Aug 23, 2023 2 min read

Journalists doing it for themselves, pt 404

Journalists doing it for themselves, pt 404

A fiercely independent new tech journalism venture, called 404 Media, launched on Tuesday. It's owned, operated and funded by four digital-emigre tech journalists from Vice's Motherboard: Jason Koebler, Emanuel Maiberg, Samantha Cole, and Joseph Cox.

If you're familiar with Motherboard, you probably just want to subscribe right now.

These folks were core at Vice's Motherboard, which did exceptional tech journalism, but Vice is imploding, in no small part, because it raised way too much capital.

In their own words:

Our reporting has previously shut down surveillance companies, introduced the world to deepfakes, got right-to-repair legislation passed, changed policies at major social media platforms including Reddit and Facebook, and got hundreds of millions of dollars of fines levied against some of the most significant companies in the world.

At 404 Media, we intend to continue that work, only now, we will own it ourselves, and will be in charge of the direction of the company and responsible for its financial viability. This means that we will be experimental, take risks, and try different forms of generating revenue in hopes we can figure out how to do this for a long time. But we will always put the work first.

404 got a nice opening day reception, including coverage in the New York Times:

The new outfit is the latest in a recent boom of publications owned and operated by the journalists themselves. As the digital media industry has grown increasingly unsteady, with tech companies eating the bulk of advertising revenue and outlets that had bet on growth through social media shutting down, a number of journalists have turned to subscription-based websites with low overhead costs. [...]
The small worker-owned websites stand in stark relief to the digital media companies that popped up with venture capital backing about a decade ago, many of which stumbled.

While it's not mentioned in the article, it's notable that 404 Media chose to launch using the Ghost CMS (affiliate link, fyi), an open-source CMS that puts memberships and newsletters at the center of its tech, and unlike a proprietary platform like Substack, it doesn't take a revenue percentage or lock you in with moats.

And unlike WordPress, you don't need a bevy of plugins in Ghost to make memberships, subscriptions, and newsletters work.

Indie media using indie tech!

Outpost is helping 404 with our backend tools to help them build their business, so we're doubly excited about this launch.

And, yup, we highly recommend you subscribe and help them prove this model will work and be sustainable.

Ryan Singel
Ryan Singel
Ryan Singel is the co-founder of Outpost. He's a former journalist for Wired, the co-founder of online recommendation company Contextly, and a Fellow at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society.
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