Tide turns for bad media CEOs and editors

The days of berating staff seem to be numbered. Hopefully.

Hello and welcome to Friday! Lots of new subscribers this week. Thank you! So this is probably a good time to do a quick tl;dr of this here newsletter. 

This is a daily newsletter by me, Josh Sternberg, about the inner machinations of the media business. Each day, I dive into a singular topic, offering a mix of reporting and analysis that leans on a 20-year career across various roles in media.  

One day we’ll talk about publisher sales teams and how they get screwed by the RFP process, the next day about brands and how maybe it’s better for them to say nothing sometimes, and perhaps some ad tech malfeasance to really get your heart racing. I also write about the social issues of the media, too. Because why not? 

The point is: this newsletter offers open and honest discussion about the state of the media business, from all sides. This newsletter was born out of several converging factors, but the driving impetus is that this industry is a mess and too often we forget to take off our sales/marketing/business development/whatever hat off and make poor decisions because we’re thinking about our quarterly number and not the reader. For example, autoplay video ads. I know you don’t like them; no one likes them. And yet you sell them, buy them. Why?? 

So this little newsletter talks about these things. And I encourage you to provide feedback; I want the good, the bad, the ugly. My inbox is always open, and I’m pretty good at responding. 

Monday through Thursday, you get a deep dive; Fridays, we ease off the gas pedal and cruise into the weekend with a couple loose thoughts. 

(Image via Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Bite one: Journalists are, shall we say, not shy. And over the last few weeks, their voices have gotten stronger as newsrooms have started to push back against the bad behavior of those running their organizations. 

On Wednesday, the New York Times wrote about Hearst’s Troy Young creating a “toxic culture.” By Thursday, Young resigned. Young is the latest executive to be held accountable, as executives and editors from Bon Apetite to Refinery29 have stepped down after staff said no more. And Young certainly won’t be the last.

CEOs and top editors at all sorts of publications (not just glossies or national newspapers, but also B2B publications and trade media) should take this moment to reflect on how they treat their staff. 

At a moment in which there are 11,000 unemployed media people, the rank-and-file are coming to the realization that their jobs can be taken away at any moment for no reason, which means they feel they have nothing to lose by speaking up against their bosses. My guess is that we will see more top executives pay the price for their terrible behaviors; it’s a matter of when not if. The days of berating working professionals are numbered. 

(Image via Ryan Lash/TED)

Bite two: There’s a long-running joke on Twitter where someone will comment “I can’t believe this website is free” in response to what they find to be a weird, funny, etc tweet. The implication that we get all this information (the good, the fun, the obnoxious) at no charge. Well, that might change. 

During this week’s earnings call, the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey said that the platform is experimenting with a subscription model, hinting that advertiser demand ain’t what it used to be.

"We want to make sure any new line of revenue is complementary to our advertising business," Dorsey said. "We do think there is a world where subscription is complementary, where commerce is complementary, where helping people manage paywalls ... we think is complementary."

This comes on the heels of the company taking a stand against the conspiracy theory du jour, QAnon, as Twitter effectively banned 7,000 accounts and monitors 150,000 others that spew nonsense. 

The platforms are also facing an introspective moment, as workers from Google to Facebook are speaking more openly about the role their companies play in spreading hate and conspiracy. BuzzFeed has a big story this week on how Facebook’s employees are reckoning with the social network they’ve built, while NBC News talked to Facebook staffers who say the company has ignored racial bias research.

All of this is playing out as the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are set to appear on Monday in front of Congress to hear about Congress’s year-long antitrust investigation. Though reports say that Monday’s hearing may be postponed due to a special ceremony for Rep. John Lewis.

Next week will be ... something. At the very least, we’ll get some more images of media executives sitting while talking with their hands.

Thank you for allowing me in your inbox. If you have tips or thoughts about the newsletter, drop me a line. Or you can follow me on Twitter. Have a safe and healthy weekend, and see you on Monday.

Phish, “Free”

Some interesting links:

  • Maine journalists under siege after false accusations from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson (Washington Post)

  • With Always-On Channels, Streamers Are Looking More and More Like Traditional TV (Adweek)

  • “I’ve never seen anything like this”: Wall Street Journal staff erupts over race and opinion (Vanity Fair)

  • More than 1,000 people at Twitter had ability to aid hack of accounts (Reuters)

  • Leah Remini Wants to Expose Tom Cruise’s Dark Side (Daily Beast)

  • Q&A with Buster Olney (CNN)

  • Lawyers Demand the Military Stop Violating Free Speech on Twitch (NYT)