Not all digital media businesses are bloated, cash-burning hype machines that eventually collapse under their own weight amid apocalyptic warnings that no business model exists.
Not all of them ride high for a brief, shining moment in the chase formedia coverage and traffic, only to have the rug pulled out when Google or Facebook adjust their algorithms. And not all visionary founders end up with adisappointing exit.
Futurism Founder Alex Klokus.
If the product mix is right, and aggregating traffic at all costs isn't the objective, there's a chance to succeed as a businessand to make a difference. That's one takeaway from last month's sale of Futurism.com, a four-year-old site dedicated to coverage of science, to Singularity University, the technology-education community designed to facilitate global collaboration and innovation. SU offers courses, events and other activities, and is organized around local chapters. It was founded in 2008 by the author and futurist Peter Diamandis and the inventor, technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil. It's backed by Google and Deloitte.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
New York City-based Futurism.com, with an audience of 10 million readers, gives SU a media platformofferingscience-oriented news and perspective. It also gives Singularity University access to branded-content capabilities that SU can offer to its clients and members.
Specifically, acquired three distinct Futurism units:
Media & Editorial.SU willuse Futurisms website to reach a much broader audience.In addition,SU enterprise customers get access to a targeted, engaged audience with a curiosity about the future and technology.
Creative Services.Futurisms team crafts custom digital assetsfor corporate clients.Anin-house team creates sizzle reels, campaigns, and unique content.
Film & Studio.Futurism produces short films and documentaries on technology innovation.
Gravity Products, Futurisms direct-to-consumer product company and home to the best-selling Gravity Blanket,was not part of the acquisition.
"At a time when so many publishers are facing strong headwinds, we see nothing but potential in joining the SU family, says Futurism founderAlex Klokus. "When I launched it a few years agopeople had no idea about the amount of change that was coming. We really try to make science cool and interesting again."
Futurism started in 2014 as a science page on Reddit. Every week for nearly 18 months, Klokus says, he posted a feature called "This Week in Science." The Reddit page was parlayed into a similar page on Facebook, and from there it expanded into a full-fledged businesswith Futurism Studios, a video-production operation, and branded content.
However, Futurism spokesman Matt Van Hoven says, Facebookforced a reckoningwith analgorithm change in 2018 that deemphasized publisher content, andFuturism had a decision to make:Either build organically or turn to another platform as a proxy for Facebook.
Futurism chose the former. It worked to build up itscoverage and increase brand content. It brought in Foster Kamer, a veteranof Gawker, Complex, Mashable, The Observerand other brands, and added James Del, another Gawker veteran, as publisher. The company now has 20 employees, and the strategy culminated in thesale toSingularity University.
The key to this outcome, Kamer suggests, was to focusto stop chasing traffic. "We had to reorient away from Facebook," he says. "We had to become more niche, and focus on doing more for fewer people. Theres power in the idea of being a quality publication people choose to find. Theres power intypingaURL inthe spacebar."
"We want to become part of peoples lives like that," Kamer continues. "Forget about gadget news, forget about video games, youll never read that on our site. Youre going to read about AI, blockchain, the future of transportation, cybersecurity, and morein a more fun way than scholarly journals."
Going forward,he says, the 2019 plan includes an old-school op-ed page. It'll be heavily curated, and willincorporate the voices of Singularity University leaders on many topics, whether crypto currency, AI, or emerging biotechnology. "We now have access to a lot of expertise that we didnt have before," Kamer says.
SU won't get involved in content creation at Futurism, andall Futurism units will continue to operate under the Futurism name.
From the business side its similar, Del saysthere's a lot of synergy between the kinds of companies Futurism has worked with and those that Singularity works with. So the goal will be to provideSingularity clients access tothe Futurism studios, and get Futurism clients into Singularity events and other programs. In addition, Del says, Futurism will be launching a new vertical coverage area,specifically in medical technology.
Acquisition Of Futurism Suggests A Different Model For Digital-Media ...
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