After weeks of upheaval, the bad news continues to roll in.
Gothamist and DNA Info close failing to meet needed ad revenue, while publishing powerhouses Vice and BuzzFeed perform well below their revenue targets.
With Facebook and Google controlling more than 60% of the ad revenue across the web in the United States, the prospect of a publication surviving, short of having the support of an investor with deep pockets, just got tougher.
Media maven Tina Brown, in a podcast interview with Recode, vented her frustration: “I am very angry and upset about the way advertising revenue has been essentially pirated by the Facebook-Google world, without nearly enough giveback — no giveback, really — to the people who create those brilliant pieces posted all over their platforms. It’s high time they gave back to journalism.”
One answer may be to challenge the status quo.
Publishing has found a wellspring of ad support and a way around the digital behemoths in local media. Writing for Neiman Lab, Christine Schmidt noted Village Media, a Canadian-based media company, developed an advertising model that not only supports daily journalism, but gives the group the ability to expand.
What started as a small website that distributed coupons for local businesses has expanded into a community of six news sites spanning Ontario.
Like any digital publication, Village Media faces the challenges posed by Facebook and Google. Rather than compete with them, they have created a new, specific ad-targeting model, relying on local advertisers to support local news readers want to see.
With so many newspapers in smaller markets closing, the company found residents and advertisers were excited by the prospect of reviving lost media outlets. So far, the model is sustainable.
Village Media manages to stay ahead of the curve financially by using sponsored content, banner ads, rather than pop-ups, which are forbidden, and including a small business directory.
The simplicity of the model is attuned to a small market, but its success offers hope that other publications, large or small, can devise innovative ways to appeal to audiences and advertisers to sustain meaningful journalism.