Trudeau’s bailouts won’t help Canadian media—competition will
Earlier this month, the Digital Democracy Project (DDP), a joint initiative led by the Public Policy Forum and the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University, published their first report in a series aimed at studying the Canadian media ecosystem in the lead up to the 2019 election.
The results are reaffirming for anyone who believes the nation’s media do not require ethically worrying government funds to continue operation.
In less than two years, The Post Millennial has become one of the largest media organizations in the country. According to DDP’s survey results, roughly 12% of respondents viewed our content in the last week.
The above chart indicates that our digital viewership equates roughly to one-fourth of the reach held by CBC.
While the CBC and others continue to spend hundreds of millions to compete, we continue to grow and remain cash-flow positive on a budget less than 1/100th the size of our mainstream competitors.
Perhaps more interesting, we do so with an extremely diverse audience, according to reporting from partisans, more NDP and Liberal supporters read TPM as a proportion of their base than Conservatives.
TPM appears to have more NDP viewers than Maclean’s, Rabble, the Montreal Gazette, and The Province, managing to almost tie with the Tyee.
While the diversity of users, size, and rapid growth in the market are essential, the report also found that alternative sources are not a serious cause for harm.
Exposure to both mainstream media and, to a greater extent, social media is associated with higher levels of misinformation. One key point of vulnerability is the greater tendency of media consumers with strong partisan tendencies to become misinformed with news exposure, especially via social media.DDP Report
Yep, you read that right. The mainstream appears to be misinforming the public.
This, for most, is unsurprising.
Long-term media growth requires moderation and brand maintenance.
As a result, most alternatives like TPM or Rabble can’t afford to publish fake news or misinform.
Put into context, like any other startup, alternatives face many of the same obstacles as their larger and more mainstream competition.
This new data put forward by the DDP makes it hard to accept the argument that the nation needs to use taxpayer funds to bail out an ageing media industry.
As pointed out by Jesse Brown in the following Twitter thread, a large part of the arguments put forward toward the government on why a bailout was needed, was to protect against so-called fake news.
With financially insecure mainstream news organizations failing to solve the fake news problem at the same time that young and lean competitors begin to grow profits, it seems bizarre that the government has continued to stake hundreds of millions of dollars in the least efficient elements of a troubled industry.
The decision is even more bizarre when you consider one other key piece of data found by the DDP report—journalists appear to ignore many of the issues the general public actually cares about.
This supply-demand disconnect is normal when you consider that there are only a few media chains in the entire country.
At this moment the Post Media and Torstar chains stand to benefit the most from a bailout, while our state broadcaster, the CBC, stands to massively benefit from its market-destroying expansion into advertising, at the same time that it continues to receive immense taxpayer funding.
That immense homogeneity at the top restricts the cultures that should exist in newsrooms across the nation. By extension, the homogenous newsroom cultures limit the topics which journalists are assigned.
While the homogeneity is explainable, it certainly is not good, and in effect, it sets the current government plan up for failure, by creating a supply solution to a demand problem.
Canadians don’t want to consume more of the same. They want choice.
Hundreds of millions more shovelled to tired companies focused on the same topics will never solve this problem.
Only open and fair competition will – and that will only occur when dying behemoths, who refuse to meet the changing consumer preferences of the market, are finally allowed to fail.