It was a sunny morning like any other (it was yesterday) when the shocking news fell on Mediatown: The future of a much-ballyhooed web start-up, Racket, was in Limbo's grasp, due to warring egos, shifting amounts of start-up capital, allegations of harassment, and managerial backbiting.
Such a report causes content producers and media analysts to pace around their standing desks. How to feel? Should one feel schadenfreude (only feel, because no one can pronounce it correctly)? Should one give their boss a mickey of gin to express gratitude for their shitty Tweeting job, knowing that all media positions have a shelf life of +/- two years? Or should one fall to their knees in Nietzschean despair, and go read old Vanity Fair articles in the bathroom?
We urge you not to panic and to consider history—as in the year 2009, when there were no media jobs. That is simply not the case anymore. Now there are so many places (websites) where an aspiring journo or journa can be mediocre, thanks to venture capital and the internet. Unfortunately, not all of these outlets will last, because the internet is a big bubble, there is no sustainable model for advertising on content sites, and most media jobs don't make sense and produce garbage content.
Lucky for you, we have looked into our crystal ball (aka our brains) and foreseen the future: we can tell you, with an alarming degree of certainty, which new media outlets will survive, and which will float down to www.riverstyx.com. Join us on this journey.
1) Bloomberg (the remix)
The old mayor's rag is on the warpath to bolster its brand and become the news source of... the political élite? The mega-mega rich-rich? Men (mostly of the white color)? All of the above? They are doing so by hiring a lot of aforementioned men. Let's run down the list of Bloomberg's marquee six-figure-plus hires in the last several months: John Heilemann, Mark Halperin, Dave Weigel, Gabriel Snyder, Justin Smith, Nathan Richardson, Josh Topolsky, Joe Weisenthal, Eli Lake, and Josh Rogin. Whew! What a softball team! We're sure they've hired some women as well, but those press releases haven't made Capital New York. They're probably just in the planning stages of a style vertical or something.
Odds of survival: Money is air at Bloomberg so when they run out of it we will be dead.
Despite harboring a plagiarist and sponsoring a genocide of thousands of "below-par" posts, BuzzFeed has become the internet's darling little man-site. BuzzFeed has a thick head of hair and a great jawbone. It only dates the most beautiful women. BuzzFeed is the JFK Jr. of the internet. It is the site that has everything and can do no wrong, except fail the bar exam twice, drive a shitty political magazine into the ground, date Sarah Jessica Parker and Daryl Hannah, and fall victim to a family curse. Be careful BuzzFeeD.
Odds: High. $50 million in venture capital will last at least six months.
Honestly, Vox is terrible. Vox is a defective puppy-mill puppy, the even-more-defective-and-inbred-than-baseline result of a brief craze, overbred with all sorts of crazy-sad heart problems. Vox is also doing better traffic and growing more quickly than Gawker, and is extremely popular with "Millennials." Euthanize Vox immediately.
This year Vice went to Ukraine and Iraq and Sierra Leone and produced some frattily charming actual journalism. Next year it will go to Washington D.C. to "shake some cages and go crazy and create some enemies" and ask some fuckin questions of those bozos in charge. Colt 45 and Converse will sponsor. Some amount of that money will trickle down to the writers blogging about their experience shrooming at the National Portrait Gallery.
There's an interesting coleslaw of news stories to choose from at Fusion, the mysterious news outlet that recently hired former Reuters scribe Felix Salmon and Jezebel's Anna Holmes and Dodai Stewart. Fusion is, evidently, a cable channel, but also a news, pop culture and satire site, featuring stories like "Deported mom lives in fear after returning to Honduras" and "Exploring the sexy, dope side of Africa." It's unclear what the site's new hireds have yet contributed to it; Salmon seems to be doing most of his pontificating on Twitter. We wait with bated breath.
Odds: Medium-high, since they are apparently loaded.
It's funny how everyone was really scared of FiveThirtyEight before it launched, and then it did and didn't get any traffic. Which is strange, because they published sexy pieces like "The Most Blah Governors in the United States," this article about the Nigerian kidnappings that "contains many errors, some of them fundamental to the analysis," and this article by a climate-change denier (who was later fired).
Well, it doesn't really make a difference. No matter how much Nate Silver tweets about getting arrested while holding a burrito while white, FiveThirtyEight is gonna get bananas traffic when Hillary Clinton/Elizabeth Warren challenge Rand Paul/Cliven Bundy for the presidency in 2016. Even we may tune in.
Odds: Medium-kind of high.
Not really sure what this site is. Is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it Paul Ford? Is it nothing? Is it the future? Is it the past? We hear that it pays well. Maybe it can pay us for this review. We accept Venmo and PayPal. Thanks.
Odds: Medium. lol
8) The Awl Network
Edith Zimmerman is so funny!
Odds: Really high!
9)The Huffington Post
Ah, Ye Olde HuffPo. The gem of Arianna's eye is old now, at a creaky nine years. It's the grandpa of start-ups. HuffPo has always been a power-player during elections season, and even won a Pulitzer in the brief time it tried to be a respectable journalistic outlet. Since then most of the "respectable journalists" have left, (not really including the alleged sexual harasser who once managed the the entire thing, but he left too), and the site continues to traffic in clickbaity headlines, promotions of Arianna Huffington's cult-y books, and hiring 9/11 truthers. Fortunately, behemoth AoL still runs a nifty subscription dial-up service that caters to the elderly, which should subsidize HuffPo for a few more years. A success story for modern times.
At Bill Simmons's utopian sports and pop-culture site that not even Bill Simmons really wanted to build, most of the content is about SNL, Bill Simmons and balls. The site was named for Grantland Rice, a long-dead golf journalist "known for his elegant prose" (it sucks like only a dead man's prose can). Grantland may be fine when it sticks to sports and pop culture, but when it goes beyond that, things get freaky, lest we forget how staggeringly the site fucked up a story on a transgender woman and a golf club. Also, Bill Simmons sucks and ESPN sucks worse and they hate each other now. Somewhere in hell, ol' Grantland R. hangs his head.
Odds: As a ESPN property, low; as a Bleacher Report property, high.
Mic, née PolicyMic, was founded on the principle that "young people deserve a news destination that offers quality coverage tailored to them." Because... young people can't read the big people newspaper? Because... young people don't read BuzzFeeD? Because... young people don't know how to use Google News? We give it a year.
ViralNova is what happened when BuzzFeeD mated with Upworthy and produced a mutant alien. Though we do have to say we did really enjoy this article on a bathroom completely made of chocolate. "Ho, ho, ho," went our old-man brains. There's some sort of poetry to a site that is just a whore for trending content. It asks nothing, wants nothing of you. There is no moral, no lesson. Just clicks. Hot clicks for days. We'd imagine this is how a misogynist feels about women. We wouldn't know!
Odds: We don't care.
"Quartz is a global business news brand launched in September 2012 for people who are excited by change. It serves as a digital guide to the new global economy. Designed for an efficient, mobile reading experience, Quartz serves business professionals who travel the world, are focused on international markets, and value critical thinking." In short: For assholes, by assholes.
Odds: Burn it down.
13) The Toast
The Toast is both an inside joke and a statement about women. The statement is that women can run a successful website about nothing, which is true and great! However, Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg, the editors of the site, boast about "bootstrapping" a successful business, and yet won't disclose their site's financials. Whyyy not? Okay done with this one bye.
14) The Intercept
A worldly billionaire. A journalist who lives with a pack of dogs. A former Gawker editor. Encrypted content. The NSA. Another web magazine that just imploded on its face. What could go wrong? Probably nothing.
Odds: Five years.
15) Gawker Media
A tax shelter for a Hungarian businessman, run as a network of second-tier gossip blogs with no gossip and very little actual blogging. Stagnant traffic but still beating all competitors in unearned self-regard and smugness. Best-case scenario is everything except Lifehacker gets sold off. More likely: Kinja actually works and the sites become a kind of liberal-arts Reddit, only a quarter as big and an eighth as interesting. Everyone says io9 is good but we're not sure anyone reads it.
Odds: Til our next paycheck.
[Image by Jim Cooke]