The Time Inc sale threatens the primacy of brands

The dust won’t truly settle on the news that Time Inc. has been sold to Meredith Corp. for $1.85 billion in cash for some time yet, at least until we know what the owner of allrecipes and other lifestyle brands intends to do with Time Inc’s brands. The facts, as we know them, are that the deal will combine two radically different portfolios into a media giant capable of reaching, according to Meredith, a readership of 135 million with a paid circulation of nearly 60 million, as the culmination of a long-held desire from Meredith that saw failed bids earlier this year and in 2013.

In the meantime, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the acquisition, from what Meredith plans to leverage its expanded portfolio of brands to do to what it says about the state of the magazine industry.

For instance, can the Koch Brothers, who backed the deal to the tune of $650 million, really refrain from influencing the editorial and commercial direction of the new look Meredith Corp? The pair are known for their backwards views on climate change and workers’ rights, and some are worried that brands like Time, People and Fortune will be coloured by those beliefs. With just a hint of cynicism, tech reporter for the NYT Mike Isaac said:


koch brothers definitely bought in for a fifth of time inc in order to have no editorial control or input, i super believe this

@MikeIsaac November 27, 2017

Given all the talk lately about the power of media moguls – even if, as the speculation around 21st Century Fox suggests, that power is waning, it’s likely to be a concern for some time yet.

Another question is what Meredith intends to do with the brands

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The Time Inc sale threatens the primacy of brands

The dust won’t truly settle on the news that Time Inc. has been sold to Meredith Corp. for $1.85 billion in cash for some time yet, at least until we know what the owner of allrecipes and other lifestyle brands intends to do with Time Inc’s brands. The facts, as we know them, are that the deal will combine two radically different portfolios into a media giant capable of reaching, according to Meredith, a readership of 135 million with a paid circulation of nearly 60 million, as the culmination of a long-held desire from Meredith that saw failed bids earlier this year and in 2013.

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How publishers can wake from the digital dream

Is the digital dream over for publishers? This week news out of BuzzFeed, VICE and Mashable indicated that might be so, and the rhetoric from media analysts suggested a mass awakening for those who hoped digital advertising alone could be the basis for a media business.

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How media businesses can fight the spread of fake news

It’s hard to believe that ‘fake news’ didn’t really exist as a term until a year ago. The accelerated pace of controversies and outrages that has driven the conversation around media bias has had such an impact that the term has now entered the Chambers dictionary.

In fact, it was only when politicians seized upon the term in November of last year that the term entered public consciousness with its current, woolly definition of ‘news that I don’t believe’. Prior to that, it was a specific if vague industry term referring to emotive misinformation created by scammers to game the algorithms that powered Facebook and Google to generate ad revenue.

Now though, the term is out there, for good or ill. A recent Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report found that most people surveyed were at least aware of the term ‘fake news’ and its negative connotations. It also suggested that the term was able to enter the public lexicon so easily due to the ongoing trust issue people have in the mainstream media – and might in fact exacerbate it.

Speaking at The Truth Spectrum, an industry summit based solely around the ‘fake news’ problem, Quartz’s Global Finance and Economics Editor Jason Karaian said

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Facebook Explore Feed: the opportunity for publishers

The race between Google and Facebook to see which can make itself least popular among content publishers has taken another turn, with Mark Zuckerberg’s company taking a decisive lead. Over the past week publishers in six countries – Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia – have seen their traffic from Facebook fall by up to two thirds as a result of an ongoing test in how publisher content appears within the social network.

Publishers should Explore other platforms.

In an excellent Medium post flagging up the extent of the change Filip Struhárik, editor and social media manager for Slovakian publisher Dennik N, notes that (emphasis mine):

“In main newsfeeds are now just friend and sponsored posts. Yes, you log into Facebook and you can see only posts from your friends and ads. You have to click on Explore Feed to see posts from pages you follow. If you want your Facebook page posts to be seen in old newsfeed, you have to pay.”

A Facebook spokesperson has indicated

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How chasing “hits” has failed publishers

Most digital media businesses are slaves to the ‘hit’ – the number of clicks on or views of a particular page.  And that’s a real shame, because the hit was never a great measure of success for an individual piece of content, and has only become less so as social distribution skews publishing priorities towards creating content designed to go ‘viral’.

How Idiots Track Success?

Worse still, as a result of a focus on the hit that has been around since the birth of the banner ad back in 1994, ads are  mostly sold on a CPM (click per thousand) basis. When you sell in thousands of impressions, all you care about is how many thousands you have. As a result, in some quarters, ‘hits’ has become a damning acronym for ‘How Idiots Track Success.’

The truth is, the hit is a blunt instrument for attracting advertisers. It’s like having a thousand people come to your wedding, but you don’t know any of them, they are unlikely to

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Print magazines: a blueprint for success

Different products…

What do Slimming World magazine and Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International have in common?

On the surface, not much: one is a lifestyle magazine packed full of mouth-watering recipes and inspirational stories about weight loss; the other is a niche B2B title serving the global heavy logistics industry. One is sold on the newsstand and sells 640,000 per edition; the other is a controlled circulation title with a distribution of 19,000.

But there are several key similarities which may surprise people. First, they are predominantly print-based products. Second, they are growing and profitable businesses. And third, yes, they are both clients of ours.

…same philosophy

The fourth – and main – thing they have in common, though, is that they are both central to their communities, and invest heavily in content to ensure that this remains the case. Both titles have an acute sense of what works for their audience – what they want, and how it should be delivered – and are prepared to do what it takes to deliver that mission. They serve their readers. As a result, the publications are an absolute must for advertisers in their sector.

While much of the media landscape looks like

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Staff retention in nine steps

Celebrate colleagues’ success…

As headhunters, we love recruitment. But we also spend a lot of time advising our clients on retention strategies. After all, if you can retain good staff, it saves you recruitment time and expense, builds your reputation as an employer, and will lead to more ‘virtuous’ recruitment – unsolicited approaches from candidates who have heard great things about you.

Here are a few of the key areas which help drive retention. Most can be achieved at minimal cost, but may require some serious attitude changes from within the business.

Recruit ‘stayers’

Your retention strategy starts with who you recruit.

In more experienced staff, it is easy to see who has a tendency to hop around: if someone has had eight jobs in ten years, the chances are that they will get itchy feet soon enough. This can be challenged in interview, but, all things being equal, a candidate with a number of three-to-five year stints might be preferable.

In first or second-jobbers though, this is trickier. When interviewing them, look for

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Lies, damned lies and statistics

Following our blog earlier in the week about the declining influence of print in elections, two sets of figures have come to light which emphasise the trend. But they also lead to some profound questions.

It was widely reported this week that Labour won the social media war, as we had suggested on Monday. The bald numbers look poor for the Tories. Over the course of the six week election period, Jeremy Corbyn posted 925 messages on his official social media channels, gaining a combined 2.8m shares. Theresa May posted 159 messages, and they were shared a mere 130,000 times – less than 5% of Corbyn’s total.

Corbyn increased his followers on Twitter and Facebook to a combined 2.4m (there is no figure on the overlap between the two audiences, though it is likely to be significant): May manages

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How the media misjudged the 2017 election

Sun front page following the 1992 general election

Sun front page following the 1992 general election

We have written before about the problem the mainstream media has faced in various plebiscites (the last election, Brexit, Trump, etc), but the UK 2017 election results do feel era-defining. It feels like confirmation of the beginning of the end of newspaper influence.

The success of the Brexit campaign, and the national newspapers’ prominent role in driving it, led many commentators – and newspapers themselves – to think “it was [insert name of paper here] wot won it”. In fact, we argued at the time, social media and the legislative restrictions around broadcast media were equally important.

The results from last Thursday, and the lead Labour now has in the polls, more resemble the Trump election than the Brexit campaign. Like Trump, Corbyn was in the ascendancy despite universal hostility in the mainstream press (even the Mirror was negative about him, right up till May announced the snap election). Corbyn’s success came from

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After the Manchester attack – assessing trust, bias, and media responsibility

This time the US media is in trouble for real news. Following the dreadful events in Manchester on Monday evening, the New York Times has published sensitive photographs and documents which, it is feared, might compromise the ongoing investigations into the bombing. The source is said to be from within the US security services – but the question of media responsibility again raises its head.

The NYT has been widely condemned in the British media: yet, as Hacked Off’s Brian Cathcart pointed out in a column last week, mainstream US journalists have in recent times been standard-bearers for the profession, in the face of a lot of pressure from government and commentators.

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How Improbable’s SpatialOS may revolutionise your business

By now, you have probably heard about Improbable, the virtual simulation start-up that raised $502m from Japan’s SoftBank – but what you might not have considered is how its technology could be of interest to your business.

Founded in 2012 by a pair of Cambridge University computer science graduates, Improbable is now valued at more than $1bn thanks to the investment by SoftBank, which represents the largest-ever venture financing round for a private British company.

The business employs 170 computer scientists, engineers and designers who are all attempting to recreate the most detailed version possible of the real world in digital form.

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Wikipedia founder to combat fake news with new website

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has launched a new website to help combat fake news.

The crowd-funded Wikitribune aims to be a “new kind of news platform” that will take the fight to the producers and facilitators of fake news by “bringing journalists and a community of volunteers together”.

Ten journalists will be hired to produce “professional, standards-based journalism that incorporates the radical idea from the world of Wiki – that a community of volunteers can, and will, reliably protect and improve articles”.

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How to save money on recruitment

MTA media headhuntersResearch from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation suggests 42% of employers have raised their levels of pay in order to secure difficult-to-attract staff.

What makes staff difficult-to-attract varies from company to company; but usually it is because the skill set needed is in high demand but low supply (HDLS); because of location issues; or because the company or its sector is simply ‘not sexy’.

These are all valid reasons why your company may struggle to attract the best people. But poor recruitment practices are a much bigger issue.

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Vogue’s new editor Edward Enninful will shake up the status quo

Conde Nast announced this week the appointment of the popular and influential Edward Enninful as the new Editor of British Vogue. The response from the fashion and media world has been widespread delight.

Enninful is not only, as New York Times states, “the first male editor of British Vogue since its founding in 1916,” he is also the “first black editor of any edition of Vogue.”

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How do you measure the quality of a candidate?

Everyone agrees that it is important to have the best talent at the top of an organisation.  But how do you ensure that you’re adequately assessing the quality of your candidates throughout the recruitment process?

Over time, the quality of a hire can be measured by the revenue they bring in, the interest their creative work generates, or how they keep customers happy. But what about when they’re sitting opposite you in an interview? What techniques can you use to accurately compare candidates to ensure you’re hiring the right person?

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72% say we’ll be worse off, according to our Brexit survey

Boom – and we’re off. Like it or not.

The EU ambassador has just delivered official notification to Donald Tusk of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union.

Whatever your views about the result of the referendum, Brexit is now a reality, and is the environment in which we will all be operating.

So what does this mean for the industries we work in? We carried out a quick Brexit survey in the Autumn last year to ask people how they saw the future for their own business, and for the economy in general.

A summary of the results is below. But we would also like to see how – or if – sentiment has changed in the six months since then. Click on this link to complete an updated survey. This will only take two minutes.

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Secondary ticketing – could self-regulation work?

Viagogo’s decision this week to snub the culture committee’s hearing into secondary ticketing was misguided and likely to imperil efforts at self-regulation.

The secondary ticketing market, which includes online marketplace sites like Viagogo and GetMeIn!, is worth an estimated $8bn a year.

While useful to genuine fans, these sites also make it very easy for touts to sell tickets at hugely inflated prices – and that, in part, is one of reasons why the committee was keen to take a look at the industry.

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Seven interview questions for George Osborne

So the Evening Standard has a new editor. As we in the headhunting profession know well, no media organisation would approach such a critical appointment without a full and rigorous competency-based interview process.

Here are seven key questions we would require a prospective editor to answer in interview. We can only assume from his appointment that George Osborne aced them all.

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Why publishers no longer need to worry about ad blockers

Ad blocking was labelled as an existential threat to ad-supported digital content by some (including us on occasion), but its anticipated growth has failed to materialise and digital publishers are breathing a sigh of relief.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK, the proportion of British adults using ad blocking software online in February was 22.1%.

The figure is less than half-a-percent more than in the same month last year and shows growth almost grinding to a halt. In February 2016, year-on-year growth of those using ad blockers stood at around six percent.

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Can crowdfunding help media businesses?

In my last blog on gaming consoles, I asked whether anyone would be brave enough to launch a new Nintendo magazine in light of the projected success of the Nintendo Switch console.  Well, it turns out they have been…

Just days after I wrote that piece, SwitchPlayer magazine received a limited release after funds were raise for its launch through crowdsourcing platform Patreon.

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Tech IPOs hit a low in 2016 (but 2017 could be boom time!)

Last year was a busy 12 months in terms of tech business manoeuvring. The big moves, however, were takeovers, mergers, launches and collapses – there didn’t seem to be that many public offerings.

Much of the movement in 2016 was established businesses buying content firms or platforms that provided a link to sizeable audience. Verizon bought Yahoo for $4.8bn, Microsoft paid $26bn for LinkedIn, and we also looked at telco convergence generally. Yet, other than flagging up the expected IPO of Snapchat, Tech IPOs didn’t seem to impact the media world in 2016 to such a degree.

Now, thanks to a study from PwC, the reasons for that have become somewhat clearer – as 2016 marked the decade’s low point for global tech IPOs.

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Fake news: will a backlash bring renewed interest to reputable outlets?

So, Fake News is in the news again. This time, the Culture, Media, and Sport committee is to hold an investigation into the phenomenon – which is admirable. What it hopes to achieve, though, is perhaps more open to question.

Certainly, it is a trend that ought to cause alarm. Social media has made it incredibly simple to spread any kind of malicious or just-plain-silly story. Concerns have even been raised that fake news might have influenced the US election: BuzzFeed reported that, in the last three months of the election, the top 20 fake stories were shared 8.7m times, compared with 7.3m shares for the top 20 stories from reputable sources.

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Nintendo Switch: what could launch mean for the console – and publishing – markets?

Since the release of its Game and Watch in 1980, Nintendo has dominated the handheld console market. The Game Boy and Nintendo DS are remembered fondly by people who played them in their youth while latest Nintendo 3DS had sold around 60m units by June 2016.

What’s more, a national survey in the 1990s found that Nintendo’s character, Mario, was ‘more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse’.

When it comes to home consoles, however, it’s a different story.

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Life for the media in the Trump era

While I was writing my most recent blog post – on the need for journalism of the highest standards in this ‘post-truth’ world – BuzzFeed went ahead and published the full text of the dodgy Trump dossier.

This was in the week before Trump was inaugurated. In an email to our subscribers, we were critical of Buzzfeed’s decision to publish. Despite Jim Edwards’ excellent arguments on Business Insider, we felt that the BuzzFeed approach had failed to fulfil the two critical functions of journalism: to scrutinise the facts, and to guide their readers through them.

The fear was that publishing unchecked allegations would make it easier for Trump to dismiss the entire document, and to attack the media as a whole.

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Should you tell a recruiter your salary?

This is such a perennial issue in the headhunting world I’m surprised it’s taken this blog so long to get round to covering it. Before I became a headhunter, I would never have dreamed of asking someone how much they earned – it just isn’t done in polite conversation. Now, I have to do it dozens of times a week. The vast majority of candidates answer without batting an eyelid, but a handful still bristle at the question, or refuse to answer whatsoever. This is understandable, but ultimately misguided.

The most common reason given for the refusal to disclose salary is that candidates fear putting themselves in a weaker negotiating position when it comes to the offer stage. In a decade of headhunting, I’ve never worked with a client who would even agree to meeting a candidate without knowing their salary. Far from putting you in a stronger negotiating position, you’re more likely to remove yourself from the table before you’ve even started.

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Why journalists need to ask the obvious question

One of this blog’s favourite journalists – David Walsh – gave a talk this week on the Moth Radio Hour – one of my favourite radio shows. A pretty perfect combination.

For those that don’t know him, Walsh was the first journalist to raise, in print, suspicions of Lance Armstrong’s drug cheating. He was reviled by many, and ignored by most of the cycling world, but stuck to his guns. Ultimately, of course, Walsh was vindicated.

The point about the Moth Radio Hour, though, is that it is a place for personal reflection, with stories told by people from all walks: Walsh, in his quiet and faltering way, told a story as personal and moving as any I have heard on the show. It is a story from which all journalists could learn something.

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Millennials and the gender pay gap

Here’s a bit of uncheery news for the start of 2017 – despite years of progress, a woman in her 20s is still more likely to earn less today than a man of her own age.

Happy New Year, millennials!

We’ve written quite a bit about the points of difference between this generation and its predecessors in recent months. We’ve looked at its attitude to the working world and how work is changing to accommodate this generations’ ideas and expectations – but what we haven’t looked at, until now, is how gender determines your likely lifetime earnings.

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