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Why do people love TikTok?

It’s been one year since the U.S. launch of TikTok, the viral short-form video app that has taken teens (and some adults) by storm. As we’ve noted in past issues, publishers like The Washington Post and NBC News are expanding their presence on the app, leaving others questioning whether they should enter the fray. In the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz breaks down why TikTok is so popular and what sets it apart from other platforms. “It’s free from a lot of toxicity,” she says, “You don’t have people on there trying to tell you about … stressful things, it’s mostly just fun and entertaining.” The app is also highly participatory: “Part of the fun of TikTok is actually making the TikTok,” she says. “It unlocks a creativity and a group dynamic in a way that Instagram doesn’t.” We recommend listening to the full episode (it’s 30 minutes long), but for more highlights, read Digiday’s write-up here.

Subscriptions continue to rise at The New York Times

The New York Times added 197,000 net digital-only subscriptions this quarter. While down from the 223,000 it added last quarter, this bump raises the Times to 3.8 million digital subscribers—the equivalent of total subscribers this time last year.

Source: The New York Times

Video is back on the menu

After the demise of Facebook-oriented outlets such as Mic, many thought that the pivot to video was indefinitely on hold. Several organizations are disproving that theory, however, as investments and engagement with video—particularly documentaries—are picking up. Companies are increasingly adopting a producer-type role, investing in full-length documentaries with the intent of licensing them to premium outlets like Netflix and Amazon. Why invest in such a niche medium? According to Digiday reporter Tim Peterson, “marketers are increasingly willing to fund documentary productions because they’re finding it hard to find their intended audiences through traditional advertising.” A shift in audience consumption habits, combined with streamers’ willingness to spend on documentary content and the rising popularity of the genre, has created a perfect storm for a new wave of brand-funded documentaries.

The Financial Times has a template for that

Tired of the traditional 600-800 word article format? The Financial Times has you covered. Over the last six months, the Financial Times has developed and tested ways to improve digital and visual storytelling in the newsroom, with the goal of finding solutions that can work quickly and at scale. The result is a set of five article templates called the Financial Times Story Playbook, which includes layouts for some common story types, such as Charticles, for chart-based explainers, or Profile Cards, for introducing a group of people. The Financial Times has publicly released these five templates on its GitHub account, each with a set of instructions and best practices, including who to involve, best use cases, and past examples.

A newsroom’s sudden closure leaves a lot of questions

Another newsroom was suddenly shuttered this week, leaving the media world reeling. Pacific Standard, an environmentally focused publication out of Santa Barbara, California, suddenly lost funding from its main benefactor and was forced to close. The decision leaves 20 writers looking for work and many open questions for the media world at large.

  • “I honestly don’t know what it takes, beyond a billionaire, to keep a niche media company afloat. We need smaller, smarter publications to do interesting work that might fall through the cracks elsewhere.” - Reyhan Harmanci, Pacific Standard Editorial Advisory Board [LA Times]
  • “It’s really important to do nonpartisan, just straight reporting and storytelling in that space that’s often so charged. … But it’s a lot harder to build an audience for it and it’s not easily monetizable. I thought the structure we had was going to allow us to keep doing that for a lot longer.” - Nicholas Jackson, Pacific Standard EIC [Nieman Lab]
  • “People working outside of the nonprofit space don't appreciate how dependent organizations (even world class ones like @PacificStand) are on the whims & priorities of thier[sic] core funders. This is an example of what can go wrong, in the blink of an eye, when a policy shifts.” - Matt Bernius [Twitter]

This week in our office
Our colleagues had some strong reactions to this recent advice column from The Cut, which details one woman’s experience with her in-laws and a serious food allergy. While the column itself left us distressed, many of us still had one question, articulated by one of our team members: “I mean, mushroom powder? Who’s even heard of such a thing?”

If Taylor Lorenz’s TikTok coverage leaves you wanting to better understand young audiences, fret not. The Atlantic has made strides in understanding Gen Z—both through our reporting and through original research across our marketing and consulting teams. Register for our free webinar where we will discuss the findings of our recent research and its implications in the coming years.

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