The Media Minute 09.30.2020

Substack has been in the news lately as many journalists have left full-time positions to start their own newsletter on the platform. The most recent high profile transition being that of The Verge’s longtime Silicon Valley editor and creator of The Interface newsletter, Casey Newton.

Many publishers are struggling to keep their business models afloat with cookies dying and brands tightening their ad spend in an age of pandemic and recession. To contend with unprecedented challenges, publishers have taken to implementing a wide variety of new tactics.

Change is the “new normal” in 2020. Everything comfortable in our personal and professional lives has been upended. But in the face of massive amounts of discomfort, the digital advertising industry is beginning to collaborate like never before on the many challenges in front of us.

Penske Media’s merger with MRC brings together the publishers of competing entertainment industry magazines Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, leaving The Wrap as the only independent trade publication left in Hollywood.

COVID-19 World Content Publishing Market Research Report (by Product Type, End-User / Application and Regions / Countries) is the latest research study released by HTF MI evaluating the market, highlighting opportunities, risk side analysis, and leveraged with strategic and tactical decision-making support.

You would be hard pressed to find someone in this industry who doesn’t think marketing has a jargon problem. Our industry has the tendency to describe things – whether that’s processes, platforms or assets – with labels that are neither descriptive nor useful when put into real-world business application and strategy.

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The Media Minute 09.15.2020

Instagram is opened a “staggering 35 times per day” by The Economist’s followers, according to Kevin Young, the publisher’s Head of Audience. The photo and video sharing platform “has become a key platform for The Economist’s digital growth” and is enabling them to “reach and retain new audiences.”

The presidential election is still more than a month-and-a-half away, but publishers are building their own voter registration hubs and launching informative campaigns around issues. In past, these editorial pushes have made a real impact in not only driving people to the polls — but also in driving engagement with the brand.

We’re living in a world where people are limited in cash, limited on funds and certainly limited on patience. For the most part, I think everybody right now is actually limited to some degree in their cognitive abilities. So how do we expect someone we’re selling to to actually understand what they need vs. what they want?

The contentious issue of whether or how much digital media companies like Facebook and Google should pay news publishers for content this week was tucked into in a report on possible changes to America’s internet decency law. It’s a novel argument, but doesn’t get to heart of the issue of what value is being exchanged between publishers and digital platforms.

If you’ve published your branded content through a local business journal, we take care of promoting it to our audience through headline promotions, social media posts, adding the headline to our daily email newsletters and all the other ways we bring your content to our reader’s attention.

Scale is an issue, of course, but putting that aside, the benefits of email are clear. For years already, email has enabled advertisers to market directly to customers and to create Custom Audience on Facebook and Instagram. Publishers big and small, from The New York Times to local newspapers, can reengage site visitors and woo them into subscriptions.

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The Media Minute 09.09.2020

Global paid digital circulation volumes of newspapers increased by 307% to reach 31.5M paying subscribers between 2013 and 2018. Print circulation figures fell by 0.5% during the same period, according to Australian Media Landscape Trends, a new report by AlphaBeta.

The presidential election is still more than a month-and-a-half away, but publishers are building their own voter registration hubs and launching informative campaigns around issues. In past, these editorial pushes have made a real impact in not only driving people to the polls — but also in driving engagement with the brand.

Here is the hard truth. The current state of local journalism is dire. The devastating impact of COVID-19 has made advertising dollars plunge and closed more than 50 local newsrooms around America, according to Poynter’s Kristen Hare, who has been tracking the closures since March. But before COVID-19 hit the industry, local journalism was already in need of help.

Apple soon will give publishers another way to offer subscriptions to readers who use apps to read newspapers and magazines on their iPhones and iPads. The company last week announced the upcoming rollout of “offer codes” that publishers can create for a variety of promotional efforts.

Ten years ago, display advertising made up 58 per cent of digital publisher revenue and subscriptions only 7 per cent. Subscriptions now account for 22 per cent of total revenue; with display advertising having shrunk to 42 percent.

Since web browsers were released over 25 years ago, they have amassed a significant amount of power. They’re sources of both supply and demand, all while holding the key to user data.This power gives the browsers huge influence over how users will access the internet in the future.

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The Media Minute 09.02.2020

The fixed mindset believes your abilities are fixed, so you stick with what you have, and you believe your potential is predetermined by circumstances beyond your control. As a result, you don’t sharpen your skills and ability to identify opportunities, improve efficiencies, and make futuristic decisions vs. short-term choices.

Revenue was higher by 62% compared to January 2019. February saw a 79% increase over the previous year. The growth continued across March (27%), April (9%), May (17%) and June (17%) as the pandemic spread across the world, shrinking digital ad revenues and pushing many countries towards a recession.

With uncertainty continuing to hang over the American economy and advertisers continuing to face pressure from CEOs who want to see ad spending drive results, it has gotten harder than ever for publishers to start relationships with advertisers, executives at five different media companies told Digiday.

Apple is getting close to releasing the next version of the software that runs the iPhone, which will give people more control over the data they share with apps. Those changes will affect advertising revenue for publishers, but shouldn’t be considered a death knell for the industry.

For years, news organizations around the world have been pushing for fairer profit-sharing between themselves and the likes of Facebook and Google on news content distributed on social media platforms. Some of the industry’s leaders, like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, have won government support to propose relevant regulations.

As opposed to Facebook, which yodeled from the rooftops about the negative impact Apple’s IDFA changes will have on publisher monetization through Audience Network, Google quietly updated its AdMob Help Center last week with information on the steps developers need to take before iOS 14 rolls out.

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The Media Minute 08.25.2020

Few marketing channels get more attention these days than TikTok — and for good reason. Between January and March, the app was downloaded 315 million times, bringing the total to more than 2 billion downloads. Unique visitors have also been on the climb, nearly doubling in a matter of six months.

In spite of the ensuing outrage, Apple initially dug in, insisting that in-app purchases are required whenever apps “allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site.” Nevertheless, after continued surprise and outrage, Apple backed off, issuing a rare on-the-record apology, saying that WordPress will no longer have to add in-app purchases.

For the past several weeks, audiences have begun to come back, some of them lured by content that is more focused on safety or staycations. Last month, publications including Travel Insider and BringMe each posted more content on Facebook than they had at any point since the pandemic started; BuzzFeed’s Bring Me posted more than it had at any point in 2020.

The New York Times has been an exemplary model of a newspaper that has worked to offset declining advertising revenue with gains in subscriptions — especially digital. A key question is whether local newspapers can mimic that strategy on a smaller scale than The Times, which has a national and global reach far beyond its namesake city.

Major US news publishers have joined the list of companies and app developers criticizing Apple’s App Store terms as unfair and potentially anti-competitive. The digital media trade association Digital Content Next — which includes newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and numerous magazines, broadcasters, and websites (Vox Media, parent company of The Verge, is also a member) — sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday.

Google has said it will release a default setting to block advertisements that violate its heavy ad intervention policy by the end of August. Sources tell AdExchanger those new policies coincide with the release of Chrome 85, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

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The Media Minute 08.18.2020

Publishers are at the core of the modern consumer journey. The content they create generates the majority of consumer interest and intention, yet they rarely capture a fair slice of the commercial value they produce in return. As such, publishers have always been on a quest to broaden revenue sources.

The increasing popularity of podcasts has encouraged publishers to expand their audio offerings. Many have introduced audio versions of articles. These are generally embedded above the text and allow readers the flexibility to consume articles by reading or listening.

A digital ecosystem that does not rely on third-party cookies is approaching — with Google’s Chrome deadline for retiring third-party cookies looming and iOS 14 on its way. Given these realities, the ability to track users will diminish unless alternative identity and authentication strategies are put in place.

Apple is working on bundling its paid services, including its Apple News+ digital newsstand, which carries hundreds of magazines and newspapers, Bloomberg News reported last week. The bundles likely would improve the value proposition for Apple’s customers, and may help publishers extend their reach among the millions who use iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.

Three of publishing’s most important organizations have teamed up to write a letter to the chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee investigating the market power of Big Tech to press their case that, over the last several years, Amazon’s growing dominance over book publishing and bookselling has fundamentally altered the competitive framework of the industry.

The impetus is Apple’s move to start requiring an opt-in for its proprietary advertising ID, the IDFA, beginning with iOS 14 in September. Without ready access to the IDFA, apps are limited in their ability to track which users click on what ads and to see if those interactions lead to an install, purchase or some other downstream action.

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The Media Minute 08.12.2020

2020 has been especially disastrous, with the impact of COVID-19 causing businesses of all kinds to drastically cut their advertising budgets. This — as has been exhaustively reported — led to what the Financial Times has called “carnage” for digital publishers, who are still reliant on advertising revenue. The results? Heavy staff layoffs, downsizing across the board, and vulnerable titles — particularly local media publications — closing shop altogether.

At a time of financial stress (with consumers having less money in their pockets), and an expanding subscription economy, not only is reducing churn a priority, publishers also want to find ways to super-serve their most loyal audiences. Here are four ways publishers can, and are, doing this during the coronavirus crisis.

Publishers have long fumed that platforms such as Google and Amazon tie their services and products together in ways that are anti-competitive. A pair of changes being rolled out to Apple’s operating systems has publishers lumping the device maker into that group as well.

The pending demise of cookie-tracking technology has stirred debate about how it may negatively affect advertising sales of publishers. A recent report on Wired’s website indicates the end of third-party cookies can be a good thing for digital ad revenue.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began to tighten its grip on the U.S. in early spring, most people in publishing were bracing for the worst. Indeed, sales reports from April and May were worrisome, but they began to improve in June. For three publishers that reported their financial results August 6 for the period ended June 30, 2020, sales were down from a year ago.

As a publisher, managing your ads.txt reduces bad actors’ ability to take advantage of your site. Those bad actors can be siphoning money from you via nefarious means, such as domain spoofing. Or they can be your partners, who use resellers to arbitrage your inventory and put more money in their pocket instead of yours.

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The Media Minute 08.05.2020

In the early days of the pandemic, the team at nonprofit media outlet, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, rallied to produce content that would help its audience during an anxious, uncertain time. Recognizing that people were spending more hours at home amid shelter-in-place orders, the team decided to host a series of free livestream meditations and Buddhist teachings to aid individuals in their altered lives.

COVID-19 has reinforced the need for publishers to diversify their revenue sources. With advertising proving to be both a problematic, and an unreliable income stream, for many outlets right now, the race is on to find other ways to make media pay.

Every digital publisher worth their salt has some form of video on their websites. They may be using existing content, or they could be leaning into user generated content, but the transition from text to video that began a decade back has had a major effect on the entire publisher workforce, from editorial to operational to revenue roles.

Publishers plotting a growth strategy as advertisers look for ways to put media dollars to work during the second half of the year have a significant incentive to hone their digital strategies. Those efforts include ways to boost monetization, while also improving the reader experience.

With Labor Day only five weeks away, it has become clear that a substantial number of publishers, both in New York City and elsewhere, will not be returning to their offices in anything resembling full force before 2021. Moreover, organizers of a few industry events set for early next year have already announced they will be moving them from in-person to online.

Editor & Publisher Magazine (E&P) announced today that it has partnered with the Local Media Consortium (LMC) to manage the 25th Annual EPPY Awards, one of the most prestigious honors in digital journalism in the United States.

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The Media Minute 07.29.2020

Live events – a trillion-dollar industry – were one of the first casualties of COVID related lockdowns, according to FIPP’s latest report on virtual events. However, businesses and individuals rapidly shifted to working from home, and integrated video conferencing software into their daily lives.

Recently, creative agency Mustache has retooled ads for clients like Grammarly and Instacart to ensure the ads are relevant for the cultural moment due to coronavirus. That means the agency has gone back to its previously created ads and cut out scenes of people together in places like elevators or ride-sharing.

The future hasn’t changed—it’s just been accelerated. That’s a common take on the pandemic’s likely long-term impact, and it rings true. The extent to which white collar workers will return to their offices, students to their classrooms, and all of us to the comfortable privacy of video-less calls remains to be seen.

Many publishers have spent years steadily building a live events business, only to see those efforts quickly dashed during the coronavirus pandemic. In trying to predict when the live events business will recover for publishers, I’ve been monitoring a variety of news developments and other indicators for any reason to be optimistic.

As many legacy news outlets struggle to survive, industry analysts are looking to digital startups as a promising way to revive coverage of local news. After all, digital-only means you don’t need massive presses or barrels of ink or fleets of trucks.

According to recent data on how people are accessing news about the coronavirus pandemic, more than 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States reported getting their news from Instagram within the last month. The age group was unsurprisingly the most likely to use social media as a news source in general.

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The Media Minute 07.21.2020

Depending upon which experts you heed, the U.S. Postal Service is either just a few months away from insolvency or it’s in no danger of running out of cash any time soon. The purpose of accounting, one of my favorite professors used to say, is to give people the information they need to make decisions.

We know digital editions are having their moment in the sun right now, or as Rick Edmonds recently wrote for Poynter, “replica editions, the ugly ducklings of digital news, have suddenly become strategic.” Many publishers have asked questions on using digital editions in their habit-formation strategies. Today we’re sharing answers to some of those questions.

The company’s annual GameBeat Summit 2020 was set to take place at the end of the month in Los Angeles and as the pandemic grew more severe, more and more precautions were put in place to keep guests safe. Eventually, however, it became illegal to hold events at all and just three weeks ahead of showtime, vp of strategic partnerships Gina Joseph said her team started adapting the event to be entirely virtual.

Google is taking steps to prevent advertisers from inadvertently supporting websites that promote conspiracy theories about COVID-19 which contradict scientific evidence about the respiratory illness. The ban shouldn’t affect most mainstream publishers, which hope Google’s algorithms are smart enough to differentiate between misinformation about COVID-19 and legitimate news.

Net sales fell 12.1% in May, compared to May 2019, for the 1,360 publishers who report to AAP’s monthly StatShot program. Similar to the April report, the net sales figure was heavily influenced by a steep drop in returns, which offset a decline in gross sales in the month.

In this one-on-one interview with E&P publisher Mike Blinder, Dohrn reveals to the industry the results of the study as well as reviews the best tactics and practices he sees in order to continue to drive revenue through COVID-19.

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