front page of the New York Times as very important. I often wonder where they they think the New York Times gets the money to do the months-long and in-depth reporting. This could be a problem without a solution. I would find a world without long-form journalism a bit to a lot worse off though but most people don’t seem to care for long-form.