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Substack Just Hit a Major Milestone. Can Big Media Outlets Punch Back? – Vanity Fair

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The New York Times and Atlantic, among others, are finding new ways to get in on the newsletter craze in hopes of retaining or luring in-demand writers. 

November 16, 2021

Substack announced Monday that there are more than one million paid subscriptions to publications on its platform—or, as the company put it, “a million reasons to believe this opportunity is larger than anyone guessed.” According to NiemanLab, Substack now has twice as many subscriptions as it claimed to have 10 months ago and four times that of December 2020. “These are subscriptions that didn’t exist before—they’re not being siphoned off from traditional media outlets or redistributed from other platforms,” Substack wrote in a post. “They represent a rush of new money into the media ecosystem, the vast majority of it going directly to writers.”

The newsletter platform, which boasts high-profile writers like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, and Matt Yglesias, touted the accomplishment as affirmation that “people are willing to pay for writers they trust” and “new types of publications serving previously ignored communities can succeed.” The top 10 newsletters collectively make more than $20 million a year, co-founder Hamish McKenzie noted. Nieman points out that one million subscriptions doesn’t mean one million subscribers. “Paying subscribers make up a fraction—about 5 to 10%—of Substack’s total readership,” the outlet reports, with more than 500,000 people “out of millions of active readers” paying for at least one Substack.

Nearly a year ago, my colleague Joe Pompeo wrote that “for all of Substack’s visionary tough talk, it’s hard to imagine a mass exodus—a voluntary one, at least—from major media organizations,” given that “a steady paycheck is still a steady paycheck, and it still counts for something to tell a source you’re calling from a publication like the New York Times, the Atlantic, or Politico.” While journalists at big media companies certainly haven’t rushed the exits, there’s been plenty of industry churn since then. Charlie Warzel, for one, jumped from the Times to Substack to the Atlantic, which is among the legacy media outlets that have launched paid newsletter programs in response to the Substack boom. In a recent post announcing he’d be leaving Substack, Warzel said he’d amassed over 1,400 paid subscribers over seven months on the platform and conceded the move was less lucrative than he hoped. Taking his newsletter to the Atlantic, he noted he’ll be able “to collaborate inside an organization again while also having my own little scratchpad where I can do my thing.”

Such an option, Axios’s Sara Fischer and Nicholas Johnston write, was far and few between at mainstream platforms prior to the somewhat recent exodus to Substack, a trend whose “threat to newsrooms was overblown” but which “has finally pushed newsrooms to create programs that give writers more pay, autonomy and flexibility.” In the face of a changing digital media landscape, legacy publishers appear resilient: The Times earlier this year rolled out a handful of subscriber-only newsletters, some of which are written by non-Times employees; the paid newsletter platform Forbes debuted in January allows writers to split subscription revenue for their newsletters 50/50 with the publisher; the Atlantic’s newsletter program, which counts Molly Jong-Fast and Nicole Chung among its nine writers, will offer contractors “the ability to make additional money if they hit certain subscriber goals,” according to Vox; and The Information just unveiled a newsletter network. 

As traditional publishers adapt to the newsletter trend, new players are apparently taking note of the emerging hybrid options that have drawn journalists such as Warzel back to the newsroom. “The newsletter boom will birth new platforms catering to creators looking for a happy middle ground between newsroom support and independence,” Fischer and Johnston write, citing fledgling companies Lede and Workweek as recent examples.

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‘Frantic race backwards’ for China media freedoms: Report – Al Jazeera English

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Reporters Without Borders says at least 127 journalists are detained in China, as Beijing takes ever harsher line on media freedoms.

At least 127 journalists – from major international news outlets to bloggers – are currently detained in China as the Chinese Communist Party continues a major crackdown on media initiated by President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said in a new report.

China now ranks 177 out of 180 in the media watchdog’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index,  two slots above North Korea, thanks to a sweeping campaign to limit free expression across every sector of society.

In the report, published on Tuesday, Secretary General Christophe Deloire described China as a country in the midst of a “ frantic race backwards” as Chinese citizens continue to lose press freedom.

Chinese journalists and writers have become a target of the campaign and face charges such as espionage, subversion and “picking quarrels”. They include whistleblowers like Zhang Zhan, a Chinese lawyer who last year was sentenced to four years in prison for documenting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, and Cheng Lei, an Australian Chinese anchor at Chinese state media outlet CGTN who was formally arrested in February and accused of supplying state secrets overseas.

Prior to their formal arrest, many detained journalists may spend up to six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” according to the media group. Institutionalised in China in 2012, the practice allows authorities to hold an individual in solitary confinement and constant supervision at a designated facility. The practice is frequently described as “torture” by those who have experienced it.

Cheng was detained in August 2020 and reportedly underwent RSDL before she was formally charged six months later. Her trial and sentencing have yet to be announced.

Nearly two-thirds of journalists detained in China are Uighurs, according to RSF, many of whom helped to raise the alarm about China’s campaign of repression against the Muslim ethnic minority and other groups in the far western region of Xinjiang. Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.

Australia ChinaAustralian citizen and television anchor Cheng Lei, who worked for China”s state television CGTN, has been accused of spying  [File: Australia Global Alumni, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Reuters]

Affiliation with major news outlets or second citizenship in a Western country has also failed to protect Chinese journalists, who under Chinese law can only work as “news assistants” for foreign media.

The release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.

In a bid to control Chinese journalists in the future, the report noted, Chinese journalists are required to download an app “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country,” which can download their personal data, while they will soon have to undergo 90 hours of ideological training each year to renew their press card.

While the country has never been known as an easy place to report from, foreign journalists say that conditions in China have become more challenging in recent years and even more so under COVID-19 regulations, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.  In 2020, 18 foreign journalists were forced to leave China due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between China, the United States and Australia.

China’s crackdown has also extended into Hong Kong, a former British colony once considered one of the most open places in Asia.

The territory is the regional headquarters of media organisations including CNN, AFP and Reuters due to its formerly high level of press freedom.

Media mogul Jimmy Lai is the highest profile person charged under Hong Kong’s security law. His newspaper, Apple Daily, has been forced to close and six other employees including its former chief editor have also been detained [File: Jerome Favre/EPA]

Following months of democracy protests in 2019 and the imposition of national security legislation, Hong Kong media has also found itself under attack, RSF said.

One of the highest profile cases was the closure of pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai, who is facing life imprisonment for “colluding with foreign forces” under the terms of the new legislation.

Six additional Apple Daily employees are also in detention, including the newspaper’s former chief editor and several writers.

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How to Make Your WordPress Site Run Faster?

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If you are struggling with a slow WordPress website, you are not alone! WordPress is the most popular CMS and currently powers over 40% of all the websites around the world. However, many Canadian WordPress users notice that their webpages are taking too long to load, or their media does not pop up promptly. Luckily, there are many ways to increase the speed of your site without compromising the quality of the content.

How to Determine Website Speed

There are many free online speed tools available for anyone to use. All you must do is copy your website’s URL and paste it into one of these tools. Another thing you can do is ask your friends and family to test out the site. Listen to their constructive criticism, as they will tell you if they feel that the loading time is too long.

Ideally, you are aiming for the quickest speeds possible. On average, a web page should load within 1-2 seconds. Once you hit 3 seconds, you run the risk of losing about half of your virtual traffic.

Methods of Increasing Speed

Use a Caching Plugin

WordPress offers thousands of different plugins to improve the efficiency of your site. Some of these are necessary for the site to function, while others are simply nice to have. Installing a caching plugin might be the answer to solving your slow loading speeds.

When visitors access your site, WordPress needs to locate all the script and then transfer it to their browser. When visitors are abundant to one website, this process can become very backlogged. Caching involves storing the website files in a temporary location on the visitor’s browser. When they return to the site, WordPress will not need to load the entire script, saving time.

Invest in a Good Web Host Provider

When people first create their website, they may be tempted to purchase a hosting plan that is as cheap as possible. This can be a big mistake, as poor hosting can lead to virtual security breaches and slow, unresponsible websites. Instead, take the time to research reputable web hosting companies that can provide you with the plan you need.

Many companies offer specific plans for people looking for WordPress hosting in Canada. A WordPress hosting plan is completely optimized for your platform. This includes additional tools such as enhanced security features, automatic updates, quick setups, and access to customer support agents who are WordPress experts.

Perform Regular Updates

As a website owner, you will need to keep an eye out for required updates. Since WordPress is open-source, this means that it frequently requires new updates. Elements such as themes and plugins will also need to be kept up to date to ensure that they are fully optimized.

If you allow your website to remain out of date, there is an increased security risk. Partially due to its large scale, WordPress is a popular target for hackers and other people with nefarious intentions. Remaining left behind with older versions of WordPress will leave you exposed to weaknesses that hackers are probably well-aware of.

Implement Excerpts Rather Than Full Text

For many websites, but especially blogs, people will have multiple web pages with different discussion topics. On your homepage, WordPress will automatically showcase full paragraphs from all your different pages. This is detrimental to you because your homepage will load slower, and viewers will not be as tempted to click through your other pages.

To avoid this, you can change the settings so that only short summaries of the articles appear on your homepage. This will encourage viewers to click into the article to get the whole story, and your loading speed will improve. You can change this through “Settings – Reading”, and then choose the option “For each article in a feed, show: Summary.”

Consider Using a Content Delivery Network

A content delivery network, or CDN for short, is when a collection of worldwide servers stores your site’s static files. The purpose of this is to reduce the distance between your virtual visitor and the server. When a visitor accesses your site, they will receive the files from the server in their city or the nearest alternative.

Using a CDN also reduces a website’s downtime, as there will constantly be a redistribution between servers if one goes down.

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Instagram, ahead of U.S. Senate hearing, tightens teen protection measures

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Instagram said on Tuesday it will be stricter about the types of content it recommends to teens in the photo-sharing app and will nudge them toward different areas if they dwell on one topic for a long time.

In a blog post, the social media service announced a slew of changes for teen users. Instagram head Adam Mosseri is to testify in a congressional hearing on Wednesday about protecting kids online.

Instagram and its parent company Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook, have been under scrutiny over ways their services could cause issues around the mental health, body image and online safety of younger users.

In the post, Mosseri also said Instagram was switching off the ability for people to tag or mention teens who do not follow them on the app. He said that starting in January, teen Instagram users would be able to bulk delete their content and previous likes and comments.

He said Instagram was exploring controls to limit potentially harmful or sensitive material suggested to teens through its search function, hashtags, short-form video Reels and its ‘Suggested Accounts’ feature, as well as on its curated ‘Explore’ page.

The blog post also said that on Tuesday, Instagram was launching its ‘Take a Break’ feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, which reminds people to take a brief pause from the app after using it for a certain amount of time.

It said Instagram in March next year would launch its first tools for parents and guardians to see how much time their teens spend on the app and set time limits.

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn criticized the company’s product announcement as “hollow,” saying in a statement: “Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along.”

An Instagram spokeswoman said it would continue its pause on plans for a version of Instagram for kids. Instagram suspended plans for the project in September amid growing opposition to the project.

The move followed a Wall Street Journal report that said internal documents, leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, showed the company knew Instagram could have harmful mental health effects on teenage girls, for example on their views of body image. Facebook has said the leaked documents have been used to paint a false picture of the company’s work.

State attorneys general and lawmakers had also raised concerns about the kids-focused app.

Last month, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. state attorneys general said it had opened a probe of Meta for promoting Instagram to children despite potential harms.

 

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

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