Welcome to 404 Media

At 404 Media, we aspire to create a sustainable, responsible, reader-supported technology media business.
Left to right: Emanuel Maiberg, Jason Koebler, Joseph Cox, Samantha Cole. Photo by Sharon Attia
The founders of 404 Media. From left to right: Emanuel Maiberg, Jason Koebler, Joseph Cox, Samantha Cole. Photo by Sharon Attia

Hello, and welcome to 404 Media, a new digital media company created, owned, written, edited by four journalists who until very recently worked at VICE’s Motherboard. We’re glad you’re here, and we’re glad we’re here, too.

At 404 Media, we aspire to do society-shifting technology journalism, and to create a sustainable, responsible, reader-supported media business around it. We will report and publish stories that you will not find anywhere else, that we believe only we can do. We hope these stories will take over the internet, impact public policy, and expose bad actors. We will point out the absurd. We will be irreverent and have fun. We will also do very serious work. We hope that you will read these stories and want to send them to your group chat, or bring them up as conversation starters at parties.

We believe that if we do this journalism well enough, you, our readers, will be willing to subscribe because you think it’s important, because you think it should exist in the world, and because you feel you’re personally getting value from it.

Today, you’ll find an article about a horrifying data broker ecosystem where highly sensitive data filters from credit bureaus to violent criminals on Telegram. You’ll get a look inside a generative AI community that’s churning out sexual images of real people without their consent on a massive scale, and you’ll finally figure out why sex toy vibration patterns are so frustrating. You’ll see the incident report from the Boston ‘Cop Slide’ fiasco (thank you, FOIA). And you’ll learn why Airpods Max are being felled by small droplets of water and sweat. Tomorrow, we’ll show that the DHS is using an AI tool to track “sentiment and emotion” in peoples’ online posts; and then dive into the underground world of ads for illegal products on Instagram.

After that we will write lots and lots of articles about crazy shit that we hope you will want to read. For the first week or so, everything on the site will be available to everyone for free. After that, we will begin putting some articles behind a paywall.

Subscribers will get access to all articles, commenting privileges, access to interactive sessions where we’ll brainstorm and file your Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) ideas, bonus episodes of the 404 Media Podcast (we have a free, ad-supported feed here; subscribers get the show ad-free), and the knowledge that without your support, this type of journalism will not exist. We will likely add more perks as we’re reasonably able to think of and execute on them.

If we do our jobs well enough, we will be able to do this work indefinitely. If we do it really well, we will be able to sustainably grow by hiring other journalists to do more of it.

404 Media logo

Our point of view

In the short term, we will be focused on doing beat reporting, blogging, investigations, and scoops about hacking, cybersecurity, sex, porn, artificial intelligence, consumer rights, cybercrime, surveillance, privacy, and the democratization of the internet. In the long term, the company will be focused on expanding our best work into books, documentaries, feature films, and narrative podcasts.

We will focus on transparency, explaining how we do what we do, and how systems of powers do what they do. We are not going to reinvent the wheel because the wheel doesn’t need reinventing, but we will also explain how systems of power and governance work. Specifically, this means we will be filing a lot of FOIA requests, buying a lot of court documents, and watching a lot of city council hearings. Articles that rely primarily on public records requests will not be paywalled.

We will also be focused on ground-up reporting. We will embed in the communities we cover to do local reporting from the internet, which means explaining what the communities we cover care about and why it’s important. Drivers at Amazon know more about how and why a new surveillance system is ruining their lives than a PR executive does. Repair professionals looking inside an iPhone know more about a design flaw than Johny Ive ever would have. Sex workers and women who are having their likenesses stolen understand the ramifications and impacts of these technologies more than an AI startup.

Our reporting has previously shut down surveillance companies, introduced the world to deepfakes, got right-to-repair legislation passed, changed policies at major social media platforms including Reddit and Facebook, and got hundreds of millions of dollars of fines levied against some of the most significant companies in the world.

At 404 Media, we intend to continue that work, only now, we will own it ourselves, and will be in charge of the direction of the company and responsible for its financial viability. This means that we will be experimental, take risks, and try different forms of generating revenue in hopes we can figure out how to do this for a long time. But we will always put the work first.

Why are we doing this?

Much has been written about the failing business model of new media. We have watched how new media companies fail, and it’s not because of a lack of audience, revenue, impact, or vital work. New media companies fail because of a growth-at-any-cost mentality, and venture capital investments made at absurd valuations. Most importantly, astronomical overhead costs make it impossible for journalists to out-earn the cost of expensive office space, the ever-changing whims of management, executives’ salaries, the cost of unnecessary enterprise software, and an endless parade of consultants brought in to figure out what’s wrong.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and at 404 Media, it will not. We propose a simple alternative: pay journalists to do journalism.

We have spent the last decade learning how “content” turns into money, and we believe that good journalism can bring in enough revenue to pay the people who make it livable wages. We believe it is possible to create a sustainable, profitable media company simply by doing good work, making common-sense decisions about costs, and asking our readers to support us.

We’re excited to be here, and we’re excited you’re here, too.