by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The state of the media is neatly explained by the recent separation of inseparable bloggers Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias. Six years after co-founding Vox in 2014, and nearly two decades after hitting the blogosphere, the pair is splitting up. Klein is headed to The New York Times. Yglesias is going to Substack.
At the Times, Klein will become part of The Consolidation, another starry-eyed pioneer of new media settling comfortably into the old guard. The Grey Lady alone is now home to many such trailblazers. At Substack, Yglesias will become part of a group we’ve dubbed The New Contras, a band of center-left journalists whose willingness to critique the excesses of leftism have pushed them from major publications to ascendant self-publishing platforms.
In corporate media, heterodox thought is rewarded with closed doors. In the Wild West of today’s new media, it’s rewarded with subscriptions. While it may sound laughable that Klein and Yglesias will enjoy similar levels of influence—one at the Paper of Record and the other at an independent newsletter—it’s mostly true. And that’s a blindspot legacy outlets still haven’t corrected.
While the corporate press remains incredibly powerful, the splintering of mass media that affects everything from Netflix to the Washington Post means news and entertainment creators increasingly serve niches. The Times may be doing just fine with a fraction of the readership it had in decades past, but that readership is more ideologically monolithic. This shapes its coverage, which pushes dissatisfied consumers to Substacks and Patreons and YouTube.
Those platforms are more and more competitive with the corporate media establishment, a direct reaction to the demand created by intensified bias at legacy outlets. …
… As we tread into uncharted territory, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution sees a parallel—with an important caveat. “This is blogging, but refashioned in a different format,” he told us.