Many of them are folding, or in serious trouble. Most of the reasons why they’re in trouble are pretty obvious. Most of these sites don’t do any real reporting. Most of what they produce is politically biased. Even as political opinion, much of it is third-rate, and little different to easily available opinions spread all over the internet. And ad blockers have cut advertising revenue.
But there’s another reason. And that is that modern left-wingers like the good life. Gone are the days when revolutionaries would struggle away, living on cheap food in horrible, crowded apartments, churning out their roneod diatribes, and making sacrifices for the cause. Those days are long gone. Your modern left-winger — and believe me, I’ve met a lot of these people — likes a comfortable life. A good salary. A nice house in a good area. They like to eat out at trendy restaurants a lot. These things are basic human rights, aren’t they, and after all they do have a PhD in gender studies.
They all have this mindset, even the bosses, who usually have access to a lot of government money, or money from rich fools like George Soros. So they all pay themselves well. And they hire loads of people, because they think they’re building an empire, which is what their friends in the public sector do. But while this often works in the public sector, when the money keeps on rolling in regardless of how well the economy is doing, it doesn’t in the private sector, where most online journalism resides. Eventually a profit has to be turned or the enterprise crashes, or the investors pull out. And turning a profit is extremely hard when you’re paying hundreds of useless staff pretty good salaries, and all they can produce for that lovely lifestyle is the same old stale whinges about feminism or Trump or microaggressions that can be found any where else on the internet.
On the other hand, there are plenty of right-wing digital media sites that are doing extremely well, with hardly any staff. Loads of one-man, and one-woman bands pulling in enormous figures. Sometimes with a tech guy or two to help. Not 130 techies, just one or two. And there aren’t 270 staff in the Feminism section either. And no HR. They’re doing fine.
Update: I’m reminded of the initial success of the Huffington Post, which was built on the backs of unpaid
fools contributors, who would contribute their material for free. That may not have been very ethical, but it made more sense as a business model than putting hundreds of entitled politicals on the payroll.
Update 2: I should add that Buzzfeed UK has actually started doing some actual, real political reporting recently, after it hired former Guido staffer Alex Wickham.