In a blog post headlined “A heavy heart and the road ahead,” Glenn Beck said he was cutting more than 20% of the staff at his news and video site The Blaze and its sister company, Mercury Radio Arts. Most of the reductions affect The Blaze.
The former Fox News and CNN Headline News host’s startup is facing heavier competition for ad dollars and eyeballs in the Trump Era from a burgeoning field of right-leaning digital operations, from Breitbart to the Daily Caller to Infowars. Plus, as Beck himself noted, the overall landscape is transforming rapidly. “The structural challenges facing media companies today are real,” Beck said. “But, when someone—anyone—tells me that something can’t be done, it only makes me more determined to prove them wrong.” The company needs to “disrupt or be disrupted,” he added.
Beck launched a subscription video network in 2012, after having started a digital news site and radio offerings the year before.
Jonathan Schreiber, president of Mercury Radio Arts, argued in a separate blog post that “conservative media is down across the board, from what we can see and what we are hearing. We are not immune.”
Despite the dramatically higher profile of Breitbart and other conservative outlets, social media and other factor have undermined the traditional economic model, Schreiber said. For one thing, left-wing media bias extends into the investment community and financial markets, he argued, making it difficult to raise funding, be acquired or stage an initial public offering. “Without equity investment, you cannot focus on building an audience and monetizing it later,” he wrote.
One additional twist of late is that Beck has been a vocal opponent of President Trump, instead backing Sen. Ted Cruz in last fall’s election.
As it ramped up, The Blaze gained carriage on several MVPD systems. Its stand-alone OTT offering, at $10 a month or $100 a year, was ahead of its time. Today, there is an all-out blitz of individual services and more clutter standing in the way of The Blaze gaining subs. And pinning down an exact subscriber count isn’t easy as those numbers are kept private. But one measure is Parks Associates’ annual rankings of the top 10 U.S. OTT services. In 2015, The Blaze checked in at No. 9 on the list. By 2016, it was gone.
Schreiber emphasized that the cuts were not a sign of The Blaze’s imminent demise. But he was philosophical about the measure of its progress. “I am certain that The Blaze is not a failure,” he wrote. “Yet I am equally as sure that The Blaze is not a success.”