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A variety of business models among the leading U.S. media

09 December 2013 / 22:12:52  GRReporter
5103 reads

Ivan Petkov

In 1988, Clifford Stoll, who graduated in astronomy and whose vocation is computer science, wrote for the Washington Post an article that predicted the importance of the Internet and how the World Wide Web would change our lives. In the article, he used expressions that were not common in the everyday language of the time, such as "a computer virus" and "snail mail", unlike the emerging e-mail through which letters are received almost instantly. Stoll predicted that people would communicate, exchange information ... and recipes, and would even fall in love on the World Wide Web. However, along with that, computer viruses would be a threat that could break the trust "between neighbours."

Several years later, in 1995, Clifford Stoll would confidently write that "no online database will replace your newspaper." Today, 25 years after his first statement and 18 years after his second, we see that he was not right. Computer viruses, despite the fact that they are widely spread and in spite of the damage they cause, have failed to destroy trust and communication between people on the Internet, and online editions are about to replace newspapers. As regards the media, Clifford Stoll expressed opinions and attitudes that were disseminated at the time and that have led to the belated change in the newspaper business in the U.S. and to the painful implications for traditional media.

We know, however, that in society, like nature, there can be no empty space. The advent of new technologies has brought a new wave of media that exist on the Internet which are able to gain popularity and a large number of readers precisely through the web. Many of the most popular news websites in the U.S. are a continuation of the paper editions. Another part of them is the ownership of the big broadcasting companies. The majority of online media are a continuation of traditional media. There is also a new type of media, which began its existence  on the net. Let us look at the world of both large and world-renowned American online media and behind the curtains of those which we can say are outside the "mainstream". The latter category does not involve media that regular readers outside the U.S. would mention in the first place.

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post, known as Huff Post or HuffPo, is emblematic. The media was created by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, Andrew Breitbart and Jonah Peretti and based in New York. Originally, it was a news aggregator that had successfully incorporated elements of a blog and editorial content, covering a wide range of topics such as politics, business, entertainment, environment, technology, society, culture, health, local news and more. The media was launched on 9 May 2005 and was an alternative place to publish comments of liberal views. On 7 February 2011, the giant AOL acquired the online edition against $ 315 million; Arianna Huffington remained editor of The Huffington Post Media Group. In 2012, The Huffington Post became the first commercial digital media in history to receive the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for journalism. In the same year, many charts such as eBizMBA Rank, Alexa Global Traffic Rank, US Traffic Rank and the companies Compete and Quantcast ranked the media first, thus making it the most popular American media of the year.

So as not to create the impression that four people made a website, which they sold for $ 315 million, "something that can only happen in the U.S.", I will mention that the media had received significant amounts from investors when it was run by its founders. After the first year of its existence, in 2006, The Huffington Post announced that it had received an investment of $ 5 million from SoftBank Capital. This fact in itself is impressive as we are talking about a media that had been launched just one year earlier and that existed in a very competitive environment and among media with traditions. This investment allowed the media to hire more staff, update the content of the website around the clock, hire journalists to cover the events on the spot and include multimedia and video content on the website. Greycroft Partners invested in the online edition in the same year too.

Online video blogging was the essential content that the media was trying to impose. In November 2008, The Huffington Post managed to win the confidence of investors and received another $ 15 million, resulting in a new increase in the number of journalists and in the volume of local news from all states. The acquisition of the media by AOL has turned it into a member of a group involving the iconic publications owned by AOL, namely Engadget, TechChrunch, Moviefone.

The Wire

Equally interesting is the story of former The Atlantic Wire which, since November 2013, has been called The Wire. Unlike HuffPo, the story of Atlantic started back in 1857 with The Atlantic Monthly magazine published in Boston. The edition had quickly gained popularity throughout the country, making it possible to maintain it for over 150 years. In 2005, the company headquarters moved from Boston to Washington, where it joined its advertising and distribution divisions, thus saving $ 200-300 thousand, which it put into other ventures.

The Wire (The Atlantic Wire) is a twin website of The website aggregates news and views from newspapers, television and radio broadcasts. It was launched online in 2009, intending to cover news from the entire media spectrum and collect views on any significant public debate. Then subsequently it was expanded to include original news and reports to cover the topics of politics, journalism and entertainment. A popular section is "What I’m reading" as well as selected materials from The New York Times. The rankings "Atlantic 50" that contained the fifty most popular posts collected by the editors from various media became very popular too.

The newest website under the umbrella of Atlantic Media Company is which was launched in 2011.


Politico is the website of the American political journalists based in Arlington County. The organisation offers information not only online but also via television, radio and through a newspaper. The main topics are related to the U.S. Congress, lobbying, media and the presidency.

In 2007, two journalists, namely John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post and became Politico’s chief and executive editor respectively. Frederick J. Ryan Jr., former assistant to President Ronald Reagan, took the post of Chief Executive Officer.

Politico collaborated with several websites from which they obtained news, audio and video reports. In 2008, The New York Times stated that it would expand its operations after the presidential elections in 2008 by hiring reporters, editors, web developers and other employees.

A 2009 profile of the organisation in Vanity Fair stated that Politico had an editorial team of 75 people and a total staff of 100. Data from the summer of 2009 showed that the traffic to the website was about 6.7 million different visitors per month. This figure is lower than the eleven million visits, which the website had registered during the climax of the campaign for the presidential elections, but the majority of political news websites usually have less traffic beyond election years.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, known as the Seattle P-I, the Post-Intelligencer or simply as P-I, is one of the first newspapers to have gone completely online. The newspaper was founded in 1863 as the weekly Seattle Gazette.

In 2009, Hearst Corporation, which owned the newspaper, stated that, after the year 2000, it had incurred losses due to the edition and announced it for sale. The paper edition would be offered for sale for 60 days and if there were no buyer within this period, the newspaper would go fully online with drastically reduced staff or it would be permanently closed. The news about the impending sale of the newspaper was initially disseminated by the local broadcaster KING-TV, in the night before the official announcement, and was an unpleasant surprise to P-I’s employees. Analysts did not expect that it would be able to find a buyer because of the declining volume of print media in the U.S. and due to the presence of other newspapers on the market that had not found a buyer. Five days before the deadline, P-I reported that Hearst Corporation had proposed to several reporters to work for the online edition of P-I.

On 16 March 2009, the newspaper announced that the next day would be the last for the paper edition. Its publisher Roger Oglesby announced that P-I would be available only online. The subscribers to the newspaper were transferred to the other daily, Seattle Times. According to the 2010 data, P-I had 2.8 million unique visitors per month and 208,000 per day.

Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is the website of the non-profit organisation Consortium for Independent Journalism, which aims to provide independent news and news services. The founder of CIJ is investigative journalist Robert Parry, who launched the website in 1995 and the non-profit organisation in 1999. Perry said he had lost his faith in the freedom of expression in popular and large media while he had been working on the Iran-Contra scandal. He believes that many journalists just want to keep their jobs, avoiding getting into trouble.

Until 2004, Perry worked for Bloomberg News to earn his living. Currently exists on the basis of donations. has been mentioned several times in the Top 25 ranking of the most censored stories of the year, compiled by Project Censored.

News aggregators

The fact is that some of the most popular news websites in the U.S. are portal type news aggregators, such as Yahoo News, Google News, MSN. Yahoo news was even ranked first by eBizMBA Rank's ratings for news websites in December. Its first place was due to 110 million visits from unique users per month. Yahoo News aggregates and provides updates on all the most popular areas of modern society and collects news from all major U.S. media and international news agencies.

TV websites

eBizMBA Rank shows that the websites of major American television broadcasters are among the most popular news websites. While the offline - online transition in printed editions is painful, prolonged and associated with the reconsideration of plenty of traditions and attitudes, it seems that television broadcasters do not encounter such difficulties. To them, Internet and Online TV means only a change in the transmission medium rather than competition between conceptually different media. Of course, they should adjust to the demands of digital news but the nature of its creation does not depend on whether the video will be viewed over the network of a cable operator, of an internet provider or on the company's website. To the contrary, we see that multimedia is coming on its own.

This model of news release attracts 70 million visitors per month to the website of CNN, where the reader can find a good homogeneous mixture of news, video and text. The website of FoxNews offers to its 50 million visitors a month the option of listening to the radio in addition to the news and the videos to them.

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