What is the Intercept after the Snowden saga ends?

English: Logo of Niche Architects

English: Logo of Niche Architects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Intercept, like the Guardian, faces a problem. In time, the Snowden saga will end. The problem for both is that the Snowden documents will either be released or they will, in time, become irrelevant except for historical research. When that occurs, how will they keep interest in a new media organisation that was created from that saga? Although the Intercept is part of a larger media organisation First Look, the other parts remain unseen. One possibility is that the secondary stories around the Snowden saga, such as persecution of the press or the debate over privacy, maintain an interest. However, that presents its own problems because its main offer is to the converted rather than to the uncertain reader. A focus on adversarial journalism means that the focus is less a desire to explain or to inform and more on a desire to convince. To convince the converted requires less evidence than convincing the uncertain.

If this is the approach, the organisation has to find new material that will attract and retain readers who are not already the converted. To attract readers, the Intercept and other organisations that focus on opposition or adversarial journalism need to find issues that allow them to express that opposition and adversarial position. However, it cannot be simply opposition for opposition’s sake. There will always be scandals, or leaks, because these are part of politics within the government, but that renders The Intercept to political gossip. As individuals and organisations vie for power with each other, they will leak or brief against their opponents, which, though abundant, does not render it interesting to the general public.

The underlying problem is that the debate created by the Snowden Saga is not overdue nor is it surprising. The debate is only an updated version of what has been continuously discussed and debate since states were created. The debate, at its heart, is about the tension between the individual and the state. How much can the state control and how much freedom does the individual have within the state are constant questions. They are important, but the media cannot solve them. They may have a view on the answer, but is that enough to sustain interest. For the public, the question is already answered by the status quo so will The Intercept provide a new answer.

The secondary issues, while interesting, soon fall back into the regular political and social discourse. Is there still a viable market for new writing on sports entertainment and politics and business? On these areas first look media, if it follows the Intercept will require an ability to offer a unique selling point offered by control and access to the NSA document. Such an advantage will not exist in the other areas, which raises the question. How do media organisations differentiate themselves in a social media age? If they focus on a niche, they accept that they depend on its source such as documents, or specific access.

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About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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2 Responses to What is the Intercept after the Snowden saga ends?

  1. First Look Media has always maintained that the NSA stories will soon be over, and they will move onto issues affecting the US in particular and the world in general. Climate change, the war on drugs, social justice, prisoners rights, etc. offer plenty of opportunities for the high profile journalists who are already on board, and will be coming on board once they launch

    • Joe,
      Thanks for the comment. I understand that First Look Media has plans to develop itself beyond the NSA stories. My question, or focus, was on the nature of the Intercept’s appeal and whether it can grow its base beyond a niche. Yes, it will have interesting writers and interesting stories. However, it faces two challenges. First, it faces the George issue. George as a magazine was famous for its launch and its founder. Beyond that it did not offer much and did not survive much beyond the founder’s death. First Look Media and The Intercept are in a better position. Yet, they ware haunted or carry the weight of the NSA story. Will prisoners rights attract as many readers or the general reader? Perhaps it will appeal to the converted, but beyond that base what is available? Adversarial journalism can become special pleading or simply political posturing, which means that it stops being objective and reporting stories, no matter who is involved, and becomes partisan without explaining or informing. Who needs to be told what opinions they need to hold by a media company?
      The second issue, related to the first, is that First Look Media and The Intercept have gained much of their attention or status from one reporter. Yes, there are other talented writers in the organisation. However, the traffic to the site remains drawn by Glenn Greenwald. As I explained in a previous post, the model relies heavily on talent. In this case, Mr. Greenwald had more followers on Twitter than The Intercept. By contrast, no writer for the New York Times has more followers than the NY Times. https://mediameditations.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/is-social-media-based-on-the-brothel-as-a-business-model/
      In time that may change, but for now the Intercept and First Look Media are in Mr Greenwald’s shadow and that is not healthy for the business.
      Thanks again for your comment.

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