Recession Winner: Start-up Media Websites

A small group of start-up media websites are refusing to sink with the mainstream media ship and are recording serious spikes in traffic and revenues. Is this the beginning of the global media realignment, or will these media Davids eventually get stomped by newly merged and reorganized Goliaths?

Jessica Vascellaro and Elizabeth Holes report in the Wall Street Journal today that start-ups like SB Nation, Seeking Alpha Ltd. and HealthCentral Network Inc., which "create and aggregate content about topics like sports, business and health," are seeing their traffic and revenues grow while mainstream media tries to figure out what's going on.

New business models allow these sites to create niche content with little financial investment and many are landing distribution partnerships with big media brands hunting for cheap content. Similar to the Gawker Media model, SB Nation recruits the authors for its blog and pays them based, in part, on the popularity of their posts, which ensures that survival is not predicated on massive adverting revenues, according to the Journal.

But this is not the say small media sites have it that easy. In addition to the intense competition for advertising and eyeballs, "the Web is flooded with niche-content sites, relatively few of which are likely to become profitable businesses...But this new model of targeted content that can be assembled cheaply could become popular as advertising growth slows and consumers spend more time across multiple sites."

At the same time, established media companies are becoming more experimental when it comes to working with online brands. According to the Journal, Hearst Corp. announced a partnership last week with Helium, an online writing site that fosters freelance journalism. The partnership will let Helium writers contribute in an as-yet-to-be-determined role to Hearst newspapers."

Big Think is interested to hear how you digest news and information on the web. Do you rely on established media brands, or are you scanning start-ups offering content specific to your interests? Email me at

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