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Who is investing in esports and why?

The play’s the thing…

Global esports revenues are expected to hit $1.1bn this year. Over $155 million in prize money was awarded in nearly 3,500 esports tournaments last year, playing games like Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offense.  $11.47m of this prize money went to just one team: OG, a European professional team which is famed for playing Valve’s Dota 2.  With teams like Team Liquid racking up overall earnings of over $26m, and global esports viewers projected to total 453.8m this year (representing a year on year growth of +15%), competitive gaming is becoming a money-making phenomenon for both players and investors. So where is the money coming from, who is investing and what’s in it for them?

Esports is still in its infancy, comparatively, so the medium represents a new, current and exciting opportunity for traditional investors, looking for growing areas, to maximise return on

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A Pessimist’s Guide to Podcast Growth

Sound thinking

Recently there’s been a lot of noise made about how podcasting is about to break into the big time. We’ve heard that before, of course, and have been hearing it for well over a decade, but now there are financial reasons to believe it might actually be true. Slate has announced it is expecting nearly half its revenue will come from its podcasts this year, after making significant investments in audio last year. It did so after reportedly seeing a significant uptick in overall advertising and membership revenue off the back of its podcasts, which is also one reason given by the NYT for their overall subscription success off the back of its podcasts including The Daily.

According to the latest Infinite Dial report from Edison, the average time per individual spent listening to podcasts has been steadily ticking up over the past few years, with 32 percent of the US population expected to have listened to a podcast monthly. Better still, research from Acast demonstrates that 76% of podcast listeners exposed to an ad took some form of follow-up action on the ad.

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The revolution is coming: the future of PropTech

The property market has not gone digital at same rate as other sectors, like shopping and taxis. This is visibly demonstrated by the state of estate agents, where it is still clearly the land of fax-machines, whiteboards and post-dated cheques. Where there are landed assets to maintain, investing in the future digital direction of the business does

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The Final Frontier of Advertising

Advertising gimmicks are ten a penny, with attention-grabbing schemes deployed and abandoned as soon as they’ve received enough attention from the media. In February this year, though, soft drinks giant PepsiCo announced plans to advertise in a completely new format – in space.

Here’s looking at you

The partnership with Russian start-up StartRocket would have seen a cluster of cubesats (effectively a miniaturised commercial satellite) deployed to form an ‘orbital billboard’. At the time of the announcement PepsiCo’s spokeswoman Olga Mangova wrote “We believe in StartRocket potential. Orbital billboards are the revolution on the market of communications” in an email seen by Futurism.

However, last week PepsiCo confirmed that plans had been shelved, telling space.com that StartRocket had performed a single, exploratory test of the technology and that there are no current plans to roll out a fleet of space-borne billboards.

For some, that news will come as a relief. The commercialisation of space in any form, whether that’s asteroid-stripping or establishing hotels on the moon, is contentious. This particular scheme has received criticism for potentially adding to the vast amount of ‘space junk’ that is already orbiting the earth.

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New local news products for the UK: what works elsewhere?

All the news that fits.

The UK’s local news economy is in dire straits. Local newspapers have had their ability to create relevant regional news slowly stripped away as newspaper groups attempt to cut their way to sustainability, and the mishandling of specific local television channels has been a source of controversy over the past few years. In the executive summation of the Cairncross Review, the UK government’s year-long review into the sustainability of journalism, Dame Frances Cairncross noted that the ability of local news providers to make a living among the huge digital giants that now dominate ad spend was far from a given. As the sales of local news titles in the UK has halved between 2007 and 2017, few would argue that it is not an unprecedentedly challenging time for regional news producers.

According to the 2018 edition of Ofcom’s ‘News Consumption in the UK’ report, only 40 percent of people in the UK regularly get their news in print, with less than one in four (23 percent) using printed local or regional newspapers. By contrast, close to half of people (48 percent) get their news from local BBC television bulletins and just under a third (32 percent) doing the same with ITV. That might be why, in the US, the Tampa Bay Times is attempting to use local television to increase newsstand sales (every little helps!).

Far and away the least used source of local news is social media, which Ofcom found was only a source of local news for 16 percent of people. That is likely due to a number of factors, from how few local newspapers actually maintain active social presences, to people’s propensity to use social media instead to communicate with either friendship groups or national news. Concerns about online misinformation are also primarily focused around social media, which may be a slight factor. Even as use of social media increases, its use for local news remains fairly limited.

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AppleNews+: The short long history of publisher-platform fights

The announcement of the long-mooted AppleNews+ was, broadly, not a surprise. Publishers had been aware that a new subscription product from Apple was coming down the pipe for months, and based on leaks we mostly knew exactly what was being announced.

Apple: defying gravity?

AppleNews+ is a subscription-based magazine and news app that builds on Apple’s existing work with Texture. Priced at $9.99 per month in the United States, the service sells itself to news and magazine publishers on the basis that it gets them into the pockets of potentially every single person who owns an iPhone.

However, what was a surprise (albeit a welcome one) was the reaction of the newspaper organisations, of which only the Wall Street Journal was tempted into the AppleNews+ scheme. For the most part, where the reaction wasn’t muted, it was very negative, with people pointing out the offer to publishers was a recipe for brand destruction. It appears that – finally – news publishers

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Only 216 years to go until equal pay

Yesterday (April 2nd) was Equal Pay Day – symbolising how far into the year women have to work to earn the same as men did the previous year. The World Economic Forum calculates that, at current rate of progress, the pay gap will not be closed until 2235. Unequal pay for men and women doing the same job has been illegal in the UK for 40 years, yet the pay gap remains at 8.6% for full-time employees. In the US, women earn 81 cents to every dollar a man makes. Yet, perhaps not that surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that nearly half of men, and a quarter of women, do not believe in the pay gap.

Equal Pay Day brought about a plethora of news articles on which companies, roles and areas are falling behind on equal pay: over one hundred NHS trust have a larger pay gap than last year, the gender

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Too big to bundle: the bifurcation of subscription strategies

Last week the NYT’s chief executive Mark Thompson warned other publishers to be wary of jumping into bed with Apple’s soon-to-be-announced news subscription service. He told Reuters: “We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else. We’re also generically worried about our journalism being scrambled in a kind of Magimix (blender) with everyone else’s journalism.” Later on in the interview he cited the example of broadcasters giving Netflix their most valuable shows before they quite realised what a competitor the streaming service would ultimately be, warning against giving your usurper the tools needed to supplant you.

If anyone knows what they’re talking about when it comes to subscription success, it’s Mark Thompson. The New York Times’ triumph in that area is held up as a shining beacon for other news companies to emulate. It has a new target of 10 million subscribers by 2025 after it surpassed its own targets for subscribers in the latest quarter, and has undertaken a very smart approach to onboarding new subscribers through offering free student memberships. It has even kept up its ‘Trump bump’ pace despite predictions (including mine) that harnessing an ephemeral national mood was an unsustainable business model in the long term.

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The Future of Print is Obvious: It’s a Marketing Gimmick

A few weeks ago I moderated a panel on the future of print at 2020 Publishing in London. A panel of industry veterans discussed their optimism for the medium, noting that it is still a lucrative endeavour for national newspapers that still print huge numbers of copies, and for B2B and trade magazines.

Niche, shmiche. 

One thing that I took away from the lively panel was that print absolutely still has a place at the legacy publishers – namely as a source of non-incidental revenue as they transition to newer, more diverse sources of revenue. That’s no surprise; a quick glance at the latest ABC figures suggests that media companies are riding that long tail of print decline in an effort to become primarily digital companies, some more successfully than others.

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How programmatic is driving internal change at media companies

Finding an easy way in

Programmatic dominates the digital advertising landscape. By eMarketer’s metrics it is set to account for 90% of all total digital display adspend in the UK by 2020, with the vast majority of the growth coming from mobile programmatic. It also estimates that video programmatic spend is set to account for 43 percent of total programmatic display in 2019, double the amount in 2016.

That’s despite the obvious challenges facing digital advertising: rampant problems of viewability, out-and-out fraud and unsafe ad spaces, to say nothing of the dominance of the Duopoly of Google and Facebook.

For those people working in the trenches of digital advertising, however, often the real challenge is inside their own business. Getting buy-in from senior people within the business who don’t necessarily have the time or the understanding of the fast-moving world of programmatic can present an obstacle to the actual advertising experts.

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Resource, not news source: How service journalism can help news publishers thrive

Recycled as ballot papers

Last week, I wrote that ad-funded digital news publishers were having a terrible time. But there are some reasons for optimism, if publishers are prepared to think more strategically.

It’s been apparent for a few years that US regional titles are performing better than their UK counterparts, despite costs being taken out en masse by their owners. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to some extent, given that the scale of ‘local’ is so different between the two countries, but the reality is that US local news titles are looking more sustainable than your average local paper (which isn’t actually saying all that much).

There are a few reasons why that might be the case: In the UK regional publishers tend to take costs out from local titles, and retreat to hub-based models that rob each title of truly local content (a rant Matt had five years ago, and which proved to be prescient). That then has a knock-on effect on UK local titles’ websites, which are for the most part unfit for purpose and flooded with low-quality ads in an attempt to salvage all possible revenue.

But the primary reason I would like to believe US titles are in ruder health than UK counterparts is that

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Ripping off the plaster: Job cuts and sustainable journalism

In the red

Last week was a terrible week for digital journalists, with well over 1000 job cuts announced across a swathe of the most popular digital publishers. BuzzFeed announced up to 250 job cuts, which seemed to disproportionately hit BuzzFeed UK. Verizon is looking to cut 800 jobs, or 7% of its global workforce after its CEO announced that each of its three strands – which includes its media properties such as Huffington Post and AOL – should be sustainable in their own right. And Gannet cut 20 jobs as part of a restructuring ahead of a rumoured buyout.

Reactions to the cuts have been emotional and frequently incendiary. Media Twitter has been awash with journalists expressing condolences and wishing the best for their peers, with many editors advertising potential positions within their own organisations. On the other side of the spectrum, former BuzzFeed staffer Jason Sweeten used BuzzFeed’s own platform to create a quiz lambasting the organisation for letting so many

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How much does an Oscar nomination cost?

What would you spend to win an Oscar?

This year’s list of Oscar nominations for best film is notable for a number of reasons – but primarily for the inclusion of two new entrants to the category: Marvel Studios for Black Panther, and Netflix for Roma. But the two illustrate very different business models.

Black Panther – nominated for seven Oscars – cost an estimated $200m to make, and has taken $1.3bn so far at the box office. That’s an earnings ratio of 6.5x (excluding marketing and distribution costs). This is good, even by Marvel’s money-making standards: the previous five Marvel films had average budgets of $250m, and takings of $925m (3.7x budget).

Roma cost $15m and took, er, $217,000 in a limited cinema release, an earnings ratio of 0.014x production costs – or, more straightforwardly, a loss of $14.8m. It is estimated that Netflix has spent an additional $25m on promoting the film ensure an Oscar or two. Clearly, Netflix has a different ambition in mind rather than profit: it wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, and it wants

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Brands, ethics and controversy: Gillette, Nike and Greggs

There has been a lot of hot air surrounding recent advertising controversies – but, beyond the guff, there might also be valuable lessons for employers.

In the wake of #metoo and TimesUp, we have seen an increase in advertising campaigns focused on supporting progressive social change. The release of Gillette’s latest advert followed in the footsteps of Nike’s 2018 campaign faced by Colin Kaepernick: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike’s ‘sacrifice’ amounted to

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Three TV Trends for 2019

Broadcast is changing fast – but not necessarily in ways we might have expected a couple of years ago. Here are three trends to watch for in 2019.

Change that model

VOD apes traditional media

Streaming services are working hard to steal eyeballs from traditional broadcasters – and they certainly seem to be succeeding. Netflix obliterated analysts’ expectations by adding 7 million new subscribers during the third quarter of 2018. And it is willing to spend some serious money to continue that trajectory.

It is no secret by now that the reason Netflix, Hulu, etc. are investing so heavily in original content is that the studios are looking to withdraw their proprietary content from these platforms in order to launch their own services (eg ‘Disneyflix’). Netflix have indicated that they are allocating 85% of their new spending on original productions, according to Variety.

They will also be looking to capture the heart-of-the-nation market from linear broadcasters – think ‘Great British Bake Off’ or ‘The Bodyguard’ (the latter of which they own the international rights to). There has certainly

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Will in-game advertisements backfire for video game companies?

The most recent statistics from the Entertainment Retailer’s Association reveal that the UK video games industry outperforms the music and video industries by a significant margin. Combined physical and digital sales of games reached £3.86bn for the year, a significant improvement on last year, where physical and digital sales for music and video achieved £1.33bn and £2.34bn respectively. That effectively means that games are responsible for over half of all UK home entertainment sales for 2018, a testament to the increasing numbers of the public who have grown up with games as a medium.

Macho nachos.

Monetisation opportunities around games have similarly increased as technology has enabled more ways for consumers to support game developers and publishers. Where once one-off purchases were the only way to support a game, the rise of free-to-play (F2P) games and paid-for downloadable content (DLC) have paved the way for many other models. Despite publishers being ever-more hungry for sources of incidental revenue from their titles, one potential form of revenue – in-game advertising – has never really taken off in the West. But that could be about to change.

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Can broadcasters pull together in a show of united strength?

We all know what’s happening with adspend. Digital advertising spend represents all net growth in adspend, and three big players are in control of that flow of cash. It’s an issue that isn’t going to be solved any time soon, and in the meantime the competition for the squeezed remainder is only getting fiercer.

As part of that various broadcasters, platforms and advertisers are reappraising the metrics they’ve traditionally used to demonstrate their superiority (or otherwise) compared to their competitors. In the US, for instance, the television and radio broadcast network CBS has failed to come to terms with the measurement company Nielsen, leaving the broadcaster without one of the most-cited measurements. As Variety’s Brian Steinberg explains, part of the issue is that broadcasters like CBS argue that Nielsen’s metrics fail to take into account viewing across a variety of platforms. The rise of VOD and the diffusion of television content across different devices means that – at least in theory – more people are being exposed to television content than ever before:

“TV networks have long based their advertising rates on Nielsen’s measure of linear TV audiences, which have slipped as consumers embrace Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streaming and on-demand options. In such an environment, TV networks believe Nielsen’s overnight ratings are no longer the critical yardstick of viewership they once were.”

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Finding its voice: What’s the future of news on smart speakers?

Audio content is having a mini Renaissance. Between radio’s strong showing in adspend predictions for 2019, the steady maturation of the podcast market and the strong showing for audio as a secondary activity, there is a strong case to be made that audio content is a sure bet for media companies.

That’s helped significantly by the mutability of audio content. Music, radio shows and podcasts tend to bleed into one another, with each existing alongside the others on Spotify, DAB and any number of streaming services.

That makes the relative lack of success of news content on connected devices and smart speakers all the more marked. Emarketer’s predictions suggest that the number of smart speakers in US households is set to rise from 16 million to 76 million between 2016 and 2020, based on “stronger than expected uptake” of the devices.

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Women will be the future of technology

Female founders got just 2.2% of Venture Capitalist Funding in 2018, the same percentage as in 2017.

Okay. TimesUp, Starting Now.

This woeful figure is actually an increase on the 1.9% offered to female founders in 2016, and comes despite female founders raised a record amount of VC funding, at $2.3bn in ten months. This is an issue on both sides of the table: 74% of US Venture Capitalist firms have no female investors. These figures are a stark reminder that whilst the tech industry looks to the future, its decisions are being made in the historical, male-dominated model.

Female-headed businesses have a real potential to make societal change in ways perhaps different from those headed by men. Whitney Wolfe founded Bumble after leaving Tinder and filing a lawsuit against Tinder for sexual harassment. Bumble, where women have to make the first move and start the conversation, has led a revolution in how modern women go about dating, making

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What Noel Edmonds can teach us about Brexit*

Lord of the Jungle.

It is slick programming by ITV to have Noel Edmonds featuring in this year’s I’m a Celebrity….. Why? Because the phrase “Deal or No Deal” is suddenly assuming a sickening relevance. And on December 11th, two days after Celebrity… reaches its climax, MPs will vote on whether to accept or reject the withdrawal agreement the government has agreed.

Let’s be clear: the deal is problematic. Its description of future trading arrangements is necessarily scant, due to the EU’s insistence that those cannot be discussed until after the Brexit deal has been struck; the Northern Ireland backstop plan is imperfect (though overblown by trumpeting politicians); and, yes, the

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The business case for making UK media less homogenous

Last month Channel 4 announced it had chosen Leeds as the location of its new second national headquarters, with around a quarter of its London-based staff making the move. Though Leeds had been on the announced shortlist as far back as June, the announcement managed to take media twitchers by surprise, as it was seen as having the longest odds compared to other shortlisted cities like Birmingham and Manchester.

The national channel also announced it will open creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow, each with around 50 staff, as part of a plan to increase the amount Channel 4 spends on programmes outside London by £250m over the next five years.

Speaking at the time of the announcement, Channel 4’s chief executive said the move would involve more “people from across the UK and supercharge the impact we have in all parts of the country”.

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Why challenges to China’s games industry matter in Europe and the US

Games industry

Your Tencent’s worth?

China’s games industry is experiencing its slowest growth in at least a decade and a half, despite evidence that the country’s gamers are spending more of their time playing games (see graph below).  The world’s largest games market, worth some $32.5bn a year, is in the midst of a huge shake-up.  Beijing has sought to limit the industry, alluding to growing concerns

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Lessons in print success from digital-only publishers

It’s undeniably been a bad week for print in the UK:

Shortlist Media (now rebranded as ‘The Stylist Group’) announced that its flagship men’s lifestyle title Shortlist was to go digital-only as the company prioritises Stylist magazine instead. If a circulation of over 500,000 isn’t enough to sustain a free title, what hope is there for the smaller titles? Especially, as Shortlist alumni Terri White pointed out, when the advertising market simply isn’t there to support them?

Shortlist commanded a huge share of the free titles

Esquire also announced plans to go bi-monthly rather than monthly. In doing so it is increasing page count, page quality and the number of sections, in part to refocus its business model around the core audience of ABC1 men who it is betting will pay to support a doubly-luxury title and its new suite of events. In the light of what’s happened to the once-thriving “lad’s mags” market, Esquire has always tried to set itself apart – but in the face of falling print ad revenue has been forced to change itself once again.

And in the most earth-shattering news, the bell finally tolled for Johnston Press plc, which despite the success of flagship titles like the i and The Scotsman, was forced to go into administration to help wipe the debt it had accumulated over the course of being a regional news publishing powerhouse. It took the newly-formed JPIMedia to provide some much-needed surety against the uncertainty, with the Independent’s Chiara Giordano reporting:

“In a statement, JPIMedia offered reassurance that the acquisition of Johnston Press “secures jobs and [the] future of its brands and titles”.

“JPIMedia’s shareholders recognise the vital role that local and regional media plays in the communities they serve and remain committed to protecting and enhancing the value of the business in the future,” it added.”

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Have Amazon, Facebook and Google learned anything from cases of data misuse?

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier in the year, you’d expect that platforms like Facebook would be rather more careful about how it exploits user data. Research has shown that consumer concerns over misuse of user data is one of the primary reasons why people choose to use ad blockers, and since user data is effectively the commodity on which the platforms operate, any further scandals are likely to have a cooling affect on their business models. Earlier this month a study from Pivotal Research Group found that people were spending less time across Facebook’s platforms (though it couldn’t say if that was specifically due to associaion with Cambridge Analytica).

Unfortunately Facebook has now been implicated in yet another potential misuse of user data: It registered a patent that uses geolocation to provide friend recommendations to people who are physically close to you. Or, as Lisa Vaas put it for Naked Security, “Facebook wants to reveal your name to the weirdo standing next to you.”

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The best way to tackle bullying and sexual harassment in the creative industries

Homo alpha, expelliarmus!

For some time now, commentators have been noting the wave of change finally brought around regarding female representation in the creative industries, including us in our blog on #metoo. On our screens, this has been playing out with the notable increase in women in prominent roles: Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly made the first prime time female presenting duo in 2014, and this year Jodie Whittaker became our first female Doctor Who.

This change is starting to be seen behind the scenes as well. Of 201 men who have lost their jobs following accusations of sexual harassment in the past year, 43% of those who have been replaced have been replaced by women. The NYT has put together a handy list. But has enough been done? How far do we still have to go?

Well, only 36% of jobs in the creative sector are currently filled by women. At a senior level women are even less represented, making up only 11% of Creative Directors or equivalent across the sector. In TV, only 17% of output in a recent survey was helmed by female directors. This

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Video advertising: future models, previous mistakes

No doubt you’ll have seen the latest Facebook controversy (no, not that one): the social network didn’t let news publishers know about a bug that discounted people who watched less than three seconds of video, thereby artificially increasing the statistics around how long people were consuming videos on average. As a result, some people are claiming that Facebook effectively created the pivot to video that saw newspapers and magazines shed tons of editorial roles in favour of video teams, to cater for this new audience demand for video content. Some are even suing Zuckerberg’s brainchild over it.

Due to all the broken promises and missed expectations that came with news publishers’ rush into video, it’s easy to forget that the reasons behind the drive to produce more digital video were sound: consumers are viewing ever more video online across OTT services like Netflix, user-generated-content platforms like YouTube, and livestreaming sites like Twitch. Even if the figures around view time were skewed, the trend is undeniable – one of the worst affected companies, Mic, even claims that the inflated metrics weren’t even a consideration in their own change towards digital video.

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What Jamal Khashoggi’s death tells us about attitudes to journalism

It seems increasingly likely that Jamal Khashoggi met his death in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. It also seems likely that what brought about the journalist’s torture and murder was his antipathetic coverage of the Saudi regime. And it seems likely that the Saudi regime felt empowered to act with impunity because of the pusillanimity of the international community.

Protests in Turkey. It shouldn’t need saying.

Since 1990, more than 2,500 accredited journalists have been killed around the world for carrying out their work. Some of these cases are high profile: Khashoggi, Daphne Caruana Galicia in Malta, Marie Colvin in Syria,  Terry Lloyd in Iraq, Martin O’Hagan in Northern Ireland, and on, and on. All are tragedies. But the vast majority go below the radar. And even those high profile cases have rarely been met with appropriate sanctions.

When did journalists’ lives become so insignificant? Sadly, it is not a new phenomenon. Reuters keeps an “In Memoriam” book, which commemorates those journalists

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The challenges facing Thomson Reuters spin-off

 

The numbers look daunting

One of the biggest and longest-running media deals of the year finally closed earlier this month. Thomson Reuters has spun its successful Financial & Risk business out into a new company, backed by Blackstone and rebranded as Refinitiv. They’ve been making quite a lot of noise about it (including, excruciatingly, in a rap.) In doing so, the business has joined the likes of Acuris and Ascential in replacing a valuable and well-known brand with something vaguely techy-sounding but completely meaningless – both to the market and in English. While the new business contains many hugely talented people and some excellent brands (including the likes of Lipper and WorldCheck), dispensing with the TR name could leave it with a serious brand recognition problem in a highly competitive market.

From the point of view of what’s left of Thomson Reuters, the decision is perplexing. Anyone who’s been following B2B media over the last few years will know that the real long-term growth is in high-value subscription-based information and data products. While Thomson Reuters will retain

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Ethical consumerism and the power of the millennial pound

According to the headlines (and backed up by recent studies) millennials are killing industries: the divorce industry, the diamond industry, and the oil industry, to name a few. For young consumers, it is appears that ethics trumps other concerns when looking for brands to support. This impacts where they invest, what they watch and where they work, with 14% of millennials saying they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry, the highest of any sector.

Kneel. Diamond.

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign saw a 3% dip in its share price, which would initially appear to be a red flag for the brand. However, a closer look reveals

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