In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post last evening, New Republic owner Chris Hughes confirms what I asserted two days ago: The publication seeks to remain relevant, which won’t happen staying the current course, and that massive staff and contributor resignations are not a clash of journalistic values. My followup published yesterday, explains how I came to see the wisdom behind the magazine’s move to become a “vertically integrated digital media company”, as stated by CEO Guy Vidra.
You could sum up my original post in sentence: “Hughes and Vidra seek profitability and visibility for the New Republic“. The magazine’s owner confirms in the Post opinion: “I didn’t buy the New Republic to be the conservator of a small print magazine whose long-term influence and survival were at risk. I came to protect the future of the New Republic by creating a sustainable business so that our journalism, values and voice—the things that make us singular—could survive”.
Preserving the future isn’t living in the past, and contrary to assertions otherwise by exiting senior editor Julia Ioffe, resigning staffers are dinosaurs. As I asserted yesterday, the New Republic must embrace Millennials if it is to have a future. Hughes writes, and this is the last excerpt because you should read his opinion post:
Former editors and writers who claim in an open letter that the New Republic should not be a business would prefer an institution that looks backward more often than forward and does not challenge itself to experiment with new business models and new ways to tell important stories. Unless we experiment now, today’s young people will not even recognize the New Republic’s name nor care about its voice when they arrive in the halls of power tomorrow.
Traditional journalists, and I am among them, must suck it up. The Internet disrupts editorially-controlled institutions and empowers individuals to gather and publish news. I laid out what was happening in June 2009 post “Iran and the Internet Democracy“. The clash of cultures isn’t the New Republic newsroom but where the Fourth and Fifth Estates meet.
We live in an era of contextual content consumption, and as I explain in my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers: “You must identify your audience and go to wherever it is and build brand share and loyalty…Your content should span venues, as is appropriate reaching your audience whenever, wherever, and on whatever it may be. Remember, you must go to your audience for it to come to you.”.
Traditionalists live in a journalistic fairyland where consolidating content in static publications like the old New Republic is a viable business and audience-retention model. Not in this universe, baby! Try another. Context is why new media startups like BuzzFeed, Vice, or Vox succeed, or Business Insider and Huffington Post. You’re either part of the problem, or the solution. Chris Hughes chooses the latter, and if a journalist, you should, too.
The Internet is the meteor that kills the dinosaurs. That needn’t be you—or, gulp, me.
Disclaimer: I rarely read the New Republic (although that could change); therefore, I am not emotionally-invested in the magazine and so, presumably, more impartial in my commentary. For whatever that’s worth.
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon