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!
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would fit inside the 160 characters of a text message (including username), the basis for this limit has long since been replaced by push notifications and 4G data connections.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 ‘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…
- The Information report that the ‘Time-spent’ based advertising that was pushed by The Economist and Financial Times is failing to attract buyers, but the companies have not giving up hope, expecting they are ahead of the curve.
- Artificial intelligence experienced exponential growth last year, say Bloomberg, in a report that highlights how the affordability of cloud infrastructure and ease of access to new massive datasets (often provided by users) is leading to great leaps in the field.
- The co-founder of Dutch paid-journalism outlet De Correspondent has spoken on Medium as to his thoughts on subscriptions being the future of funding journalism. This long, but worthwhile read, repeatedly makes the point that the relationship between publisher and reader should not be something we take for granted in trying to extort more revenue per reader. De Correspondent is ad-free for this reason, and has 43,000 subscribers paying 65USD a year.
- Facebook’s Messenger has 800M users every month says David Marcus, head of the messaging division at the social behemoth. He’s shared his thoughts on what next year brings in a post, outlining how in 2016 the phone number will cease to exist as all contact, even between businesses, is brought online. It’s a short, snappy, and informative piece.
That’s all for this week. Do get in touch with your questions and thoughts.
Thanks for reading