Media on Media

A roundup of recommended takes on the media, by the media.

“The next Republican primary debate could put NewsNation on the map”

Could this week’s Republican debate prove a breakthrough for NewsNation, the cable news upstart airing it? Veteran media reporter Stephen Battaglio poses the question in an LA Times piece detailing the network’s rocky road since launching three years ago, including bringing on a disgraced Fox News exec as a consultant and an interview with Donald Trump that proved a cakewalk for the former president.

These and other developments brought into question the network’s objective of providing an unbiased alternative to Fox, MSNBC and CNN. But NewsNation has strengthened its Washington bureau, opened new studios in New York and brought on big name journalists including Eliabeth Vargas and Chris Cuomo (maybe not the biggest coup given his messy departure from MSNBC). Vargas is co-hosting the debate with Megyn Kelly, now firmly established as a right-wing darling, so hopes for objectivity may be misguided. Still, my hope  for a less partisan broadcast news landscape springs eternal.

“Can Disney Recover the Magic?”

An FT Big Read captures the angst at Disney as it concludes a bad year that saw chinks in the Marvel machine’s once-impenetrable armor, streaming losses that can’t be withstood in an era of higher interest rates and a glut of forgettable series churned out since 2019 to make Disney+ a worthy Netflix competitor. Chief Bob Iger is also facing, again, a challenge from activist investor Nelson Patz and the increasingly clear news that the traditional TV model is dead and won’t be revived. 

Christopher Grimes and Anna Nicolau break it all down succinctly in a piece that not only breaks down Disney’s woes but that of so many 21st-century media conglomerates. Long story short: Disney needs a hit, and a creative renaissance, soon. 

“Publishers Should Seek Billions from Google”

Ben Smith dives into a recent white paper by Columbia’s Institute for Policy Dialogue concluding that Google owes US news publishers over $10 billion in the equivalent of syndication fees. The study uses some arguably optimistic math to determine the figure, finding in a sampling of Swiss internet users that half of their searches were for “information” and that 70% of them preferred quality journalistic results to less credible oprtions. With content syndication fees averaging 50%, news outlets are due 17.5% of Google’s total search revenue, per the researchers.

There will be quibbles over the study’s math, to be sure. But Smith is right to say that the findings will at the very least encourage some healthy debate in the now global battle between news organizations and Big Tech. “The ultimate outcomes,” he writes, “may vary between countries where publishers hold the political upper hand against foreign tech giants, and the US, in which tech remains a centrally powerful domestic political force.