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Why we do what we do, and why it works

I should first say that this is an unusual blog for us: it is about Martin Tripp Associates. Apologies. It is a quick story to illustrate how we do what we do. And perhaps why you should ask other recruiters how they do what they do.

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A few years ago, Matt and I left a client briefing, and I was gleeful.

“Honestly,” I said, “I can tell you the shortlist now.” I told him the names of the five candidates I would recommend.

All about us. Again.

“Let’s go through the process,” Matt said. “Then we’ll see.”

Matt went through the process. Alongside scores of others, he approached all five of my recommended candidates. Only one of my picks made the shortlist, and they did not get the job. The job went to someone our research team had discovered, who we had never talked to before.

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I tell this story often at client meetings. While it obviously exposes my hubris, it also illustrates why we place so much faith in the process the company has developed over the years.

I had some good reasons for my over-confidence, I still think. The client was looking for a global

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Streaming is the future – but not for all media

Streaming content is the natural endpoint for entertainment content. The many conveniences that come from streaming outweigh the concerns about a lack of ‘ownership’ for the consumer of the media they consume, data throttling once net neutrality is a distant memory, and the quite justified concerns over subscription fatigue due to the sheer amount of streaming services on offer.

The reality is that ease of use trumps all of those, particularly for casual consumers, and as infrastructure and internet penetration improves further the proportion of people using streaming services will only grow. Last year Ofcom reported that nearly half of UK households now have access to at least one television streaming service, as the number subscribing to the most popular services “increased from 11.2m (39%) in 2018 to 13.3m (47%) in 2019”. That doesn’t take into account the number of households that also subscribe to a music streaming service like Spotify, either.

The Google Stadia proves streaming works for games – in precisely the right circumstances

However, that isn’t to say that streaming is necessarily a good fit for every medium. It works well for low-data, passive mediums like audio and television. Even Netflix’s ambition Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch, which was effectively an experiment in interactive television content in the vein of an adventure game, was possible through Netflix’s infrastructure. But the reality is that the technology and infrastructure to stream many video games isn’t there yet – despite some serious investment from big players.

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Facing the curtain: How print titles are bowing out gracefully (or not)

We haven’t seen the last of the print closures. Between falling circulations in at-risk genres like the women’s weekly, the acquisition of regional news organisations by huge companies with a reputation for cutting the fat and then some, and the bleak reality that smaller newspapers don’t have the resources to pour into making digital work, the trajectory for print products remains obvious.

The Washington Post Express chose to go out with a bang

One of the last trials faced by an editorial team, then, at the end of a losing battle to sustain the P&L of their print product, is deciding how to bow out. There will always have to be a ‘final’ last page – the short turnaround on papers and the sentiment that people have towards them would allow for nothing less. But there are ways and ways of going about setting that final masthead and choosing the language of the final headline. Over the past few years we’ve seen more than a couple.

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Future proofing news consumption for young audiences

That newsbrands have an issue with young audiences isn’t a new revelation. For newspapers particularly, much of the ‘print is dead’ sentiment of the past few years was driven by the fact that young people were not picking up the most lucrative product on offer from the media company in favour of interacting with the brand in formats where the RPU was significantly lower. As a result, the vast majority of the crisis over dwindling print revenue can be put down to newsbrands’ collective failure to make their most valuable properties attractive to young audiences. Or, if you want to look at it with a glass half full mentality, to their success in making digital content more appealing to young people.

News publishers need to stop treating young people as an invasive species

At the same time, the exhaustively well-documented usurpation of the direct relationship in digital by platforms has led to a situation in which young people have a very different relationship with newspapers and broadcasters than those media companies perceive them to have. Squaring that circle, and ensuring that newsbrands have a mutually beneficial relationship with young audiences, requires an evidence-based rethink – and soon.

The latest Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report into how young people interact with the news demonstrates that there is currently a disconnect between what young people value from news and how news publishers are attempting to monetise them. Here are some implications from the report, with a particular focus on healing that disconnect.

Personal interests…

One of the trickiest issues for news publishers thrown up by the report is that young people interact with news through a primarily personal lens. While the perception in previous generations has been that news consumption was first and foremost in service of staying abreast of current events, today’s young consumer consumes news content for a variety of reasons. While an understanding of current affairs is certainly one facet – the report puts a lot of focus on how that knowledge transfers some prestige to young news consumers, that knowledge effectively is power, it also cites five more reasons why young people interact with news.

Those range from developing a personal identity through understanding of the context of news, to being entertained by news content delivered in a fun manner, to having a ready stock of up-to-date observations that grease the wheels of social interactions.

… with an altruistic outlook

On the face of it, that suggests that young people interact with new for primarily selfish reasons, with personal development being the primary motivator and each article being a stepping stone along the way to growth. However, since young people have been demonstrated to be more aware of issues of identity and social inequality, and to be more generous when it comes to charitable donations, it suggests that young people seek to improve themselves through news content in order to effect social change.

News publishers, then, could attempt to appeal to these young people by focusing less on the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mentality that has defined the front page for decades, and instead focusing more on solutions journalism, as Positive News and (to some extent) the Guardian have done.

In the moment

While the edition-based system of publishing has demonstrably worked for digital publishers like The Times & Sunday Times, the reality of constant ready access to the internet and young people’s presence on social media means that today’s audiences are habituated to having news content at their fingertips whenever they need it. The report also notes that Gen-Z, tomorrow’s target demographic, will expect to have news delivered to them whenever they demand, in a more more relevant and tailored manner. No surprise, then, that we’ve seen the news publishers and broadcasters with the resources to do so investing heavily in AI tools designed to increase the amount of personalisation on offer.

However, the report also demonstrates that simply having a presence on a young consumer’s phone in the form of an app isn’t enough. The research demonstrated that no individual news app appeared in the top 25 most-used apps on average (save for reddit, which is only tangentially a news app and doesn’t necessarily have to be used as such). The implication for media companies, then, is that their content primarily has to be accessible through social media – even if the issues around brand erasure on those platforms and issues of revenue share are yet to be resolved.

Additionally, the report flags up that news content will inevitably be judged against entertainment content like Netflix and Spotify, not just in terms of price anchoring, but also in terms of how easily accessible, easy-to-use and sophisticated their content sourcing methods are.

As has been pointed out, then, tacit criticism from some publishers that today’s young consumers have little brand loyalty and are ‘promiscuous’ when it comes to news sources is retrograde and backwards in its approach to reaching young audiences. Today’s consumer is a product of the internet, with understandable expectations that the services they choose to pay for provide a reasonable value exchange on par with entertainment properties. It isn’t for young people to conform to publishers’ expectations of what a ‘news consumer’ looks like, but the other way round.

Chris Sutcliffe

enquiries@trippassociates.co.uk

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.

Sex sells: The smutty side of internet publishing

Sex has always been a cornerstone of publishing. From Tijuana bibles to Page 3, we’ve always known that erotic content is a huge draw for audiences. Just as the porn industry choosing VHS reportedly led to Betamax losing the format war, publications like The Sun in the ’70s and its red-top competitors used sex to sell their papers in direct ‘racy’ competition with one another – The Sun even had a dedicated Page 3 website.

So ingrained was it as a practice that The Sun flip-flopped on retiring the practice of putting topless women on Page 3 until January of this year (with The Daily Star following suit in April 2019). The reality of the matter is that, while Page 3 was a hopelessly outdated practice and rightly toxic in 2019, sex and pornography aren’t going anywhere in the West – it’s simply moved online.

A big part of the appeal of sites like Tumblr was its NSFW content – until it wasn’t

Sites like reddit, despite nominally being brand-safe environments, have a huge undercurrent of not safe for work (NSFW) content on the site. Even Twitter, which rightly has a reputation for being political journalism-heavy, has a subculture of people who use the platform to promote their own personal adult services

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Verification all the way down: the trouble with trust

Regulate to accumulate

In the short-term, maybe it isn’t all that bad that journalism is undergoing a trust crisis. Despite the fact that, per the last Reuters Institute Digital News report, 70 percent of people in the UK are now worried about the trustworthiness of news, news organisations aren’t even setting their sights as high as 30 percent of the public subscribing to their digital news products – and they don’t need to.

Even the fact that low double digit proportions of the public are happy to subscribe is enough to support subscription- and membership-based organisations like the Washington Post and the Guardian. For those organisations, at least, the journalism crisis is

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Mixing it up: the problem of platform choice for publishers

No sooner does a platform reach the mainstream than it’s potentially on the way out. For a few years, Twitch was in the ascendancy with its audience growth, direct interaction with live viewers, and diversified revenue generating model convincing a few of the most well-known media companies in the world to experiment with the platform. Two years ago, the features of the livestreaming platform were even a pivotal plot point in the first season of the Netflix original show American Vandal. Since then, however, the platform has been hit by a sense that it is repeating the mistakes of its direct predecessor YouTube, in not fairly rewarding its content creators, and by the departure of one of its most-viewed users, the Fortnite streamer Ninja, for pastures new.

Let’s Twitch again, like we did last summer…

That new platform – Mixer – offers much of the same benefits of Twitch with greater out-of-the-box opportunities for audience interaction. Where Twitch makes the ability for a streamer to chat directly with their audience its key selling point for both – and not coincidentally one of its central tenets when it comes to talking to advertisers – Mixer offers far more options for interaction, such as on-the-fly polls, stickers, interactive minigames and more.

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The Athletic is a bold, brash bet on reader revenue that could hurt the whole industry

For the past few months sports publisher The Athletic has been aggressively hiring UK-based sports journalists and, because journalists can’t resist a good analogy, it’s been compared to aggressive transfer window negotiations. In the past year the media company has been charged with ‘setting off a bomb‘ by purloining the top sports journalists from the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Mail, and many others.

Ball’s in their court

It’s an aggressive bet from a media company that sees a future in direct reader revenue and wants to be the biggest sport show in town. On the one hand that’s very heartening – any more evidence that people will pay for journalism online is very welcome. The only problem is that it’s almost certainly going to fail in its stated aims, despite all the hopes to the contrary, and could possibly stunt the chances of other publications as it does so.

As explained in this article from The Drum’s Rebecca Stewart, since its launch three years ago the “ad-free digital sports publisher The Athletic has garnered 500,000 subscribers with a reported 90% retention rate to its website and app and expanded into Canada”. In that time it has attracted almost $90 million in VC capital from, among others, Comcast Ventures and Founders Fund. As a result of that investment, it now operates in over 15 markets across the US and Canada, and plans a launch in the UK with 55 staffers primarily covering the Premiere League, having reportedly ploughed around £10 million into the launch.

Its subscription-based model will apparently cost its readers £9.99, though it will offer a discounted starting package. Considering its stated goal is to have fully one million paying subscribers by the end of the year, it is unsurprising it would offer discounts in service of that goal: the Guardian recently celebrated reaching one million paying supporters after a 3 year campaign, and it has reach and awareness far beyond that of the Athletic (so far).

Effectively, The Athletic’s plan seems to be to throw money at the problem of scale. By hiring some of the most well-known journalists in the UK and spending a fair amount on marketing that on social media, it’s hoping the allure of big names will help convince UK consumer there’s a space in the market for a new, subs-based sports site.

By throwing money at the problem, its founders hope to effectively outlast its competition in local media and become the only game in town. Its CEO Alex Mather told the New York Times: “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.” That rhetoric is likely to stick in the craw of journalists in the UK, where the straits of local news led to the formation of the Cairncross review.

However, there are many obstacles in The Athletic’s path to success, not least the fact that doubling its subscriber numbers in less than six months appears to be almost an impossibly tall order. For one thing, the UK market is effectively saturated with national news subscription products already, and some – like The Telegraph – are making sports analysis one of the key selling points for their own subscriptions. The Guardian, too, is well aware of the lucrative nature of sports and is investing a lot of money in covering growth areas, like women’s football, providing free alternatives in addition to those already offered by the BBC and commercial broadcasters.

Per the latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report, even among the relatively low proportion of people who are likely to pay for news online, the average number of digital subscriptions per person is one: “Perhaps more importantly, the average almost never exceeds one, regardless of what group you look at. Even among those who are most interested in news, the wealthiest, or the most educated, most people only pay money to one news organisation.” Perhaps worst of all, the report also found that if people could only choose one subscription product, 7% would choose news and another 7% would choose the sports content itself, suggesting that the proportion of people who would pay for sports news subscription is even smaller still.

The fact The Athletic is placing its chips on the UK market, which is almost certainly about to hit a period of financial instability and has a significant chance of entering recession that will limit its population’s incidental spending, is also a worry.

On the one hand, then, The Athletic’s aggressive move to control a niche is laudable, as it seeks to find a sustainable model for sports news journalism. However, as the economics behind its decision to launch in the UK don’t seem to add up, and its stated aim is to poach from and outlast the other local news outlets that would be its competition, its aggressive stance could end up detracting from the viability of digital news subscription rather than proving that they work.

 


Chris Sutcliffe

enquiries@trippassociates.co.uk

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.

How gender-blind is your recruitment process?

A client asked last week how we ensure gender fairness in our approach to a search. It’s a fair question: simply saying “we look for the best person” is not good enough.

We told the client of our pride that, as a company, we had a 50:50 gender ratio – despite the grim pictures of me and Matt dominating the website. (The office is also 30% BAME, and around one quarter LGBTQ+. Look at us, polishing our halos.) We also mentioned that we all had unconscious bias training, and always try to ensure a gender mix on every search. We felt pretty good.

But the client then asked for a breakdown of all the searches we had carried out over the last year to let them know what percentage of our searches had ended up with a woman being placed.

It turns out that around 65% of the placements this business made over the last year were men. This is a fairly discouraging figure on the face of it; but it also hides some interesting anomalies.

In the most senior roles – CEOs, MDs, etc – the ratio was almost exactly reversed: nearly 70% of general management placements over the last 12 months were women. At least boards seem to be getting the message that it is time for a change, and hopefully this change will trickle down the organisations in question.

But below that, gender stereotypes do seem to have a stronger grip. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, men still dominate in CTO / CIO roles: if we remove those from our figures, our male:female ratio switches to a more respectable 58:42%.  Sales leadership roles, particularly in SaaS clients,  are still also predominantly male, by a ratio of three to one. Editorial and creative roles, on the other hand, are 50/50, and the marketing directors we have placed in the last 12 months have been almost exclusively female.

The split between sectors can also affect gender outcomes. To illustrate: we work a great deal with information clients in the energy space. For all sorts of reasons, this sector has been historically dominated by men: a quick analysis of our searches across all disciplines in the sector shows that, where clients have insisted on a background in this sector, less than 25% of potential candidates are women. Where clients are open to candidates from different backgrounds, the ratio is 42:58.

One final piece of statistical analysis. It would appear that the awareness of the issue is having an impact, even if practices remain imperfect. We can measure this by looking at the gender of the hiring manager, and then at his or her hires. Looking back five years to 2014,  only 20% of our clients’ hires were “cross gender”: typically, though not exclusively, this meant men hiring men. Last year, the same measure yielded a more impressive 45% of hires being made by men of women, or women of men.

So, how can our clients ensure a better approach to gender-balanced recruitment? There are no easy answers, but the booklet we have prepared below (Seven Steps to Gender-Blind Recruitment) provides some simple steps that can help eliminate gender bias in recruitment processes.

Click here to get your free Gender-blind recruitment pdf.

 

Martin Tripp

martin@trippassociates.co.uk

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the mediainformationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

 

 

Product discovery: Nike, Balmain, and Kim Kardashian-West

The motto “the customer is always right” has long circulated hospitality and retail, popularised in the early nineteenth century by retailers like Harry Gordon Selfridge. Consumer sway over brands has only increased in the age of social media, as people are able to mobilise opposition to the actions of brands they follow. In recent weeks, three big names have bowed to consumer pressure to change their products: Kim Kardashian-West backtracked on naming her shapewear brand Kimono after accusations of cultural appropriation, Nike recalled its 4th July trainers after consumers pointed out they were using a flag flown during slavery, and Balmain reached an agreement with Laura Biagiotti Group to change their logo. Which all begs the question:

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Can location data be the powerhouse of digital advertising?

One thing modern marketers aren’t short of is user data. All the efforts over the past few years to encourage users to hand over their user data – just in time for GDPR to potentially upend those advantages – have paid dividends. It’s been true for a few years now that accurate user data is effectively just table stakes for any marketer worth their salt, and media companies have been espousing the value of their first-party data even more vehemently since issues of fraud have become table talk.

Take me to your Lidl

But for marketers in particular, there has been much investment in data and less in a framework that can tie all their data points together in an actionable way. It’s been very possible to use reams of user data to target them with offers and ads in their email inboxes, and even to prevent them from taking actions like cancelling subscriptions, but in terms of actually using it to boost the effectiveness of digital marketing, there’s always been one step missing.

Now it’s looking increasingly like location intelligence data, paired with real-time information about everything from traffic and weather and combined with that existing user data, might be used to deliver on the promise of mobile advertising.

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Why is the Herald Sun incentivising click journalism in a time of news avoidance?

It’s 2019: Media companies have been aware of the negative impacts of the race to lowest common denominator digital publishing for many, many years. But it seems that not everyone is changing course as a result: News Corp’s Australian tabloid the Herald Sun is reportedly offering its journalists cash incentives for writing stories that attract readers and convert them to paying subscribers.

On the face of it, it’s just a slightly more formalised version of similar measures in place across many global newspapers. In the UK, Telegraph journalists compete to see whose stories help convert audiences to paying subscribers, and the journalist-facing analytics tool at The Times & Sunday Times also display how many subscriptions or sign-ups an individual story has led to. The danger is that, without discipline, those systems can actually disincentive good reporting – particularly at generalist tabloids – and continue the trend of a fall in news engagement across the industry.

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Protest Art and the Art of Protesting

Top hats

Throughout history, the arts have played a key role in protests. This has happened whether works of art were made for the purpose of serving protests or not: virtually anything can be utilised to serve a cause. Protest art is nothing new: during WWI the Dada movement protested against the violence of war, whilst Picasso’s Guernica drew attention to the bombing of the town during the Spanish Civil War. Protests themselves increasingly

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The interactive future for theatres

Virtually engaged

In 2019, experience trumps product. Retail outlets are retooling their spaces to make the experience of shopping, the so-called ‘retail journey’, as attractive to the consumer as the items they hold in their arms as they leave the shop. Many media companies are attempting to emulate Time Out’s food market success and transition into events and experience businesses, the better to appeal to the Millennials and cash-rich Boomers who prioritise making memories.

A lot of that is driven by the rise of consumer technology that enables brand new experiences, from portable 3D printers that let you take away a physical model of your own face at the end, to venues dedicated entirely to esports, to the ever more interactive experiences offered by theme parks. Many savvy media companies and retailers

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Why the Tories should not rush to appoint a no-deal Brexit leader

The gracious loser

We have long argued that a no-deal Brexit would be bad for business, and for the country. But the self-titled party of business seems most likely to appoint the ‘f**k business’ candidate, Boris Johnson, as its leader. If he takes a hard no-deal stance, it would be a mistake both for the country and for his party.

The great advantage of having Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in recent electoral mixes is that it has served to properly illustrate the lack of support for a no deal Brexit – despite the headlines elsewhere.

Farage points out that his voters are the people who feel ‘angry and betrayed’ by traditional politicians who have failed to deliver ‘the Brexit you voted for.’ And the fact that Farage is standing on one policy alone – a ‘no deal’ Brexit – serves as a focus for all those angry and betrayed voters. In the European and Peterborough elections, the new party polled an impressive-sounding 32% and 29% respectively, winning the first poll and coming close in the second.

But there is one unsettling fact for Nigel Farage: by-elections and European elections are traditionally great places to register protest votes, and these were the mother of all opportunities to mobilise his supporters. And yet, given that turnout for the European elections was 37%, and for the by-election 48% – both massively down on either a general election or the referendum – they still failed to demonstrate a majority appeal. The European election result indicated that, nationally, around 13% of registered voters actually voted for ‘no deal’; in Peterborough, that figure stands at 15% – in a borough that in the referendum voted 61% in favour of Brexit.

In hard figures, across Peterborough, 53,216 voted for Brexit in 2016: 10,201 voted for ‘no deal’ Brexit parties yesterday. In effect, when faced with a choice between Brexit 2016-style, and the more radical no-deal Brexit being proposed now, 80% of 2016 voters either abstained or voted another way.

The desire for an orderly exit is similarly borne out by yesterday’s figures. Both the Labour and Conservative parties stood on a platform of a managed exit (as outlined in their 2017 manifestos), and they took 52% of the Peterborough vote. The ‘remain’ parties – Lib Dem and Green – garnered 15% between them.

In the European elections, widely seen as a protest vote from which inbetweeners stayed away, the no deal vote was 34% (Brexit and UKIP), the ‘Remain’ vote 40% (Lib Dem, Green, Change UK, SNP, Plaid), and the ‘managed exit’ vote a less convincing 23% (Labour, Tory). But – if we accept the proposition mooted by Farage that the anger is so deep among no-deal Brexiteers that they would all turn out to trounce the mainstream – we can expect that their numbers will not massively increase in absolute terms in a general election. In fact, it is likely that with other considerations (education, NHS, etc), people would vote more moderately in a national election. Yet the figures are stark: 17.4m people voted for Brexit in 2016 – but fewer than 6m people voted nationally for no deal Brexit parties in the European elections – a fall of 65%.

So it would appear that what moderate Brexiteers say is true: the vast majority of people who voted Leave in 2016 did not vote for ‘no deal’: they voted for a managed exit and the ‘exact same benefits’ (or as close as can be reasonably managed) that they were promised. When the reality of no deal is exposed, they are distinctly less enthusiastic.

If the Tories rush to install a ‘no deal’ Prime Minister, they will be bowing to the constant drumbeat of around 15% of the electorate. Not only would it be an economic catastrophe for a new Tory leader to pursue a hard exit on 31st October, it would be profoundly anti-democratic. And voters would not easily forgive the party that delivered it.

 

Martin Tripp

martin@trippassociates.co.uk

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

NME, Sports Illustrated and the future of magazine publishing

Authentic Brands Group: boxing clever?

The news recently broke that US magazine publisher Meredith was selling off another of its titles, part of a long-running effort from the media company to focus more on its core areas of interest. What was unusual about this latest piece of news – that venerable Sports Illustrated is being offloaded for $110 million – is the identity of the buyer.

Rather than being another media company, which would have made this just another entry in the ledger of media consolidation, Sports Illustrated is being sold to Authentic Brands Group. Other than having a name that sounds made up on the fly, Authentic Brands Group is best known for its brand development operations – it oversees the management of parts of the Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali estates, for instance.

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Points of Differentiation in E-Learning Platforms

May contain graphic images

E-learning is big business. The share of people in the UK taking online learning courses more than doubled between 2007 and 2016 (4% to 11%), and globally the e-learning market is expected to reach $65bn by 2023. The advent of cloud-based infrastructure and a rise in competing e-learning platforms means there is more choice than ever for companies looking to boost employee skills through digital learning.

Between e-learning platforms like Docebo, Grovo and LearnUpon, there are many points of similarity. All are aiming to provide comprehensive learning tools at scale, and the majority are building out customised learning modules and courses that are tailored to consumer needs in an attempt to dominate the markets in which they operate. Many e-learning providers are also keen to promote their international efforts in line with the globalisation of the companies they market to: Learning Technologies Group (LTG) recently announced the launch of ‘Instilled,’ a new learning experience platform, with the explicit promise of aiding international companies, with the ability to “disperse content globally and translate it into more than 100 languages.”

In 2018, ten percent of UK respondents reported purchasing digital products in the e-learning category

But as more platforms build out similar solutions to common problems, the need for points of differentiation between competitor platforms is becoming ever more acute. From the gamification of e-learning to introducing more sophisticated points of contact between peers, here’s how the leading platforms are attempting to stand out and dominate the world of e-learning.

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c/o newzoo

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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