MTV News Fires Writers: Pivots to Video
MTV News just fired a bunch of their writers. The reason? To make way for a new generation of video content creators. A lot of wanna be literatis are claiming this is the worst thing ever. Understandably, people losing their jobs with little warning is moderately sad.
But it's MTV, and the people being laid off have a great opportunity they can leverage to find new work. Plus, my sympathy for Brooklyn hipsters is quite low.
The pseudo-intellectuals, on Twitter and elsewhere, also think a shift from long-form essays to short videos is a crass move to please the drooling masses. They've been putting up polls for their friends to answer, that say things like "Video? Or Reading?" or making comments like, "But I would read 500 words And I would read 500 more. Just to be the man who read a thousand words To avoid a stupid video." Dumb.
We get it, you think you're smarter than us.
What doesn't go viral among these interpersonal networks of pseudo-intellectuals is the raw data. So just how did the experimental long-form essay department of MTV News do?
Since 2015, according to network insiders, overall traffic for MTV News’ digital content has declined... average number of unique views for MTV News editorial content was down 64% for the period of October 2016 to June 2017 versus the period of October 2014 to June 2017 — fiscal 2015, prior to Fierman’s hire, versus the current fiscal year. By the same measure, time spent was down 59%. Traffic for editorial video streams was down 97%.
So it looks like overall viewership & interaction plummeted.
One could argue that less people followed MTV News during this period, but they were a more devoted following. Sure. But was this following on brand for MTV? Is this audience of scoffing wannabe-gonzo Long Island inside-jokers the kind of traffic MTV can survive & thrive on?
The literature experiment at MTV News is a success, and can continue to be a success, if that same energy & talent transfers to a new brand. That new brand can cultivate this specific audience, like a cult, and funnel the traffic into sales funnels and what-not and do a micro-MTV News thing but call it "Bangs" or whatever. The most popular pieces can always be turned into merch for those who bonded with MTV News during its jazzy-lit heyday. And the people who once worked there can easily leverage their past job into new & exciting things.
To me, the biggest lesson of the MTV News mass firing is not so much the tragedy of a loss of written culture. I'm an addicted book buyer & daily reader. But fuck that.
What's more interesting in all this is that video is here to stay.
What's more interesting is the future increasingly continues to be creative video content.