Sunday night’s episode of “Succession” on HBO focused round the shut-down of a fictional media startup referred to as Vaulter. The startup’s CEO blamed Facebook’s algorithmic program changes for the site’s traffic problems, which probably rang true for real-life media workers. Over the last few years, real-life digital media publishers like Rare.us and LittleThings have fallen victim to Facebook changes that have de-emphasized content from publishers.
Facebook’s algorithmic program changes have affected real-life media organizations over the previous couple of years. On Sunday night’s episode of “Succession,” those changes impacted a fictional media company, too.
“Succession” follows the world of the Roy family, a fictional media dynasty dominated by the temperamental Logan Roy. Throughout the primary season of the HBO drama, Logan’s son and apparent heir-apparent, Kendall Roy, architects an acquisition of a media startup referred to as Vaulter. Within the second episode of Season 2, Logan asks for a “health check” of Vaulter, and enlists Kendall and another son, Roman; to go to Vaulter to seek out how the corporate is actually doing.
What Kendall and Roman find is a startup facing challenges that mirror what the media world is facing in real life. Vaulter’s website traffic has seen a drop-off, the corporate is wasting cash on extraneous worker perks like beehives on the roof, and workers are annoyed and exploring unionization.
In one unforgettable scene, Kendall confronts Vaulter CEO Lawrence Yee regarding his company’s numbers, and receives a response that will feel all-too-familiar to anyone operating in media.
“We had a handful s—– traffic months. Facebook modified their algorithmic program,” Yee said. “We got face-f—–, okay? We’re turning the corner currently.”
Unfortunately for Yee, Vaulter never gets the chance to turn things around: Kendall, on the behest of his father, shuts down Vaulter, however not before he lies to workers to prevent their unionization efforts, solicits hundreds of free ideas from the employees, farms out the site’s remaining content to freelancers and interns, and then terminates nearly the whole employees in one fell swoop with barely any severance. A spokesperson for Facebook wasn’t instantly available to discuss the company’s mention within the episode.
The unforeseen shut-down might have additionally sounded acquainted to some journalists working for digital-media startups. In February 2018, for instance, women-focused publisher LittleThings closed its doors. The site’s demise was mostly because of Facebook’s algorithmic program changes to de-emphasize content from publishers, which took out roughly 75th of LittleThings’ organic traffic.
One month later, viral content website Rare.us shut down after 5 years in operation. The site owed a lot of its traffic to Facebook, and Facebook’s algorithmic program changes throttled the site’s traffic. in line with Axios, by the time Rare shut down, website traffic had fallen to 5.5 million global distinctive visitors from 22.5 million distinctive visitors at its peak.
And Mic, which aimed to be a news website for millennials, additionally fell victim to an over-reliance on Facebook. In November 2018, the corporate laid off most of its employees and sold the rest of the company to Bustle Digital group for a reported fraction of its valuation a few years ago.