On Sunday 18th March 2018 a 49 year old woman in Arizona was killed by an autonomous Uber car, which struck her as she pushed her bicycle along the roadside. The death was blamed on defective software. Two years prior to this, the first of multiple Tesla driver deaths occurred. There is significant evidence
Media companies – consumer-facing publishers in particular – are reportedly looking to reddit for inspiration. An article on Quartz about the self-described “front page of the internet” states that points out that reddit has consistently been ahead of the curve when it comes to its strategy around user engagement and personalisation, and that it’s seeing success that other media companies can only dream of as a result:
“As a quantifiable metric for the supremacy of the site’s popularity, the amount of time the average user spends on Reddit per day is greater than any other social media site in the top 50. Clocking in at just under 15 minutes per user per day, it goes far beyond Facebook’s 10 minutes and 37 seconds and Twitter’s 6-and-a-bit minutes.”
Having only recently recovered from the GDPR frenzy which gripped the continent in May, some media companies will be feeling relieved that the European Parliament last week sent controversial copyright reforms back to the drawing board. The proposed legislation included Article 11, which would require online platforms – search engines, news aggregators, etc. – to pay publications if they link to them. Article 13 meanwhile would have made copyright enforcement the responsibility of online service providers, and asked them to use content recognition technology to censor material at the point of upload.
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed an increasing inclination from the EU and its member states to privatise tasks which many believe should be undertaken by the police and courts of the respective state. As with the censorship of online hate speech, the ongoing debate has centred around just who ought to be arbiter of these laws – i.e. humans or machines. The trouble is that
If you’re not a fan of Drake… well, bad luck, because you can’t get away from him. In an overly-zealous attempt to promote his new album, Scorpion, Spotify chose to include Drake in every single one of its discover playlists over the launch period. This sparked a backlash from music fans, the likes of which haven’t been seen since iTunes snuck a copy of U2’s Songs of Innocence into its users libraries, with Spotify users demanding refunds for the sudden omnipresence of Drake in their lives.
As the BBC pointed out, Spotify’s promotion of Scorpion was undeniably over-egged, with songs from the Canadian-born musician appearing on playlists titled ‘Best of British’ and every genre known to man. As a result some subscribers to the paid-for Spotify Premium, which boasts a lack of ads as a feature, considered that they were being served advertisements for a single artist with the relentlessness of the T-1000.
While the controversy is perhaps overblown – unlike the Songs of Innocence debacle, which necessitated bespoke software to be developed to remove the album from users’ libraries – it actually reveals quite a lot about Spotify’s business model and, in turn, the business models of the artists whose oeuvre appears on the platform.
Regulation and technological advances threaten many industries: just ask high street bookmakers. But the simultaneous combination of GDPR and the promotion of ad-blocking technologies by the likes of Google and Microsoft is worrying for digital media businesses.
At the same time, ad-blocking has never truly gone away as an issue for publishers. It often gets swept aside by seemingly larger issues like the Duopoly or rampant fraud, but it’s always there in the background, eating into publishers’ digital revenue potential.
It’s come back into view over the past few days after Microsoft announced that its mobile Edge browser for iOS and Android would have an ad-blocker installed by default, perhaps anticipating that post-GDPR audiences will be more savvy about their digital rights. The Verge reports that the feature – currently in beta – is set to be made available more widely and, crucially, won’t require any extra downloads to be used. Microsoft are making it as easy as humanly possible for their users to block ads, using the existing infrastructure of Adblock Plus – and that’s got publishers worried.
Readers of Digiday may have noticed an interview with Martin, talking about media’s shift towards subscription-based services. Many of the arguments in there will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It confirms a recent trend we’ve been following – as Google and Facebook continue to hoover up the vast majority of online advertising spend, media companies are increasingly looking to online subscriptions to grow revenues.
Of course, one area of media that worked this out a long time ago is B2B media. High-value subscription-based business information is a sector we expect to continue growing, and the amount of high-level M&A activity in the sector would appear to confirm that. Earlier this year Blackstone agreed to take a majority stake in Thomson Reuters’ Financial & Risk business for over £17bn. IHS Markit followed up a successful merger by agreeing to buy Ipreo in a $1.86bn deal. Our client, Argus Media, was last year acquired by
In what is both one of the bigger tech acquisitions and recruitment stories of the year, the Japanese firm Recruit Holdings is set to buy Glassdoor in a deal worth $1.2bn. The buyer, which also owns recruitment site Indeed.com, will gain access to a vast database of employee reviews, salary data and a huge volume of active job seekers. Glassdoor is also the second-largest job site in the US – the largest being Indeed – so the synergies are obvious, especially if the new owner opts to further integrate the two sites. Whether this justifies the gigantic valuation is another question entirely – the barrier to entry for new rivals doesn’t seem especially high to me, leaving the sector very open to further disruption. But Glassdoor, which has 30m members worldwide, is already growing faster than LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster, so what lessons can employers learn from it?
It’s not enough for media businesses to be a one-trick pony any more. Outside of the rare Nordic publishers who got into online classifieds early, there are few companies of significant scale who can sustain themselves only through advertising.
While some have gone the business information route, like Skift and other companies in high-value verticals like travel or fashion, an increasing number of media companies are placing their faith in e-commerce.
Put simply, organisations like BuzzFeed and Refinery29 are betting on the relationship with readers and ecosystems they’ve created on their own sites to sell products. There are a number of ways publishers are going about that, whether it’s
Can you name the website that receives the most hits in the UK after Google, YouTube and Facebook? Clue: it’s not the BBC, Amazon or Wikipedia. It is Reddit. On average, people also spend more time on Reddit than any other website in the top fifty.
The dangers of social media are a hot topic at the moment. Whilst the pros and perils of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are openly discussed, less commonly mentioned are the so-called ‘hidden’ forums like Reddit, Voat and 4Chan.
The hidden internet is creating safe space for people to express opinions they would not feel comfortable discussing in real life and risking real life relationships. They can help previously
With all the noise from Google and Facebook over projects to help fund journalism, from the Digital News Initiative to Facebook’s forays into funding local journalism, you might think that those giants are finally putting their weight behind an industry that they’ve been accused of undermining.
Similarly, as publishers abandon scale in pursuit of subscription models, you can easily believe that news publishers and search and social giants are no longer in direct competition for ad money and that therefore the lopsided competition between the two is at an end.
Both of those statements are true, to an extent. Google and Facebook are
We have long argued that the games industry should be treated as seriously as those other pillars of the entertainment business, film and music. Government seems to be getting the message, and – as we reported last month – the figures certainly stack up.
But perhaps the BBC is still struggling with the idea of games as a grown-up industry in its own right. When the industry does get coverage (on the Today show, for example), the presenters are typically as well informed as, say, a US senator facing a Facebook Chief Executive.
And then there was last week’s broadcast of the BAFTA Games Awards ceremony. If there is one thing
Back in January the Guardian redesigned its website, bringing a suite of small quality of life improvements to its digital audience’s experience to coincide with the launch of the paper in tabloid format. The redesign has been fairly well-received, but the Guardian – and other sites that have altered the front- and back-ends of their sites – have inadvertently stumbled upon what is becoming an acute issue around preservation of content online.
Last week it was reported that Rupert Murdoch, as part of his attempt to buy 100% of Sky, may attempt to sell Sky News to Disney in order to keep regulators happy. It has subsequently emerged that Disney may have to bid for the entirety of Sky if the Competition and Markets Authority quashes Murdoch’s bid. While the debate in this country has focused predominantly on Murdoch’s endgame, relatively little attention has been paid to what Disney would be looking to gain here.
Disney’s ambitions highlight several trends within the wider TV sector; they appear to be realising the hitherto missed tricks of traditional broadcasters when staving off the ‘threat’ of SVOD providers such as Netflix and Amazon. And they have plenty of reason to do so.
During the first quarter of this year, FierceCable reported, “Disney’s media networks operating income fell 12% to $1.2 billion due to sagging performance by Hulu [reported as equity], A+E and the broadcasting segment.” Pay-TV has generally found itself lagging behind
The US linear television industry has hit ‘permanent recession‘ in terms of the proportion of the total ad spend it commands, according to Magna. The rapid rise of digital ad spend has necessarily come at the expense of other areas and television, despite its reputation for delivering the best ROI of any medium, is no longer looking quite so unassailable. Mediapost’s Joe Mandele writes:
“‘National television ad sales will decline between -2% to -3% going forward,’ Magna concludes.
The picture is not any prettier for the local TV ad marketplace, and with the exception of election years, Magna does not expect any growth for local TV at all.”
The same is true to a lesser degree in the UK, where AA/Warc predictions in January put the % YOY change in television ad-spent at -2, even including the 11.4% increase in ad spend against VOD. That’s despite
George Orwell wrote that jargon and obfuscating language contributes to the degradation of the English language to the point that meaningful dialogue is impossible.
He might have had a point, too: The term ‘fake news’, which the Reuters Institute recommended should be stripped from conversation around online misinformation, was meaningless almost as soon as it was born, allowing it to be hijacked by politicians with an anti-media bent. One of the people who coined it, BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman, has admitted culpability in that (though he can’t really be blamed for not predicting how it was to be co-opted), and I’ve been arguing it should be retired as a term since August of last year. Because it was jargon, ‘fake news’ has made discourse about misinformation impossible.
New report, published today by @EU_Commission High Level Group on disinformation, contains: “a clear and unequivocal abandonment of the term ‘fake news’. @rasmus_kleis #fake #news https://t.co/UbKwHmW2x8
— Reuters Institute (@risj_oxford) March 12, 2018
‘Millennial’, too, has drawn ire as being completely useless as a description of an entire generation’s habits and trends. It has led to
Quite rightly, there was a celebratory air to last week’s IPG conference. While the trend for most media sectors is reported as gloomy, book sales have been consistently growing for the last few years.
According to Mintel, 74% of Brits bought or read / listened to a book in 2016/17. The Publishers Association reported record sales of books and journals in the same period, rising to £4.8bn. Sales in both print and digital categories are up – with print consumption massively dominating the UK market (around 90% of copy sales).
So why are print books outlasting their physical counterparts in other media sectors? Well,
Another week, another print closure. Or, to put it in the euphemistic terms of the press releases: Another week, another refocusing on digital strengths.
The New Musical Express (NME) is shuttering its print operation after a much-publicised move to a free distribution model in summer 2015 which was designed to boost the magazine’s attractiveness to advertisers through an increase in circulation. In the announcement,
Shares in both ITV and WPP have fallen dramatically following their latest results. In both cases, this can be put down to the habitual complacency of a market leader. Neither business has been quick enough to restructure, nor trail-blazing in its digital offering. Neither have understood the major threats to their businesses through the duopoly of Google and Facebook.
So while there are obvious similarities in the business failings, the stories at the top of the businesses differ markedly. WPP is still helmed by its leader of 32 years, Martin Sorrell. ITV, after years of Adam Crozier’s stewardship, has a new CEO in Carolyn McCall.
McCall, the former CEO of the Guardian, has most recently been running EasyJet. She has seen advertising as both seller and buyer, and has hands-on experience of the value of data in her last role. As Simon English points out in the Standard, McCall is
In a recent blog, we looked at the threat Brexit represents to the future of the UK creative industries, focusing mainly on the games industry – and for a very good reason: the UK games retail market is now a £3.35bn industry, its sales now almost equal to that of home sales for music and video combined.
But this blog perhaps missed the wider, refreshingly positive story about the state of the entertainment market as a whole. For many years, reports have suggested
There’s a predictable rhythm to the online aftermath of any sort of mass shooting. After the initial outpouring of sympathy and grief, you can expect the media coverage to turn to the reactions of the alt-right, both through morbid curiosity and a genuine attempt to explain how conspiracy theories get disseminated online. As sure as The Onion publishes its savage takedown of the Republican response to mass shootings, you can expect the exposés of reddit’s r/The_Donald subreddit to follow.
Things were no different in the immediate aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentines Day.
Back when I was news editor for TheMediaBriefing, we had an editorial matrix designed to ensure we wrote about the different topics which our segmented audiences were most interested in. It was carefully constructed, with the sort of care you might take over a house of cards or a matchstick model, so that B2B, B2C, digital pureplays, platforms and the like all got equal prominence on the homepage.
You could argue that the most important skill of any media leader is the ability to temper expectations. Everyone’s constantly looking for the next unicorn, and as soon as some hot new thing appears suddenly everyone’s on the accelerator and nobody’s on the brakes. The next step is typically a sky-high valuation and successive rounds of VC investment – followed by a tepid or downright chilly response when the property takes longer than expected to find its feet or fails to deliver a return.
Look at what happened with Mashable, which sold for a fifth of its Spring 2016 valuation of $250m at the end of last year, and which had staked its fortune on the ability to reach a generalist audience at huge scale. When it sold to Ziff Davis in a “fire sale” price in December, much of the analysis
The lack of noise – positive or negative – about the relaunch of the tabloid Guardian last week underlines just how irrelevant print is becoming to the newspaper market.
Of course, it is also true that The Guardian is the last of the broadsheets – other than the Telegraph, which it seems will go to its grave in the larger format – to go tabloid or abandon print altogether. And given the perilous finances of the newspaper’s owners, GMG, this shift has been seen as inevitable after 13 years of the paper’s ruinously costly Berliner format (GMG made losses before exceptional items of £45m on turnover of £214m last year).
But the figures speak for themselves. Only 20% of the
Every other week brings a new closure of some beloved digital publisher. This week, it was The Awl and its sister site The Hairpin, which announced their closure with a muted sort of triumph. In its final post, ‘Awl Ends’, The Awl made the case that it had for years delivered upon its promise of making people ‘less stupid’, and that the internet and digital publishing in general would be worse because of its absence:
“For nearly a decade we followed a dream of building a better Internet, and though we did not manage to do that every day we tried very hard and we hope you don’t blame us for how things ultimately turned out.”
Nobody could possibly blame The Awl or the many great writers who got their first real exposure on the platform for its closure, or for the growing dearth of a proving ground for young journalists online. It was an idiosyncratic site that defied definition, equal parts blogging platform, battlement for avante-garde satire, and petri dish for a form of New Journalism. Writing of its closure for NPR, Glen Weldon argues that The Awl and The Hairpin were the successors to a long line of renowned titles:
Late last year a taxi drivers’ organisation in Barcelona successfully challenged Uber’s assertion that it is not primarily a transport company. The European Court of Justice ruled in the taxi drivers’ favour, throwing out Uber’s argument that it was first and foremost a digital service, noting that since Uber was central to the operation of the taxi-like service, it was more than simply an intermediary.
The ruling comes at a particularly interesting time for media companies in the UK. As Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, said:
“Today’s judgment made clear, as a matter of law, what everyone already knew as a matter of common sense: Uber provides transportation services, not technology services.”
Part of the problem media companies have with platforms like Google and Facebook is a clash of definitions. It’s well publicised that neither of the Duopoly consider themselves
Scan any job site for journalism roles and you’ll notice the same required skills and qualifications pop up more often than not. NCTJ certified degree or equivalent. Shorthand. Self-starter with a keen news sense.
Those are all useful skills, and in the ever more competitive world of journalism successful applicants will need to tick every single box. The issue is that many of the jobs advertised that way are for generalist news reporter positions, and there’s no position more vulnerable in an age where many publishers are cutting back on editorial staff than the generalist news reporter. It’s still possible to find yourself a niche, particularly if you’re lucky enough to work for a specialist publication, but those positions are becoming rarer, especially for journalists new to the industry.
The reality is that as a result of the erosion of beat journalism in favour of creating mass-appeal general content, often journalists are distinguished less by the topics on which they are an expert and more on the way they can tell stories, whether that’s through creating video, data visualisations, social campaigns or a news game. Establishing yourself as a master of one of those disciplines is a great way to ameliorate the risk of redundancy.
But there’s an even more vital skill for journalists in 2018, one that’s related to the reasons why the generalist journalist is at risk…
At the tail end of 2017 many round-ups and prediction pieces (including my own) confidently asserted that 2018 will be the age of ‘audience-first’ publishing. It sounds an unnecessary description – surely publishing has always put audiences at the heart of their strategies – but it means something very tangible, and something that will hugely impact the media landscape over the next few months.
There are any number of predictions for media priorities in 2018 floating around. As with last year’s predictions some will be on point, some will miss the mark, and some will appear laughably naive by the time January 2019 arrives.
Almost certainly, all the predictions will be subject to Amara’s Law – that we overestimate the effect of a technology in the short-term and underestimate it in the long-term. As an example, we saw disappointment with early implementations of A.I. chatbots this year because of early hype around the technology, but the bots have been ubiquitous – and delivering significant revenue – since the middle of this year.
This year has also been the year of the ‘pivot to video’, a term that was used so widely and so often that it became
GamesTM recently celebrated its anniversary of 15 years in print. This achievement would have completely passed me by, were it not for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, as would the 12 month magazine subscription I signed up for once I’d finished reading my ‘borrowed’ issue.
It was then that I found myself wondering whether I was looking at one possible answer to the dwindling fortunes of the magazine industry.
As one might expect, Kindle Unlimited offers users access to a large selection of books for a monthly fee – Netflix for bookworms if you will. The number of available titles
As early as 2015, media companies had a sneaking suspicion that third-party platforms might not have their best interests at heart. The term that got bandied around to describe Facebook and Google was ‘frenemy’. Not even a handful of years later, the rhetoric is less ambiguous – the platforms are the feudal lords, and publishers are the serfs allowed to till their land.
The pushback against that situation is now underway – through campaigns organised by the industry, through lawsuits designed to level the playing field, through dialogue with the platforms – but the truth is that the power balance is still skewed against publishers.
And it was a situation that the publishers should have (and probably did to some extent) see coming. Journalism trainer Adam Tinworth points out that Facebook had already done exactly the same rug-pull with marketers, but unfortunately, the promises of revenue from the tech giants ultimately proved too alluring for publishers.
Regardless of how the attempts to redress the issues with Google and Facebook go, hopefully media companies have finally learned that every other entity in the media landscape, at every step of the value chain, is a competitor. And if not, lessons can be learned from the following examples of the rug being pulled out from players in the media industry…