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The digital media industry has reached a strategic crossroads.

Earlier this year, special purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs) appeared to be the long-awaited savior of digital media companies. BuzzFeed, Vice, Bustle Digital Group and others with venture capital backing had a plan to pay back investors with publicly traded stock. A few of the largest players would go public first, and those companies would then roll up smaller peers, paying with equity to get deals done. The end result would be a handful of larger digital media entities with enough global scale to survive.

But when the Securities and Exchange Commission cracked down on SPAC accounting practices in April, the booming market came to a near standstill. In the first quarter, there were an average of 89 new SPACs issued each month, according to Bespoke Investment Group. From April through late August, issuance has dropped to an average of fewer…

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