The current crisis was born out of the original sin of digital media.

When it comes to that high-octane, grueling, and fragmented field widely known as digital media, pretty much every week can be considered dreary. The news itself is consistently bad, and it is notoriously bad; Its pace is relentless and overwhelming. Readers are exhausted. Web traffic – that all-important metric for bringing in advertising money – is erratic. Job opportunities are scarce, and solid freelance gigs (aside from sustainable) are hard to find.

However, the last month may go down as one of the Most Crushing and inauspicious periods for digital journalism in living memory. Many seemed to agree that the events of April marked the “end of an era” – though far fewer could agree what the next era might look like. Industry-wide innovation standard-bearers at one time faced tragic fates, and the future of survivors in this field could not look more uncertain.

To sum up the past week alone: ​​On Tuesday, Disney’s multibillion-dollar cost-cutting efforts trickled down to the big-name news brands, with ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, ABC News, and National Geographic Magazine All of which takes a huge hit on their numbers. On Wednesday, Paper Magazine announced it was shedding its editorial staff but aims to keep its brand alive, while Facebook, the giant we can all thank for launching the devastating “pivot-to-video” craze, pivoted far of the video by shutting down her Facebook Watch assets, including the critically acclaimed Jada Pinkett Smith. Red table talk. The next day, Vice Media underwent another brutal round of layoffs, taking on notable journalistic properties like Vice News TonightAnd Vice World NewsAnd audio deputyAnd waypoint. The entire company, which is struggling to find a new financial lifeline, could file for bankruptcy as soon as this week.

All of this budget cut followed a week during which BuzzFeed News was shut down for good, and Insider and the Miami Herald made additional staff cuts. everyone that It was in addition to the terrible layoffs that hit Many other well-liked journalism organizations Throughout 2023, on NPR, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, Bookforum, and NBC News, among others. Junior, Legacy, Online Only, Print, Audio, Video, Specialized, Public Interest, Award-Winning, Bottom of the Barrel, For-Profit, Non-Profit, Public, Private – Almost no type of publishing has spared some kind of cost-cut during these argument. (Mega-powers like the New York Times survive and thrive by offering services outside of journalism, including crossword puzzles, cooking apps, and Wordle.)

This kind of widespread breakdown is as common as it is bizarre and disturbing. The industry lost 5,000 jobs from 2014 to 2017, and more than 15,000 cuts were announced in 2018 alone. When the COVID recession hit, the thousands of additional jobs lost from 2020 onward seemed almost a foregone conclusion. Inevitably, there’s no way the current wave of media layoffs has ended. It’s always a matter of timing. Check back next week for fresh new horrors.

For years, the tech industry has supported digital journalism with advertising revenue, venture capital injections, and far-reaching social platforms. (Slate herself is Microsoft’s once-child.) That support has fallen, and in some cases, has fallen off a cliff, especially as the biggest tech companies have laid off tens of thousands of their employees, many of whom have nothing to do with it. Digital press distribution. The Big Tech bubble burst, and the shards scattered all over digital media.

Journalists have long mourned the publications we’ve lost, wept for the jobs that once were, and suggested forward-thinking and ill-advised solutions. However, it looks different this time. Not least because, at this point, there may be many articles out there about the digital media crisis as jobs are lost in its massive orbit.

I’m proud of where I work, grateful that it survived such headwinds, and fortunate to have a job that I love. I hate that the opportunities I had were denied to so many other talented people who are smarter, more experienced, and less privileged than I am. It’s also gratifying to realize that you can only help others so much, especially in a highly competitive environment: more job seekers are applying for fewer job vacancies, and more freelancers are competing for fewer editors with smaller budgets.

If there’s something about the past month that has seemed particularly dark, it’s probably the confirmation that many of the innovations and alleged disruptions that took hold during the Information Age shift in journalism (aka Tech Takeover) have finally failed. Clump all the familiar terms into one George Carlin-style dialogue: clickbait, Facebook, diversify into the death of the homepage, sponcon, bumps of Trump, pivoting to video, pivoting to virtual reality, pivoting to AI, scaling, scaling down, spreading fast Big, he goes solo. Perhaps the end of the road was foreseeable: If the original sin of the digital economy was to make news free, then the proposed fix—confidence that virility alone can nudge readers on topics that matter—is far from a cure.

This downturn will not mean the end of digital media. And it wouldn’t be the last time that tech-enabled machine-like fixes have been attempted industry-wide. But perhaps the lessons learned from our current intermediate world will better prepare us for the future of the industry. We cannot count on the world of technology to “save” journalism. Confidence in any one “revolution” will ensure that we make the same mistakes once again.

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