What we’re reading this week— January 8 2016

In the Times Digital team, we’re always sending round interesting links to each other and chatting about what’s going on in digital.

As something of a new year’s resolution to ourselves, we’ve vowed to write about the pieces that have caught our eye each week here on Medium. So here’s selected highlights of digital media news that you might have missed in the past week. Happy New Year!

Twitter are currently disappointing investors with slow growth, their stock now half the price it was at IPO. Facebook and Google have doubled in the same time. [Photo: Getty Images]

Life after 140 characters

Re/code has the story from deep inside Twitter that opens up again the rumour that the company will expand past the 140 characters it is known for. Originally put in place so that the entirety of a tweet would fit inside the 160 characters of a text message (including username), the basis for this limit has long since been replaced by push notifications and 4G data connections. We’re still a long way from endless Tweets though, the company is instead reported to be introducing a limit at 10,000 characters, the same as that for Direct Messages. The change will take place within the next three months.

Commentators are saying that, far from just breaking the simplicity adored by Twitter power users, this is terrible news for the open web. Slate’s Will Oremus writes how the days of ‘linking’ are numbered, as Tweets that used to contain links will now have to contain the full article content in order to compete. Twitter has already been criticised for being a poor performer for referral traffic, so it makes sense for them to become a publisher in the same way that their ex-CEO Evan Williams thought with his startup Medium.

How Twitter will display this content is still up for debate. Recode originally reported that they are working on an option not unlike this demo from blog pioneer Dave Winer. However, if publishers and users are putting more effort into their content, wouldn’t it be expected for them to get more credit than Twitter currently provides in its scrolling stream?

The new BuzzFeed offices in Los Angeles. The company is the biggest of a handful of new media outlets that scored funding rounds last year. [Photo: JIDK/Peter Kubilus]

Millennial mergers

The ‘Millennial’ demographic (those aged between 18–34 who consume their news primarily through social media) has been a target for many of the web’s fastest growing media startups: BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice, Business Insider, Mic and Mashable to name a few. All raised funding in 2015, Business Insider being bought out by German media conglomerate Axel Springer for $343M. Millennial positivity toward mainstream media (MSM) is falling, scoring lower than banks(!?), large corporations and unions, and these new publishers are looking to capture that audience.

This coming year will be challenging though, as The Information reports. The digital advertising market, predicated on the switch from ad spending on TV to that on digital, is much weaker than expected. Facebook and other platforms who own this audience are swallowing this money with better data and inventory. Once more, these sites are generalists, covering all verticals, and have competitors around every corner, from entrenched bastions of The New York Times, to heavily backed branches of multinational conglomerates like Disney’s Fusion.

Tom Dotan, the writer, thinks in the absence of an international buyer, these startups are all too expensive to be purchased, but don’t have enough of an audience individually to continue going it alone. 2016 may be a year of mergers.

And there’s more…

That’s all for this week. Do get in touch with your questions and thoughts.

Thanks for reading