Navigating the Shift: Legacy Media Layoffs, the Rise of Alternative Media and Opportunities for SMB Media Coverage

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Mark Willaman

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Rise of alternative media

The U.S. media landscape is experiencing significant upheaval, with legacy media facing financial challenges and workforce reductions. Despite this turmoil within mainstream media, there's a burgeoning growth in alternative or independent media platforms. This article delves into the decline of traditional media, the growth of alternative media, and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) seeking media coverage.

The Crisis in Legacy Media

Recent headlines:

"Why the U.S. Media Industry Is in Meltdown" - The Ringer
"Wall Street Strikes Again With Mass Media Layoffs" - Common Dreams
"Journalism bloodbath: 2024 kicks off with numerous media layoffs, labor issues" - Fox Business
"The News About the News Business Is Getting Grimmer" - New York Times

These headlines underscore the significant layoffs within mainstream media, marking a challenging start to 2024. Notably, NPR announced a 10% workforce reduction, attributing it to a slowdown in advertising and sponsorship revenue, especially for its podcasts.

"News Deserts". The Decline of Local Newspapers

The decline is not limited to national outlets; local newspapers have suffered greatly. About 95% of US newspapers are going to disappear and go away forever lamented the late Charlie Munger in 2022. Northwestern University’s Medill School reports, "204 U.S. counties have no local news outlets left and 228 counties at high risk of becoming news deserts soon."

Factors contributing to local newspaper’s decline include:

  • The digital transformation and the shift of advertising revenue to digital giants like Google and Facebook.
  • Changing consumer preferences towards real-time updates and interactive media.
  • Industry consolidation leading to reduced local coverage and homogenization of news content.
  • Cost-cutting measures resulting in smaller newsrooms and less focus on ‘journalism’.

The Rise of Alternative and "Bottom-Up" Media

Reflect on these insights:

The combined viewership of late-night talk shows (Kimmel, Colbert, Fallon, Gutfeld), cable news channels (MSNBC, CNN, FOX), and the evening news broadcasts on major networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) stands at roughly 32 million. Compare this to the era of Walter Cronkite, when his nightly news audience reached 30 million in 1968, at a time when the United States had a population of 200 million. The recent interview by Tucker Carlson with Russia's President Vladimir Putin amassed over 200 million views on Twitter alone within just the first four days of its release.

Recession, less money for advertising, a decline in referrals from search engines, and cratering demand are reasons often cited for the media "meltdown". But there is more going on because independent media consumption is booming as they capitalize on the opportunities and gaps left by traditional media.

While legacy media faces layoffs and closures, the alternative media sector is thriving, evidenced by the growing podcast market, estimated at $23.56 billion in 2023 with a projected annual growth rate of 27.6% through 2030. This growth is largely attributed to independent outlets filling the void left by legacy media.

Alternative media's success can be attributed to several factors:

  • Growing public distrust in mainstream media.
  • Lower entry barriers for media production and distribution.
  • Focus on topics that traditional media chooses to ignore.
  • Innovative content formats and real-time reporting.
  • More balanced and/or deeper coverage of topics.
  • Platforms like Twitter, Telegram, Substack,, and YouTube allow alternative media outlets to reach large audiences directly, bypassing traditional gatekeepers. These platforms also enable content to go viral, reaching far beyond the creator's immediate network.

Denyse O'Leary's, Mind Matters article "How Bottom Up Media Are Slowly Replacing Top Down Media," argues that the traditional top-down media model is being replaced by a bottom-up approach. This shift is driven by independent social media users, bloggers, and journalists who collectively determine what news is, thriving in an environment that values diverse and independent voices.

As individuals and groups feel marginalized by mainstream platforms, they turn to these alternative media spaces that often provide more accurate and objective reporting. A big reason for this shift is trust.

The Erosion of Trust in Legacy Brands and “Cancel Culture”

Some estimates claim as much as 90% of U.S. media is controlled by just six companies and as a result, news coverage has become homogenized - e.g., major news outlets around the world publishing the same headline, and same story, at the same time for a particular topic.

Emma Tucker, Editor in Chief at The Wall Street Journal recently said (emphasis mine):

If you go back really not that long ago, as I say, we owned the news. We were the gatekeepers, and we very much owned the facts as well. If it said it in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, then that was a fact ... Nowadays, people can go to all sorts of different sources for the news, and they’re much more questioning about what we’re saying.”

Many people around the world believe that traditional media outlets have become increasingly biased, leading audiences to seek alternative sources for a more balanced approach.

Another related reason is the phenomenon of "cancel culture". The de-platforming of individuals by traditional or mainstream media outlets for allegedly spreading "false" news, only for some of these narratives to later be reassessed or vindicated, has also contributed to declining trust in mainstream media.

When mainstream media outlets or platforms cancel or de-platform individuals for sharing views that are later found to be credible or at least worthy of discussion, it can reinforce perceptions of bias, censorship, and agenda-driven content moderation. This perception can lead audiences to question the fairness and objectivity of these outlets, further eroding trust.

Seizing the Spotlight: How Alternative Media Opens New Doors for B2B Companies

The rise of podcasts, blogs, and other alternative platforms offers SMBs new opportunities for targeted, cost-effective, and engaging media coverage amidst a media landscape historically dominated by a few large enterprises with fewer journalists.

This trend allows for:

  • Targeted Reach: Access to niche audiences interested in specific industries or topics.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: More affordable and sometimes free opportunities to get news out, compared to traditional media channels.
  • Increased Engagement: Direct interaction with audiences, fostering community, and building brand credibility.
  • Creative Control: Greater flexibility in how stories are told and presented.

In essence, this shift towards alternative media provides a platform for smaller companies to amplify their voice, reach relevant audiences more effectively, and build their brand in an increasingly crowded marketplace.


The media landscape is undergoing a significant transformation, characterized by the decline of legacy media and the rise of alternative media.

This shift reshapes how news is produced, distributed, and consumed, offering a more diverse and participatory media environment. And more opportunities for smaller companies seeking news coverage.

As the industry continues to evolve, the growth of alternative media suggests a future where a multitude of voices and perspectives can coexist, challenging the traditional paradigms of "we owned the news" and information dissemination.

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