Dan Abram’s Mediaite.com Launches: Further Blurring the Lines Between Church and State 4


People are still attempting to catch-up from their long Holiday weekends and we’ve already had week full of journalism and ethics’ debates. First, Washington was a buzz with Politico breaking news on the Washington Post’s proposed off-the-record, lobbyist events with the Post’s editorial staff.

The story appeared to catch Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth and Executive editor Marcus Brauchli off-guard, as they hurried to kill the story and the event all together. Although Brauchli made it clear that the planning of the event was not vetted with the editorial staff by telling Politico: “You cannot buy access to a Washington Post journalist,” Weymouth pointed to events of this type as key revenue streams for the company moving forward:

“We do believe that there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events that simply enhances what we do – cover Washington for Washingtonians and those interested in Washington,” she said. “ And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.”

As I’ve mentioned before, the current “media meltdown” has accelerated the media industry’s crash, and publications like the Washington Post (which lost $19.5 million in Q4) are scrambling for dollars. In fact, the crash of large publications has been underway for some time now, as Alan Mutter noted today in stating:

“Profits fell 100.1% since 2004 at newspapers with circulation greater than 80,000.”

With media companies trying to find new revenue streams, the lines between church and state (advertising and editorial) continue to blur. Which brings us to Dan Abram’s latest venture. Mediaite.com (Media-ite), launched yesterday to much fanfare (while being down for much of the day), is a media commentary and news aggregation Website.

According to the Website, Mediaite is the site for news, information and smart opinions about print, online and broadcast media, offering original and immediate assessments of the latest news as it breaks.

In addition, Mediaite’s “Power Grid” objectively ranks media professionals across a dozen categories based on their real-time relevance. Power Grid rankings rely on an array of metrics, including anything and everything from circulation to Twitter followers to Google buzz depending on the category.

Now, with the site being down much of yesterday, I didn’t have a lot of time to play around with it, but I must say the rankings are pretty cool and as Howard Kurtz noted: they call out the celebrity journalists (a media-junkies’ dream).

The only problem with all this is, Abrams wears many hats. He’s NBC’s former Chief Legal Analyst and last November he opened Abrams Research, a media strategy firm which utilizes journalists to advise Fortune 500 companies on media relations. This creates some blurry lines.

With these connections, how can Abrams run a media outlet, which curates, aggregates and even produces content, objectively? It’s a very fair question and one that remains unanswered, despite the spin which Abrams and his team have tried to use to address it.

So while I’ll continue to play around with the Mediaite ranking system, which could serve as a good communication’s tool to rank today’s digital influencers, the ethics of it all remain cloudy.

Of course, Jeff Jarvis made the similarities between the Mediaite launch and the Washington Post fallout all-the-more-clear with a simple tweet over the weekend:

“WaPo access program sounds like a Dan Abrams’ production.”

A variation of this post first appeared on Channeling Media at FastCompany.com.

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4 thoughts on “Dan Abram’s Mediaite.com Launches: Further Blurring the Lines Between Church and State

  • Sara Wedeman

    The ethical problems you describe are only the beginning of the story, actually. The data collection and ranking methodologies Abrams describes as “objective” are anything but. Here’s what jumped out at me when I looked at the site. It appears to draw its data only from English-language outlets, primarily American ones. English may be a dominant trade language, but America is not the world, and is not even remotely representative of the non-English speaking world. This is particularly so terms of the prevalence of internet access and all that stems from it. My guess is that CNN international (in English & other languages but not shown in the US), Al Jazeera, the Agence Presse (FR) & thousands more, are not included in the Mediaite data set. Come to think of it, what happened to all those Farsi (Persian) language blogs and tweets from the recent election there? I doubt they were included either. In short, to call these rankings “objective” is an outright lie, Instead, they are primarily a product of Abrams’ and crews’ colossal blind spots (or if one wants to be kind, ignorance) in the areas of research methodology and ethics. To think that anyone would take the Mediaite rankings seriously, let alone use them as a basis for decision-making, is a very disturbing prospect.

  • Kyle Austin Post author

    Hi Sara,

    You’re right with that. It’s certainly US-based, with a focus on the celebrity of being in the media. However, Dan is certainly not the first (and won’t be the last) to apply that type of nearsighted focus to looking at the media.