Ahead of his James MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival last month, Shane Smith, the Vice Media founder, warned noisily of a “bloodbath” next year in digital media and said that Vice will be there mopping up some of those rivals who fall by the wayside.
Could it be that his rather crudely put prediction is already seeing a couple of potential victims emerge? Huffington Post, owned by AOL, with founder Arianna Huffington departing Monday for a new venture, and BuzzFeed (with NBC Universal a major shareholder) are the biggest losers from the latest US digital reader rankings compiled by ComScore.
These show that Huffington Post has lost 12 million uniques in the past year and BuzzFeed, 10 million, to fall down the rankings list in spectacular fashion (according to analysis by Ken Doctor on Politico Media).
BuzzFeed in particular is in a confusing spot of its own making. Its shock news that it plans splitting itself into news and entertainment parts (a bit like the way legacy media giants such as the old News Corp of the Murdochs split in June 2013) remains poorly explained — in intent and purpose. No one knows what it will mean and who will benefit and lose. Will its news website become an orphan and drop by the wayside, as seems intended, in favour of the higher traffic that will visit the clickbait-heavy entertainment site?
And who will benefit from the closure of Gawker Media?
But the most interesting point from the July ComScore data is the rebound by legacy media websites such as CNN, the The New York Times and The Washington Post which are now doing better (much better in fact) than some of the younger digital sites. In fact the July ComScore figures show, in July, both legacy news companies’ fast growth propelled them into new positions. The Times now moves into the No. 8 position in ComScore’s top 10, with more than 85 million, with the Post right behind it at No. 9 with just over 82 million. Top was the combination of ABC and Yahoo with just over 132 million uniques.