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How an obsession with right wing media spawned a booming newsletter

Will Sommer grew up in a conservative household and garnered an early interest in Rush Limbaugh and other right wing media figures. When he went to college, his politics changed, but his obsession with conservative media never went away. In late 2016, that obsession paid off. Sommer was one of the first reporters to write about Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory that a DC pizza parlor was the home of a child sex ring. After a man was arrested for firing a gun inside the restaurant, his...


How this web designer became the Nate Silver of healthcare reporting

Back in 2013, the Obama Administration rolled out a new version of, with disastrous results. It was the public unveiling of the Obamacare exchanges that would allow anyone to buy health insurance on the open market, and yet the website was almost impossible to navigate without encountering errors that would prevent you from signing up for insurance. At the time, Charles Gaba was running a freelance web designer business in Michigan and writing for the liberal blog Daily Kos...


This guy built a $1 million business on top of the Gmail API

Every year we get new articles questioning whether “email is dead.” With the proliferation of social media and messaging apps, it seems only natural to ask what will replace a decades-old electronic messaging system that really hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve used it. But email has remained resilient, and it’s even experienced a renaissance of sorts lately. In the wake of Facebook’s algorithm changes that are designed to hurt content providers, more and more publishers are...


How publishers monetize their newsletters with paid subscriptions

There’s no question that newsletters are on the rise. Legacy publishers are constantly launching new newsletter products. Quartz’s Obsession newsletter, for instance, picks seemingly random topics and goes deeps on them. Vox’s Voxcare newsletter, a favorite of mine, covers new developments in healthcare policy. But we’re also seeing a number of media startups that are producing newsletters without corresponding websites. The Hustle, a business-news oriented newsletter that has over...


How artists illegally pay their way onto Spotify's playlists

With over 150 million users, Spotify has the ability to launch the careers of previously-unknown music artists. It does this by featuring these artists on its playlists, which are maintained by a mixture of users, Spotify staff, and algorithms. Playlists count for half of all listening on Spotify, and getting your song listed on a few of the most influential lists, some of which boast millions of subscribers, has the ability to thrust you onto the Billboard 100 charts. Several rap artists...


Influencer marketing has a huge fraud problem

The influencer marketing industry is estimated to generate $2 billion a year, with $1.6 billion coming from Instagram influencers alone. That number is only set to increase, with 39 percent of marketers saying they plan to increase their influencer marketing budget this year. It’s now pretty much impossible to open up Instagram or YouTube without seeing #sponsored posts popping up from your favorite stars, from Kim Kardashian all the way down to food Instagrammers who only have a few...


How Think Progress generated $500,000 in donations after Trump was elected

Think Progress was founded in 2005 as an offshoot of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. What started as a bloggy website has grown into a fully staffed news organization that employs beat writers and conducts investigative reporting. The site has generated real impact, most recently when it published a list of companies that had established corporate partnerships with the NRA. Activists seized on the list and used social media to pressure many of these companies...


Remembering the blogosphere before the rise of Facebook and Twitter

Technorati rankings. Full RSS feeds vs partial RSS feeds. Blogrolls. The Techmeme leaderboards. Blogspot vs Wordpress vs Typepad. If you were a blogger over the mid-aughts, these were just a few of the things you might have obsessed over as you catapulted blog post after blog post into the ether, hoping someone would notice and provide you precious links and send even more precious readers. Back then, the internet felt huge, but the number of actual content producers was tiny compared to...


What’s behind the explosion in fiction podcasts?

Welcome to Night Vale. The Message. Steal the Stars. Homecoming. The Bright Sessions. All are fiction podcasts that have seen downloads in the millions. Some have been optioned for television or film adaptation. All were launched in just the last few years. For much of the early to mid 20th century, millions of listeners tuned in each week to listen to radio dramas and fiction broadcasts in genres ranging from adventure (Superman) to science fiction (War of the Worlds) to crime noir...


Why podcast apps are developing their own original content

Podcasting as a medium has been around for about 13 years now, and for most of that time you’d find that most podcasts were platform agnostic. When a new episode was released, it would appear pretty much simultaneously across all podcast apps. Sure, podcasters placed most of their promotional efforts on iTunes, but that’s because it accounted for most of all podcast listening. But over the last few years, the podcast and audio app space has gotten more competitive, and because of this...


Should famous music and Hollywood artists have their own media outlet?

In 2014, former Major League Baseball player Derek Jeter launched a media company with a novel premise. Called The Players’ Tribune, it’s a sports site that’s produced and written by pro athletes themselves. Many wondered if this would result in what are essentially bland, rewritten press releases that would be typed up by publicists, but in its few years of existence, The Players’ Tribune has produced some astoundingly raw first-person journalism. In 2017, for instance, NBA player Isaiah...


How the iTunes podcast rankings work

If you want to subscribe and listen to podcasts, there are dozens of apps to choose from, including podcast-specific apps like Stitcher and even music streaming apps like Spotify. But anyone who works in the industry knows that Apple is the king of podcasts; its podcast app, which it spun off from iTunes a few years ago, accounts for more than 50 percent of all podcast use. This is why Apple’s podcast rankings can be so important for driving discovery and downloads. There’s one master...


Meet the guy who wants to slow down the internet

This week I interviewed a guy named Ernie Smith. Why do I think Smith is so fascinating? Because over the past decade he’s created two successful media properties, each with the absolute opposite goal of the other. The first was a Tumblr account called ShortFormBlog. It amassed over 140,000 followers and was one of the hyperreactive news aggregators that thrived in the aughts. Every single day Smith logged in and plucked the most interesting quotes and stats from news stories and served...


Inside Macmillan’s 2018 podcast strategy

If you run a hit podcast, you might have a couple avenues open to your for monetization. You could host live events and charge admissions, like what we’ve seen with Slate’s Political Gabfest and Pod Save America. You could, like Gimlet Media, launch a membership program and charge $60 a year for free tshirts, exclusive bonus content, and access to a private slack channel. Or you might turn to running sponsored ads within your podcasts, an approach that generated $220 million for podcasts...


While Facebook stumbles, Twitter’s making a comeback

For the past several years, Twitter’s been a punching bag, both for tech writers and Wall Street analysts. It remained unprofitable, was a magnet for trolls, and, worst of all, its user growth came to a halt. But in just the past few months we’ve seen some meaningful signs of life at the embattled social network. For one, it had its first profitable quarter in, well, forever. But it also saw growth in other areas. For one, though monthly active user growth is flat, it saw a sharp increase...


This former lawyer launched a thriving local news network in New Jersey

The last decade hasn’t been kind to local news. While the entire news industry has experienced hardship, local newspapers have been hit particularly hard. A recent article in the American Prospect detailed how newspaper chains have been bought up by private equity firms and then were systematically cut to the bone, the private equity firms wringing out every last cent of profit before closing the newspapers for good. Even tech companies have struggled to make local news profitable. AOL...


Want to create your own Wikipedia page? Call this guy

According to Alexa, Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website in the U.S. and the fifth most visited in the world. When you Google famous people, places, or companies, their Wikipedia pages usually come up as the first or second result. If you’re a company that already has a Wikipedia page, then monitoring what’s written on it is vital to your reputation management strategy. If you don’t have your own Wikipedia page, then you may aspire to create one for yourself. But this is where...


What it takes to run a podcast consulting company

Branded podcasts are on the rise. With one out of every four Americans saying they listen to at least one podcast a month, companies are increasingly incorporating the medium into their content marketing strategies, and in some cases these branded podcasts are really taking off with listeners. The first major success of a branded podcast was The Message, a joint venture between the Panoply Network and GE. The science fiction serial has generated over 8 million downloads and, during its...


What kind of content should you put behind your paywall?

For more than a decade, publishers attempted to grow ad-supported businesses that depended on massive scale and distribution of free content, but in recent years, many have acknowledged that purely advertising-based business models simply don’t work in a world in which Facebook and Google are vacuuming up nearly all ad dollars that migrate online. So they’ve begun asking their readers to pony up, launching various forms of paywalls that require paid subscriptions for those wanting to...