The New Media Boom Times

Everything’s coming up ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ:

Vinit Bharara made his fortune selling Pampers and Huggies. Now he wants to capitalize on a business fast becoming as commodified as diapers: digital content.

His new site, Cafe, will be “a mass publication that explores everything and anything,” Bharara tells the Times, the most venerable content prospecting operation east of the Mississippi. “If I need to be practical, I’ll be practical.” But for now? Diap up, it’s time to hit publish.

Vice is continuing its interminable will-they-won’t-they media sales tour, conjuring a $2.5 billion valuation in the pages of the Times business section (“Vice would also arrive [at Time Warner, Disney or Fox] with a devoted following, though the size of its audience is hard to verify independently.” Good grief, this is an inferential game people have been playing for half a decade now: Vice is worth a lot, therefore Vice has a very large audience. So large that its size must never be spoken aloud!) A source at BuzzFeed “Snorts At Report Of $200 Million Raise” in a headline on Business Insider, brought to you by Jeff Bezos. Vox loves brands! Every company with a recognizable name and and a few business reporters is cashing in on some kind of conference; Vanity Fair’s $5000 party pass will buy you a rough and powerful high resulting from watching Keith Alexander hand off a mic to Jonathan Ive. The profoundly cynical Distractify, one of the first pure viral mills, can’t help but raise $7 million from one of the most powerful VC firms in the world.

And times — traffic numbers — are basically good, is the thing. VC-free Gawker Media is on a hiring spree; even the austere FT, with its big tall barbed wire paywall, is flush. The weird new internet is configured in such a way that well situated news and entertainment sites can build enormous audiences fairly quickly — part of the reason so many people are scrambling for the next great metric is that the old ones can barely contain what’s happening. There are about a 100 million people reading Gawker Media sites. If you count YouTube videos, BuzzFeed is probably quite a bit more than twice as large. These are astonishingly large groups of humans!

But these are all different stories, too: The money raining down on Vice, for example, represents the beginning of a looming panic among media conglomerates, which are still doing spectacularly well but which know, deep down, that the internet is about to do something horrible and vulgar to the business of television. Vice, at least the Vice Shane Smith pitches, is the perfect conservative hedge. (Not unrelated:”Fusion will integrate Whisper posts into its TV broadcasts.” It all comes back to TV in the end.)

The common thread is confidence. It’s a faith bubble: Inside it we can all grow, forever. We can make that money back! We love Facebook and Facebook loves us, and our love is a true love. Our audience? Our audience is like no other audience — our audience is cool, their whole lives are in front of them, and we will grow old together. Or maybe we already have grown old together, and we kept things clean and we kept things happy and we kept that flame alive for decades, and now we have all this spending power to convert into capital. Either way, it’s time to make a move. Where is this all going? Surely there will be losers among all these winners, right? Maybe someday, but not now. So do it! Monetize! Get it! Turn that diaper cash into a general interest web portal for the new generation, the savviest generation, the generation that can never quite remember how it got to this page in the first place.

Photo by cc511