Media coverage of media business is an often tangled web of self-promotion, self-deception and outright lies—sometimes intentional, but mostly just wishful thinking—and finding trustworthy sources can be difficult as evolving business models and ill-conceived pivots can quickly tarnish a formerly solid reputation. It’s always been challenging as there’s never been a shortage of gurus with new and improved snake oil to sell on the conference circuit, nor media outlets willing to give them a platform as organically influential blogs ushered in the era of clickbait, content marketing and programmatic advertising—brought to you by lazy marketers and ever-intrusive adtech.
Since Google Reader shut down back in 2013, there’s arguably been no worthy replacement, partly because it helped accelerate the death of the individual blog and relegated RSS feeds to a tertiary distribution channel that most sites barely pay attention to these days. Over the years, I’ve used an unwieldy combination of Instapaper, Feedly, Twitter lists and Gmail filters (for the most useful email newsletters I subscribe to) to stay connected to my primary sources, and only a handful make the cut heading into 2019—including one social network that became unexpectedly useful in 2018.
My top five go-to sources for staying on top of media and business news and insights, in no particular order: Bo Sacks, FOLIO:, Digiday, Harvard Business Review and… LinkedIn?
Sacks is an old school media guy in the all the best ways; experienced enough to credibly push back on tiresome “print is dead” narratives, but as open-minded as you’d expect one of the “founding fathers of High Times Magazine” to be. He’s an excellent curator, surfacing three interesting articles every day while occasionally offering his own useful insights on hot topics. You’d think getting three emails/day from one guy would be obnoxious after a while but you’d be wrong.
- “Sure, many a lumbering Rex Bloatasaurus title will pass on. But they are being replaced with scrappy new publishers with new ideas.”
- “As we aren’t dead nor near it, we should be living/working and creating fully to the best of our abilities, and thereby fear nothing but a lack of creativity.”
- “The complexities and unlimited diversity of information delivery platforms in the magazine media business makes every business exploration for revenue uniquely different.”
FOLIO: magazine was either the first or second trade publication I ever subscribed to (Circulation Management was the other), and I even wrote for them a few times in the past, but I’ve not always been a fan as they’ve periodically been part of the problem, uncritically amplifying paper tigers and obsessing over ad-driven business models. Magazine media has few dedicated sources these days, though, and they’ve steadily improved their coverage of other media models, so their Folio: Alert and Week in Review email newsletters are worthy additions to your inbox.
- At Harvard Business Review, Paid Circulation Surges For a Second Straight Year
- Are We Asking the Wrong Questions About Magazines? Linda Thomas Brooks Thinks So
- How Game Informer Levels-Up Print Subscriptions
I’ve been following Digiday on Twitter for ~10 years but in 2018 they really became a primary resource thanks to their excellent podcast, insightful coverage of GDPR, and a tight daily email newsletter. Their Digiday+ subscription is a little too rich for me but definitely worth considering if you can expense it.
- ‘There’s a huge demand’: Why product manager is the new pivotal role at publishers
- Vox Media’s roll-up of Recode shows the limits of its vertical approach
- Audience development shifts focus from Facebook traffic to generating revenue
- The Confessions: A marketer, influencer and publisher reveal hidden truths about media and marketing
- Digital publishers with Hollywood ambitions adapt to new economics
If I had to pick an MVP on this list, Harvard Business Review would be it. Not only has it been an invaluable resource over the years as I moved into increasingly senior positions, I’ve also long admired their approach to business, particularly how they use data to inform both content strategy and product development. After years of picking up the occasional issue from the newsstand and barely keeping under the monthly article limit online, I finally treated myself to a subscription this month and look forward to taking full advantage of every benefit. If you’re in a senior leadership position, or if you’re trying to influence a senior leader who values general external insights more than specific internal ones, HBR is worth making the personal investment.
- Digital Growth Depends More on Business Models than Technology
- How to Blow a Presentation to the C-Suite
- Too Many Projects
- Why You Should Let Employees Personalize Their Job Descriptions
- Your Strategic Plans Probably Aren’t Strategic, or Even Plans
Before it devolved into a generally depressing cesspool of daily misery, Twitter was a literal game-changer for me back in 2009-2010—enabling me to connect with people across the publishing industry, “attend” conferences that were otherwise out of reach, and build an audience for this blog as it transitioned from personal musings and comic book reviews to a more professional focus on marketing and publishing. It also helped kill this blog as 140 characters became easier to write and audiences became harder to find and keep engaged, myself included!
Fast forward to 2018 and LinkedIn has quietly become a legitimate Twitter alternative for professional interests, especially as I purposefully updated my profile, curated my feed, and began sharing links that get minimal traction on Twitter these days and, years ago, would have been fodder for full posts here. They’re still figuring out the algorithm—right now, it surfaces way too much secondary content (XX liked…, XX commented)—but I generally find my feed a lot more focused and professionally useful than Twitter which has evolved primarily into a source for personal interests like gaming, soccer and, most recently, rally racing.
My goal for 2019 is to start blogging here more consistently again on publishing and marketing-related topics while using LinkedIn to share interesting links and have conversations that would serve as fodder for those posts. I’m not making any specific resolutions to that end, but it’s clearly the trajectory I’ve been on the past 6+ months so we’ll see how it goes…