The viral publishing game is over and we all lost
Gabriel Stein

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before some publishers start to operate more like agencies, promoting the brands of writers above that of the publication and providing them with optimization and social management services, monetization opportunities and affiliations with similar writers in exchange for loyalty and partial control of social channels.

I’ve been mulling over similar thoughts and I keep returning to the following conclusion: publishers seeking mass audiences of at least twenty million people per month are starting to resemble studios akin to Lorne Michael’s Broadway Video. Lorne’s business hinges on finding and helping talent build relationships with fans and then grow these fan bases so both the talent and studio can profit throughout that talent’s career.

Broadway Video is genius, in part, because it helps relatively unknown comedians grow fan bases in the millions via SNL and then helps these comedians produce movies, network or cable sitcoms, host late-night talk shows, travel the world filling stadiums to see a stand-up tour or pursue new ventures and partnerships with emerging technologies.

I’m amazed and impressed by the loyalty so many SNL alums show towards Lorne. Will we see that with Vice, BuzzFeed or Vox Media?

While the SNL analogue tends to focus on comedy and entertainment, I’m describing a model that applies to news, analysis and criticism. Traditionally a star reporter would take a sabbatical or leave their gig at a newspaper to pursue a book deal.

In the near-future, I expect media companies to offer more services to retain talent. For example if BuzzFeed’s Johanna Bhuiyan decided to write a book about Uber (she totally should), BuzzFeed would provide editors, publicists and distribution resources to help her make this book as successful as possible. Likewise if Eater’s Bill Addison had the opportunity to pitch CNN on a show to follow-up Parts Unknown, Vox Media would help him produce it.

As these new media companies raise hundreds of millions while also earning tens to hundreds of millions, I’m curious how they invest in maintaining relationships with the hundreds to thousands of talented people they are currently working with.

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