I grew up in the magazine business back in 2000. At that time, most of our revenues came from print advertising, later evolving into digital advertising and sponsorships.
Regardless, the idea was the same…companies were paying us to get in front of our audiences.
It all seems fine and good, right? Well, only until you see what advertising does to erode values.
The fact is, companies do stupid things to maintain and grow advertising.
I’ve seen many amazing journalistic pieces not run because a major advertiser would get upset. I’ve seen editors go in and “soften” pieces that made our advertisers look better. Honestly, I regret that I didn’t call more attention to these occurrences.
I use Google all the time, but I don’t trust it for important things. Google has repeatedly been accused of meddling with its search algorithms for nefarious purposes. So has YouTube. Hmmm…why do they do this?
Okay Captain Obvious, you guessed it. Money. Cash. Jack. Bob (hello to my UK readers).
And let’s talk Twitter, which actually looks pretty good compared to Facebook (we’ll get to FB in a second).
Twitter removes people from their platform all the time for unbecoming behavior, but never anyone really important. Never anyone with a huge audience (at least with a very few exceptions).
Here’s something you most likely already know. The current US President has one of the largest single audiences on Twitter. He also lies on Twitter. A lot. Pretty much all the time. Even Fox News has brought this up on more than one occasion.
Now, let’s take a regular person, say with 5,000 followers on Twitter, who would put the same things out as the President. They would probably be removed from Twitter. Why? Because it won’t affect Twitter’s advertising.
Removing the US President from Twitter would put a major dent in Twitter’s revenues. Twitter’s stock has about doubled since 2016. One good reason for this is the President.
And what is there to say about Facebook that hasn’t already been said? Facebook is currently in the process of destroying the United States one user at a time. Why?
Do I even have to say it?
Now let’s be fair. Advertising can be wonderful. It can help media brands prosper and grow. And it actually works when done correctly. The problem is, at some point, it goes sideways. Following the money is too seductive.
You know all those horrible, click-baity headlines…uh…well…pretty much all digital article headlines? Yep. That’s because of advertising.
So what do we do?
We support entities that don’t need to survive on advertising alone.
I love the New York Times more now because their paid subscribership is way more important to them than their advertising. This is becoming true for the Wall Street Journal as well. This means they can tell an advertiser to stuff it, even if it means losing a bit of revenue.
For Twitter, I’ll like them a lot more when they launch their paid subscription program. They need it so they don’t turn out like Facebook.
And as for Facebook, they have created a monopoly. I’m not sure what to do about Facebook, but I sure would like it to go away (Instagram can stay though).
I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this, except that if you are getting most of your news from a company that relies primarily on advertising, be suspect. Go out and find a news outlet that has come up with a better business model. One that would never need to cave their morals for revenue.
We, as a culture, need to fix this problem soon. Before we elect President Zuckerberg.
The following was an excerpt from Joe’s newsletter. Only subscribers receive the full version.