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Illustration: Axios Visuals

The future of publishing belongs to those that focus on niche areas partly because the internet has reduced distribution costs to zero, according to Ben Thompson, author of the daily tech and media analysis note, The Stratechery.

Why it matters: We're seeing examples of that play out in real time, with niche publications touting success stories based on the loyalty of hyper-fans.

What's happening: Thompson argues in his email to subscribers that the recent layoffs at BuzzFeed underscore this point...

"Success used to come from being broad-based with a geographic monopoly. The content of the vast majority of newspapers was largely duplicative (as the success of the wire services proved). On the Internet, though, success comes from being narrow while reaching the whole world. It is the exact opposite."
  • The Ringer, for example, announced in a WSJ interview Monday that it has $15 million per year from podcasts, accounting for most of its revenue.
  • Politico recently announced that it has more than doubled in size over the last 5 years, growing revenue from $52 million to $113 million in 2018, much of which is subscription driven.
  • The Athletic, which was recently valued at over $200 million, has well over over 100,000 paid subscribers.
  • Other publishers are focusing on creating networks of smaller, niche brands that can leverage the resources of holding companies, but still command their own audiences, like The Cut and Vulture at New York Media, or Eater and The Verge at Vox Media.

Yes, but: For all the success stories, there are plenty of other failures. Not all niche publications get it right, but for those that do, audience development, especially through subscriptions, is more consistent and stable.

Thompson argues that the internet economy puts broad-based, commoditized media companies at odds with tech platforms that are astronomically bigger — a losing strategy.

  • He says that some large digital media companies, like the New York Times, are a rarity because they have 150 years of branding to garner broad-based commercial support.

Between the lines: Thompson notes that being narrow does not usually equate to driving high return rates expected by venture capital backings. (Many media companies are backed by venture capital.)

  • He therefore says that being niche is at odds with raising venture capital money.
  • BuzzFeed raised an unusually high amount of money for a digital publisher, $500 million.

Our thought bubble: Just don't raise too much.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker