Instead, being a journalism incubator means spending time and money developing writers who then take their readership to other publications, then starting to develop new voices, new beats and new audiences all over again.
In an interesting take on the magazine-as-incubator, Alyssa Rosenberg reacts to the recent news that the (very-loved liberal policy magazine) American Prospect is cutting down its staff and scaling back to a quarterly publishing schedule. Rosenberg points to the long list of all-star journalists who started their writing careers at the Prospect and how—though their careers were essentially incubated at the magazine—their growth did nothing to save the Prospect itself:
Vox.com co-founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias may be among the most prominent Prospect alumni, but they are hardly alone. Former Prospect editor Ann Friedman (who gave me my start in culture criticism with an assignment about movie superheroines) is now a columnist for New York magazine. Education journalist Dana Goldstein, Alaska Public Media reporter Alexandra Gutierrez, MSNBC’s Adam Serwer, Slate writer Jamelle Bouie, UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg and the Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard are just some of the many, many journalists who have done stints there.
As wonderful as that roster is, being an incubator publication is a difficult place to occupy in the journalism ecosystem. Unlike Silicon Valley incubators, which stake young developers for a share of their future profits, the Prospect does not get part of what its alumni earn in the future. An excellent reputation and ongoing goodwill do not necessarily translate into piles of cash.
But we can also come at this argument from a long-term and slightly more optimistic view of the value of incubating young writers as Ezra Klein does in his reflection on his own career that began the Prospect’s blog, Tapped:
The combination of TAP’s culture and Tapped’s medium created a place where young journalists could go and experiment with policy journalism on the web. And some of those experiments worked. It turned out health-care policy could really appeal to readers. It turned out the internet loved charts. It turned out that policy writing could be short, or even just a link. It turned out that a conversational tone didn’t destroy the writer’s authority. It turned out that blogs benefitted at least as much from diligent reporting as magazine articles. Those experiments now inform journalism in places ranging from the Washington Post and the New York Times to Buzzfeed and Business Insider. Tapped’s style of policy journalism is everywhere now.
As for Vox, well, two of the three founders are Tapped alumnus. Without Tapped, there would certainly be no Vox.
And in so doing, we realize that when journalism is viewed as a community of public informants (rather than a battle between publishers) the legacy of one publication can and does lead to incredible value.
At one point Andreessen offered up the “most obvious 8 business models for news now & in the future.” After listing today’s staples, (1) advertising and (2) subscriptions, he continued with (3) premium content (that is, “a paid tier on top of a free, ad-supported one”); (4) conferences and events; (5) cross-media (meaning that your news operation also generates books, movies, and the like); (6) crowd-funding; (7) micropayments, using Bitcoin; and (8) philanthropy. Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s Web site and a co-founder of the digital sort-of-magazine The Atavist, chimed in with two more: (9) “while building product you’re passionate about, create software you then license widely!”—The Atavist’s approach—and (10) “fund investigative business stories + then short stocks before publishing,” a reference to the billionaire Mark Cuban’s controversial relationship with Sharesleuth.
Ancona, who lives in Missouri, insists there’s a new Klan for modern times — a Klan that’s “about educating people to our ideas and getting people to see our point of view to … help change things.”
He said he and those like him can spread that message without violence — a sort of rebranding of the Klan. The idea may sound absurd, but is it conceivable?
Ashley Fantz, Can this KKK leader rebrand?, CNN
An analysis of the KKK from an organizational perspective, in light of the recent shooting in Kansas:
Last Sunday, the world was confronted with another image of the Klan: 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, a white supremacist and avowed anti-Semite, in the back of a police car, spitting, “Heil Hitler!”
When his alleged rampage at two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, was over, three people were shot dead — a teenage boy and his grandfather along with a woman who worked with visually impaired children.
The carnage was devastating to many. Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona was upset, too.
"What this guy just did set back everything I’ve been trying to do for years," said Ancona, who leads the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
CNN tracked Ancona down on Twitter, where he has 840 followers, after he and other self-professed hate group leaders denounced the shootings in interviews withUSA Today and CNN affiliate WDAF in Kansas City, Missouri.
"I believe in racial separation but it doesn’t have to be violent," he told CNN. "People in the Klan are professional people, business people, working types. We are a legitimate organization."
One of the things that we do is ask product managers to go travel to an emerging-market country to see how people who are getting on the Internet use it. They learn the most interesting things. People ask questions like, ‘It says here I’m supposed to put in my password — what’s a password?’
There’s a term for this. Social psychologists, journalists and social-media users call it “lifestyle envy,” or Instagram envy, and savvy smartphone users are well-acquainted with its tell-tale sign: the little pang you get when a friend posts photos from his or her swanky vacation in Istanbul, or when actress Mindy Kaling snaps her newest pair of spike-toe Christian Louboutain pumps.
Lane Anderson in The Instagram Effect: How the Psychology of Envy Drives Consumerism, Deseret News.
The piece is part of a series called The Ten Today, which examines the relevance of the 10 Commandments in contemporary society. It’s kind of a a fascinating endeavor. The publication, which, as Nieman Lab reports, just came out of beta, is fascinating in itself:
The Deseret News is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but you might not detect its Mormon roots from looking at the outlet’s national site — officially came out of beta yesterday — which focuses on the self-proclaimed values of family and faith. Even in its faith section, which includes stories as wide ranging as a preview of a new PBS documentary on the history of the Jews and a piece on the Hindu holiday of Holi, there’s very little explicit coverage of Mormonism.
FJP: So most of the articles (see: popular content, for example) comes out of a set of curious, general-interesty questions about American society and the role that spirituality and family plays out in our daily lives. While most new news projects are following the niche-news-serving-narrow-interests trend, it’s an interesting ambition to keep an eye on: a publication aiming to hit such a broad audience and broad set of topics topics from a strangely narrow space. —Jihii
Well, Project X may now be called Vox, but the great VC-backed media blitz of 2014 is staffed up and soft-launching, and it looks a lot more like Projects XY. Indeed, it’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white.
To be sure, the internet has presented journalists with an extraordinary opportunity to remake their own profession. And the rhetoric of the new wave of creativity in journalism is spattered with words that denote transformation. But the new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee. At the risk of being the old bat in the back, allow me to quote Faye Dunaway’s character from Network: “Look, all I’m saying is if you’re going to hustle, at least do it right.”