- The case for media optimism
The case for media optimism
We believe that knowledge creators are our future
Hi, everyone! The similarities between 2020 and 2024 are really getting out of hand: Chiefs vs. 49ers in the Super Bowl, Biden vs. Trump in the election, Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring, Adam Neumann doing dumb sh*t with other peoples’ money…Zoom happy hour, who’s in??
—Kinsey, cofounder and head of editorial
A Rare Dose of Media Optimism
In January alone, 538 journalists were laid off in print, broadcast, and digital media, from upstarts like the Messenger to storied newsrooms like the Washington Post and the LA Times. The barrage of workforce reduction efforts has inspired many a think piece on what the future of journalism might look like—scary, fundamentally unstable, incapable of profit, etc.
When waves like this come crashing down on traditional media, it’s easy to cower in fear or, worse yet, scream into the void (Twitter) about the alarmingly high stakes (the future of our representative democracy) with zero regard for what might be done to fix this mess. I’m guilty!
This time around, though, I find myself less despondent. It’s a strange sensation, but I think I might still have some hope for the future of news media? And there’s one specific reason why this wave of layoffs has left me less pessimistic.
I have seen the future of media, and it looks damn good.
Allow me to explain. Shifts in talent, skill, and T&Ps (tastes and preferences) are a side effect of innovation, the ultimate currency of capitalism. New technologies and new standards for quality require the often uncomfortable changing of the guard.
We’re in the middle of one such shift in the news media world right now. We’ve grown tired of institutions across the board, from churches to governments to, of course, media. No one knows what “above the fold” means anymore, and young people certainly aren’t watching CNN with their morning oat milk latte. Instead, we prefer getting news from social media—specifically, digital creators…not major news organizations. For realsies:
As of last fall, roughly a third of adults under 30 regularly scrolled TikTok for news, a 255% increase from 2020. And we’re probably not the first to tell you that everyone cool is starting a newsletter. Video killed the radio star; TikTok killed the cub reporter.
Ordinarily, that kind of reality check would elicit from yours truly a grumpy soapbox on the intellectual failings of criminally irresponsible social platforms and the irreversible and terrifying effects of the media illiteracy epidemic.
But today, I’m kind of vibing. Because I know that this is innovation at play—knowledge creators (read this) are the future of media. They are changing everything about how we consume news and important information.
And while the risks are plentiful (platforms’ refusal to be “arbiters of truth,” far too many irresponsible creators unwilling to recognize the power of their voices, the dissolution of the concept of accuracy as a whole, Andrew Tate, etc.)...the rewards are considerable.
Because knowledge creators make important information more accessible to more people. They speak in a language their audiences can understand. They know what matters, intimately. And when they create content responsibly, with an acute awareness of the power their platforms guarantee, we can all benefit. Suddenly, industries are less boring, voters are less apathetic, and barriers are lower.
For example: Knowledge creators have actively impacted President Biden’s energy policy, and they’ve offered invaluable perspectives on the human toll of the Israel-Hamas war—they’re not just posting silly videos, they’re leaving a mark on the world as a whole.
At Smooth, we’ve been fortunate to work with knowledge creators who both understand the power that comes with having an audience and make the most of it.
Our partner Hannah Williams, who founded Salary Transparent Street, has done so much to further conversations about compensation that she’s been asked to testify in front of lawmakers on the importance of pay transparency legislation.
In The Publish Press, a newsletter about the creator industry, we regularly cover weighty issues like the future of child protection laws on social platforms and the impact of AI for creators.
Our partner Matt Wolfe is regularly welcoming new people to the world of artificial intelligence with insightful, transparent, and nuanced content via Future Tools.
Simply put, working with the cream of the crop has inspired optimism in this once bitter former journalist. I see how creators can preserve and seek truth, all while connecting more deeply with their audiences than a faceless legacy media brand can in today's environment.
News media is not going to disappear. It’s just going to shift, and some legacy publications might not survive that shift. Of course, that doesn’t make news of hundreds of talented, thoughtful journalists losing their jobs any less brutal—it sucks, and it’s sad.
But I remain optimistic that this is not an extinction-level event, but rather a rejiggering. It’ll take time for the full picture to come into view, and I’m certain that the full picture of the future will look very different from today’s. But there is a path forward for a healthy news media industry. I’m pretty sure it’ll involve blurring lines between journalists and creators, a new role for media brands, and more creator-founded and creator-led media companies like the ones we’re building at Smooth.
And for what it’s worth…we’re always hiring for newsletter writers and reporters. We’d be jazzed to tell you more about the next frontier in media.
Are events the liferaft the media industry needs right now?
The financial realities of being a freelance writer (editor’s note: I don’t agree with this person’s take on newsletters but it is worthwhile to understand how precarious things are).
Betches is partnering with news creator Vitus “V” Spehar (@underthedesknews) on a politics/election coverage podcast called American Fever Dream. We love this tie-in! This is what I was talking about re: the next shift in media!
A billionaire roofing family is reportedly in talks to buy Air Mail, the newsletter startup from ex-Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, for about $50 million, per Semafor.
And in other interesting newsletter news: Local newsletter company 6AM City has raised $10+ million in a series A led by local broadcaster Tegna.
#digibuzzcodevoxious is a term we coined back in our Morning Brew days—a portmanteau of Digiday, BuzzFeed, Recode, Vox, and Axios. Obviously, the year was 2018 and the interest rates were zero. But still, the sentiment of “interesting media trends and news” remains. So the name stays.
Thanks for reading! Have a great week—see you next time. And don’t forget, it’s Valentine’s Day next week! ILY, mean it!