the audit

Audit Notes: NYT TV, Blodget invests in a paywall, Downworthy

The Times can't keep up with advertiser demand for video ads
January 31, 2014

Capital New York’s Joe Pompeo reports that The New York Times can’t create enough video to satisfy advertiser demand and had to leave money on the table last year.

If the promise of video is that it commands higher rates in an online marketplace where value is declining by the day, the problem with the medium (at least for upscale, text-native publications like the Times, where quality trumps quantity), is that when you’re in the business of the type of video that attracts advertisers who pay the big bucks, creating inventory turns out to be an extremely resource-intensive and time-consuming endeavor. Demand can therefore outpace supply…

“The question is, ‘Can they grow digital revenue?’ And the easiest way to grow digital revenue is video,” said Doctor. “If they can grow digital revenue, then The New York Times has a shot at 1- to 3-percent revenue growth in 2014, and that would be a major milestone.”

As far as newspaper-industry problems go, this is a good one to have. And Pompeo reports that video-ad rates are holding up—so far, anyway.

Adweek reports that Henry Blodget’s Business Insider—the epitome of a business-news clicks model—is looking to expand its subscription-based content, which goes for about $500 a year.

Blodget said BI’s Intelligence unit isn’t propping up the free site, which he insists is in a “very good financial state,” even as it pours more money into online video and long-form journalism. Today, he said, subscribers number in the “thousands.” But he said he saw an opportunity with BI Intelligence to develop a second income stream.

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In fact, Blodget plans to double the unit’s subscriptions and revenue this year. This year, BI expects to grow its staff to 20, from six now. The new hires will include, for the first time, a small team of reporters to write articles to augment the unit’s data and analysis offerings.

This sounds somewhat similar, though not nearly as expensive, to the Politico Pro/Capital New York model.

— If you’re tired of all those manipulative Upworthy-style headlines, here’s a browser plugin that will turn that frown back upside down. It’s called Downworthy, of course:

Downworthy replaces hyperbolic headlines from bombastic viral websites with a slightly more realistic version. For example:

“Literally” becomes “Figuratively”
“Will Blow Your Mind” becomes “Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment”
“One Weird Trick” becomes “One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit”
“Go Viral” becomes “Be Overused So Much That You’ll Silently Pray for the Sweet Release of Death to Make it Stop”
“Can’t Even Handle” becomes “Can Totally Handle Without Any Significant Issue”
“Incredible” becomes “Painfully Ordinary”
“You Won’t Believe” becomes “In All Likelihood, You’ll Believe”
… and so on. (see the spoilers list below)

These articles are, in general, not nearly as bad as their titles – but the titles have become SO overblown, they’re meaningless and annoying. But people still click, so the trend continues. Consider this me doing my part to stop the insanity.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.