Online it’s a similar story: legacy media dominates. Publications owned by Reach, the media conglomerate formerly known as Trinity Mirror (including the Daily Express and the Mirror), have the biggest reach, followed by the BBC, Rothermere’s Daily Mail Group, Murdoch’s The Sun and the Lebedev family’s Independent and Evening Standard publications.
Besides The Sun — founded in its current form in 1969 — the other publications in that list were all founded before the Second World War. The Evening Standard was founded in 1827 as The Standard, the Daily Mail in 1896, the Daily Express in 1900, the Daily Mirror in 1903, and the BBC in 1922. The youngest title in the list is the Independent, which was founded in 1986 and went online-only in 2016. By comparison, Vice is still treated as a young online organisation despite being founded as a print title eight years later in 1994.
Dig into the ownership of Vice and you’ll find its story is not so different. Among its shareholders are The Walt Disney Company, A&E Networks (a joint venture between Disney and Hearst, another old money publishing giant) and James Murdoch, Rupert’s younger son. In November 2020, BuzzFeed, once feted as the future of media just like Vice, acquired The Huffington Post, bringing job losses and consolidation. Its three largest shareholders are BuzzFeed’s founder Jonah Peretti and the media conglomerates NBCUniversal and Verizon.
When digital companies reach a level of influence that could threaten the entrenched interests, they are simply acquired. It’s no longer new media organisations that threaten tycoons like Murdoch or Rothermere, but Google and Meta, which now dominate the advertising markets.