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Figuring out how to get people to pay you for the thing you make is hard.

🔗 Why Is Your News Site Going Out of Business? - TPM – Talking Points Memo:

This chart which I just made shows the exact dollar amounts TPM brought in over the previous eight years through programmatic or “third party” advertising. As I think is pretty clear, if this is your business, you’re dead. You don’t have a business.

I’m not going to paste the chart in question into my post here, but I’ll describe it. It starts in 2016 with Josh’s site taking in nearly $1.7M in programmatic ad revenue. It end last year, when the took in just over $75k in ad revenue.

That is bananas.

Fortunately for TPM, they had already begun moving to a membership model and are going alright. That’s great, because Josh is great and I’ve been reading his stuff for twenty years.

Many other journalism outfits have not been able to pull off that transition—or didn’t start it early enough—and now they are in a world of hurt.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at a post that came up in my feed that complains about Mozilla’s recent talk of exploring generative AI functionality in Firefox. I’m not going to link to the post because I don’t want to pick on the guy. I’ve seen a bunch of people complaining about this news and understandably so. It sucks.

Even so, this particular post casually mentions that 70% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from Google Search. If that is true and they are that dependent on ad revenue from Google, their chart is going to be headed in the same direction as Josh’s. It’s no wonder if they are panicking and casting about for literally any other way to generate money.

Ad-supported media—or ad-supported anything, really—was good while it lasted, but it is never coming back. Part of me wonders if we ever should have gone down that road to begin with.

It is hard enough to convince people to pay your for the good or service you create; it is understandable that advertising was such a popular and successful way to pay the bills, because it meant you didn’t have to expose the true cost of your product to your customer.

But that only works in the short term. In the long term, you are only teaching people to think they should be able to get the thing you make for free (or next-to-free).

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