From CNN Plus to OAN, why some media are struggling

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As the media world teeters toward an uncertain future, mired in a credibility crisis compounded by ideological warfare, some red neon warning signs are flashing.

Some players won’t make it, while others will have to change to survive.

In a country seemingly divided between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, between those who sympathize with Joe Biden and those who believe he’s not really president, between woke and woke cultures is a joke, he’s becoming de increasingly difficult to make a profit.

This illustration photo shows a person reading the One America Network website on a smartphone in front of a DirecTV logo in Los Angeles, January 14, 2022.
(Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images)

New media platforms are emerging, such as Substack, but they are either under attack from the old guard or plagued by insider criticism.

The hottest media story right now is CNN Plus, the network’s streaming service, which is off to a terrible start. Skeptics wondered from the start whether many people would pay six dollars a month to see a slight repackaging of CNN’s existing on-air talent, as well as some new features.

Fewer than 10,000 people use the two-week-old service daily, CNBC reports. The budget could be cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, Axios reports, which would mean significant layoffs.


Looking at the homepage, I see more shows that look like digital cues (“The Newscast” with Wolf Blitzer) than offbeat material (Anderson Cooper’s parenting advice).

Steve Krakauer, a former CNN executive, tweeted that there was no opportunity to sample any of the shows online, just a handful of brief clips aired, which then cannot be shared on social media. . It sounds crazy. CNN’s Twitter account, he says, never mentioned CNN Plus.

In this photo illustration a CNN (Cable <a class=News Network) logo seen displayed on a smartphone and PC screen.”/>

In this photo illustration a CNN (Cable News Network) logo seen displayed on a smartphone and PC screen.
(Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As a business, the streaming service was the brainchild of Jeff Zucker, and he’s gone, with Discovery having now taken over the Warner Media empire. And that means even with flashy new recruits like Chris Wallace, the whole thing could fit into current Discovery streaming.

As for newspapers, another, the Akron Beacon-Journal, cut print publication one day, and Gannett’s other 135 newspapers will do the same.

As the Washington Post reminds us, this trend is accelerating. The Cleveland Plain dealership cut home delivery to three days years ago. McClatchy Newspapers dropped its Saturday edition in 2019. When the pandemic hit, the Tampa Bay Times only started printing twice a week.

As a long-time journalist, I have to say this breaks my heart. I have ink in my veins. It costs money to run the presses and send the trucks out, and with print traffic down from two decades ago, it no longer makes economic sense seven days a week.

Pedestrians walk past a newsstand with copies of The Wall Street Journal and a front-page story about Russia's invasion of Ukraine being sold on February 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

Pedestrians walk past a newsstand with copies of The Wall Street Journal and a front-page story about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine being sold on February 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
(Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

As more newspapers bolster their websites after years of benign neglect, there’s more online revenue to be had. But apart from a few national successes – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post the major regional newspapers are struggling. This is why newspapers now tend to be owned by billionaires and cost-cutting hedge funds.

The One America News network is in deep trouble now that DirecTV has abandoned it, no doubt for ideological reasons. The ultra-conservative, pro-Trump network now has limited distribution, and The Daily Beast reports that many of its top employees have been bailed out, some of them to work for Trump or his organizations.

Substack is a very different animal, created to allow ordinary people and disgruntled journalists to earn money from newsletters without working for a big company.

But the Times is trying to knock it down, citing former columnists who either didn’t make a great living or feared it would build a brand at their expense. A handful of prominent writers, such as Glenn Greenwald, have made big strides in giving the outfit star power.

After much throat-clearing about possible “threats” to its future, the Times goes on to say:

“The good news for the company, which turns five this summer, is that it continues to grow. Paid subscriptions to its hundreds of thousands of newsletters skyrocketed to over a million at the end of last year. , up from 50,000 in mid-2019. (The company won’t disclose the number of free subscribers.) A hiring spree hopes to gain more than a dozen engineers, product managers and other specialists. Executives ultimately hope to take the company — which has raised more than $82 million and is reportedly valued at $650 million — public.”


Uh, that sounds pretty good to me.

As Substack now expands to podcasts, tech newsletter writer Ben Thompson reportedly said the company is trying to put its brand “front and center“:

“It’s a way for Substack to leverage its popularity to create an alternative revenue model that involves readers paying Substack first, and publishers second, instead of the other way around.”


Let’s say it’s true, so what? People can post for free, and those who charge have to give Substack 13% of their earnings, which I think is reasonable. If Substack becomes a destination where people subscribe to multiple writers, doesn’t that help its community?

Greenwald tweeted that “It’s common knowledge that many writers who got big advances from Substack aren’t white or male, but the NYT still ran the claim that it’s who gets advances because that the purpose of this article, as always, is to demonize any indie platform that won’t censor.”


Substack may have found the business model that frees some journalists from corporate interference, or another team may come along and do better. But given the waning fortunes of newspapers, TV, and some streaming services, it seems like a very worthwhile endeavor.

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