The Antidote to Drudge-Style Media

There’s no doubt that media outlets of all types are under financial stress in the digital age, so it’s not surprising to see new strategies emerging for capturing market share. There’s a new piece up at the Columbia Journalism Review by Damaris Calhoun on how some corporations are pursuing a niche market among right-leaning millennials. Often, this is done in the name of balance or objectivity.

As publishers move strategically to capture that large and lucrative demographic known as millennials, many will have an ideal reader in mind. That reader may be predominantly male or female, LGBT or minority, or have a preference for cultural fare over sports, but they’re definitely young, and they’re probably liberal.

So it’s interesting that a handful of publishers appear to be hunting a rarer breed, called “the conservative millennial.” Even though they are significantly outnumbered by millennials who lean to the left, some publishers see in them a business opportunity, a chance to carve out a niche in a landscape awash in content, heralding in a new generation of right-leaning digital natives.

It’s interesting to see how this looks in practice.

The most notable new example is Bold, a news site launched this week that’s aimed at conservative female, LGBT, and minority readers—an audience that Carrie Sheffield, the site’s founder and editorial director, who also blogs for Forbes, describes as underserved and “untapped” in the current media environment.

“There is a need, and people will be hungry for a voice that is moderately conservative and respectful,” Sheffield told CNN. “That’s what we’re going for.” Unabashedly strategic, Sheffield describes the site as a cross between Young Turks and Morning Joe that sits, politically speaking, somewhere between The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

Calhoun also discusses another outfit named “Circa” that is being promoted by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The vice president and chief operating officer of Sinclair’s Digital Group, Rob Weisbord, recently described Vox and Vice as “far-left” news sites and said there is an opening in the market somewhat to the center of Breitbart. He wants to get Circa on millennials’ X-Boxes and mobile phones where they will hopefully use it to curate personalized Drudge Report-style reportage.

At the Washington Monthly, we don’t have sugar daddies like the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and we don’t aim to provide an ideological slant on the news. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, a former Washington Monthly editor, said the following about his time with our magazine:

“Here is what I learned at the Washington Monthly: how to report fearlessly, write with clarity and purpose, and be unafraid to go against the grain. I can’t think of three more important attributes for a journalist.”

If we’re going to survive and thrive in this brutal environment, we can’t become Swift-Boaters for the left:

Sinclair has hired John Solomon, formerly the vice president for content and business development for The Washington Times, to lead the effort as chief creative officer. Mr. Solomon said he plans to hire 70 journalists to do original reporting, in addition to having access to video feeds from the 172 television stations that Sinclair owns and runs.

It’d be nice to have the money to hire 70 journalists to do original reporting that we could then place directly on people’s X-Boxes and mobile phones, but not if the price is to sell-out to some partisan corporate master.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.