Five on Friday: Office Closures, Twitter Alternatives and Subscription … – Subscription Insider

We’ve got a mixed a bag of subscription news in the first edition of Five on Friday in 2023. Guardian offices will remain closed until January 23 related to a suspected ransomware attack, and journalists and others are moving to Mastodon in case Twitter implodes. Also, the European Data Protection Board has fined Meta $411 million, three big Alabama papers will cease print publication next month, and we’ve got top subscription jobs from LinkedIn.
On December 20, The Guardian’s headquarters in the U.K. were hit by a suspected ransomware attack. The newspaper’s staff was told to work remotely while the incident was investigated. The Guardian has extended that mandate until January 23, 2023, per a directive from Anna Bateson, Guardian Media Group chief executive, reports the Press Gazette.
“This is a further update on the serious disruption to our network and IT systems that began before Christmas. As a result of the steps we took to secure our network, a number of key systems have been taken offline and remain unavailable,” said Bateson in a January 2 note to staff.
“To reduce strain on our networks and help the enterprise tech, ESD and other involved teams focus on the most essential fixes, everyone must work from home until at least Monday 23rd January in the UK, US and Australia, unless you are specifically asked to work from our offices,” she added.
At the time of the attack, the Guardian said it was “hit by a serious IT incident” which may have been an attempted ransomware attack. The newspaper’s internal operations were impacted, but online publishing was mostly unaffected. They were able to publish news to their website and app, however. They have not publicly stated how those operations may be impacted now and when all systems are expected to go back online.
Since billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter last October, Twitter has been in an almost constant state of chaos with incidents too numerous to even count. Some of them include the suspension of accounts of certain journalists, changing policies and reversing those changes, banning the promotion of other social media networks on the platform, the CEO polling users if he should step down (they said “yes”), and more. Many profile Twitter users, including some who were suspended, are moving to other social media platforms, including Parler, Truth Social and Mastodon.
Mastodon was launched as an open-source project in Germany in 2016 by Eugen Rochko. Initial funding for the project was raised through Patreon. According to the company’s 2021 annual report, they have since received funding from Prototype Fund, a fund financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Open Knowledge Foundation. Maston officially became a nonprofit in Germany in 2021. The social media platform has 2.5 million monthly active users across 8,600 servers. It has seen a rise in usage since news of Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter was made public. At the end of the second quarter of 2021, Twitter had 238 million monetizable daily active users, says Social Media Today.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Rochko said app downloads on iOS and Android are about 4,000 per day with significantly greater downloads when Musk started firing employees. In late December, Rochko said there had been 1.8 million downloads of the iOS app in the prior 90 days. Though Rochko has a team of five others, they are contractors. He is the only full-time employee. Until now, Rochko ran the operation solo.
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Is Mastodon the answer to Twitter? Some people think so. In a recent article published by What’s New in Publishing, Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro, wrote that traffic on Mastodon surges with every new Twitter crisis, engagement rates are reportedly higher, and it is easy to set up and use. Pete Syme of (Business) Insider said Mastodon is confusing for all but the tech savvy. It isn’t just one website. Servers are based on interests (e.g., games, tech, academia, food, etc.), region or general purpose. He also said it needs to have more features to adequately compete with social media mainstays.
“Social networking that’s not for sale,” says Mastodon’s home page. “Your home feed should be filled with what matters to you most, not what a corporation thinks you should see. Radically different social media, back in the hands of the media.”
It seems like a viable alternative to Mastodon but, based on the limited resources the social media platform has, and the newness of it, it looks like it has some work to do before truly catching on. Depending on who you believe, the app could benefit from new features and it could perhaps be more user friendly.
Meta has been fined €390, or $410 million U.S., by the European Data Protection Board under its GDPR data protection law. EU regulators allege that Meta illegally required users to accept personalized ads, reports The New York Times. At issue is how Meta obtains “consent” to collect user data to serve up targeted ads to users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The consent is included as part of Meta’s lengthy terms of service. Users must accept the terms of service and allow their data to be collected for that purpose or stop using Meta’s social media services.
The ruling gives Meta three months to come up with a plan to comply. Meta can decide how to go about doing that, but the ruling requires that Meta can only have access to personal data for targeted ads if their social media users opt in. While the fine is not significant to Meta, it could have an adverse effect on their advertising business. If they are not able to deliver target customers to their advertisers, their advertising revenue could suffer. Meta’s third quarter 2022 financials show that Meta had $27.2 billion in advertising revenue for the quarter, compared to $28.3 billion for the same period in 2021.
A spokesperson for Meta told the Wall Street Journal, “We strongly believe our approach respects GDPR, and we’re therefore disappointed by these decisions,” according to Media Post.
On Sunday, February 26, three large newspapers in Alabama will cease their print publications and go solely digital. The Alabama Media Group announced that The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile’s Press-Register would now longer be printed after that date, but The Lede, the media group’s seven-days-a-week e-edition would be available daily.
Instead, the media group will focus on its digital brands including,, The Alabama Education Lab, This is Alabama, People of Alabama, and mobile editions of The Lede serving Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile. They will also focus on the digital marketing side of their business and other brands the Alabama Media Group owns, reports
“We remain deeply committed to serving our local communities and are producing high-quality journalism and reaching more people than ever before,” said Tom Bates, president of Alabama Media Group. “At the same time, we’re adjusting to how Alabama readers want their information today, which increasingly is on a mobile device, not in a printed newspaper.”
The company will close a production facility in Mobile but offices in the three metro areas served by the newspapers will remain open in their respective communities.
“This decision also allows us to invest in more local coverage, more investigative reporting and more initiatives like our education lab, which aims to improve our state’s K-12 education system,” Bates said.
Bates also said that their mission to report local news remains the same, but their business model is changing to accommodate the trend toward digital media. Consumers and advertisers are both going online, and the media group is following suit.
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