Sara Fischer
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Axios Media Trends

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For your radar: Experts expect Obama-era net neutrality rules to be repealed on Thursday, which has enraged progressive activists and Silicon Valley. Axios' Kim Hart has a quick explainer with everything you need to know here.

1. You can log out, but you can't hide

Reproduced from Ghostery; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new study from Ghostery, an anti-tracking tool, shows that an overwhelming majority (79%) of websites globally are tracking visitors' data — with 10% of these sites actually sending user data to 10 companies or more.

  • Tracking scripts from Google and Facebook are by far the most pervasive. Together, those two companies collect more data than most other companies combined.
  • The U.S., Russia and U.K. have more trackers per page load than the global average, while Germany, France and India have fewer. (Germany and many European countries are known for their culture of strong data privacy.)
  • The advertising supply chain represents the vast majority of tracking companies.

Why it matters: Trackers can collect and sell visitor data in ways that aren't always obvious to consumers. Too many trackers can also slow down website load times. As the trade war for data intensifies, companies that collect the most data through trackers will become the biggest targets of data privacy reform.

  • New regulatory efforts to protect consumer privacy will significantly hinder these companies' ability to collect data via tracking scripts. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect next year in Europe, will require companies to get explicit permission from consumers to collect their data.
  • Too many trackers can often create slower web experiences. A Princeton study earlier this year found that mainstream news websites use more third-party ad tech vendors than any other type of website: sports, shopping, adult, etc. Such partnerships can slow down load times for publisher sites if there are too many trackers dropped on a page, or if they're using certain techniques to capture data.

Our thought bubble: It benefits these ad companies to have as access to as much data as possible, not just for profit, but because they want to provide better advertising experiences for users. (Studies have shown that consumers prefer customized ads.) Some may argue it's the cost of having free access to their tools.

2. Exclusive: Digital vet Jim Roberts joins Cheddar as EIC

Jim Roberts, former Mashable executive editor and veteran New York Times and Reuters digital editor, is joining streaming TV startup Cheddar as editor-in-chief to lead Cheddar's newsroom and editorial coverage. The company is also launching "Cheddar Scoops," an exclusive-news reporting unit. Business Insider's Alex Heath is the first Cheddar Scoops hire.

Why it matters: Cheddar continues to expand amid a tumultuous landscape for VC-backed digital media. These hires are part of a push to strengthen the company’s editorial product to keep up with its aggressive business deals.

  • The company hopes to add five to 10 people to the Cheddar Scoops team next year, many of whom will be experts in hot topic areas within business, deals, tech and media — Cheddar’s specialties. Cryptocurrency, for example, is a “no brainer,” says Cheddar Chief Content Officer Peter Gorenstein.
  • Roberts and Heath will begin December 19 and 18, respectively, and will be the first of several newsroom hires that will work to expand Cheddar’s original reporting footprint. "We will use all of the weapons of distribution to get our scoops out there," says Roberts. "That means breaking things on our air, and pushing scoops out on social media."

Sound smart: Roughly a year old, Cheddar now has 100 employees — 46 of which work in content. But most of that editorial staff works on creating the product, not breaking its own news. Now, Cheddar is investing in original reporting, which it hopes will distinguish itself from other over-the-top livestreamers, like The Young Turks and Barstool Sports.

Go deeper: More here about the new hires.

3. The cost of video fraud

A new study out this morning from 16 publishers, including The Washington Post and Business Insider, as well as Google, Amobee and Quantcast, finds that publishers are losing up to $3.5 million in a single day to counterfeit video inventory — up to $1.27 billion per year.

Why it matters: Inventory fraud has been plaguing the ad industry for years, but for a while it went relatively undetected, so fraudsters got away with it. The largest ad fraud criminal ring in history, the Russian "Methbot," was revealed last year to have stolen up to $5 million in fraudulent ad dollars per day. White Ops, the firm that finally caught it, had been tracking the bad activity for over a year.

Now, publishers are fighting back with an industry-wide initative called ads.txt, which prevents counterfeit ad inventory from being exchanged by forcing publishers to verify businesses that can sell their inventory upfront.

  • It's a supply and demand problem: A lot of these those publishers aren't losing money directly from countereit inventory — just like Rolex doesn't directly lose money from fake watches being sold on Canal Street. But it matters because it falsely inflates the amount of inventory a publisher has available, which decreases the value of their impressions.
  • It also causes performance issues for publishers: "I didn't want anybody to judge The Washington Post based off of performance that wasn't happening on our site," says Jason Tollestrup, director of programmatic at The Washington Post. "It's the industry problem we need to fix. That's why we were early adopters."
  • Google has been helping to get the initiative off the ground, by enforcing ads.txt through filtering out unauthorized inventory on its ad platforms. "Ads.txt only works if buyers actually enforce against the standard," says Pooja Kapoor, Head of Global Strategy for Programmatic at Google.

What's next? Now that publishers are on board, the Interactive Advertising Bureau wants ad buyers to be vigilant too. It's created a program called ads.cert for ad buyers to vet publishers' inventory.

4. Verizon trades exclusive NFL rights on mobile for Yahoo access

Verizon has struck a more than $2 billion deal to show NFL football games on its mobile network as well as its Yahoo, Yahoo Sports and go90 mobile platforms, The Wall Street Journal's Joe Flint reports.

  • "Verizon will make national games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday nights, in addition to the playoffs and Sunday afternoon games from a user’s home market, available on its apps for smartphones and tablets, regardless of a customer’s mobile carrier, company and NFL officials said."
  • The agreement runs for five years, according to people familiar with the pact, and "Verizon’s annual rights and sponsorship fee to the National Football League will rise from its current $250 million to more than $450 million."

Why it matters: "Verizon was willing to give up exclusive mobile rights in return for NFL content for its other platforms. In its previous deal, exclusivity was seen as crucial for Verizon to attract new wireless customers and keeping existing ones. Now the focus is on building its other platforms, particularly since Verizon bought Yahoo earlier this year for $4.5 billion."

5. Why sports rights matter

Snapchat ESPN show capture: Rich Greenfield, BTIG

BTIG's Rich Greenfield tweeted a video that shows what it looks like when networks try to cover NFL games without sports rights for different platforms.

  • In the video, you see a host of ESPN's new SportsCenter Snapchat show poke fun at their lack of NFL rights on Snapchat by demonstrating a Cam Newton play using paper puppets on gluesticks. "Due to content restrictions, we are not allowed to play NFL highlights on Snapchat," he says.
  • Per Greenfield: "What makes it interesting is that ESPN only has NFL highlight rights on its own platforms. On Snapchat, the NFL uses those rights themselves."

6. Brand affinity still strong in the age of tech

Data: Digital Content Next; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

New research from Magid Associates, commissioned by Digital Content Next, shows that most people still get the majority of their news and information from Facebook, but that brands' individual websites and apps are still significant gateways of information.

  • Most notably, most consumers, including millenials, say that brands' websites on desktop and mobile are better soures of news than search engines, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Apple News.
  • Why it matters: Brand affinity has deteriorated with the rise of social platforms distributing news. A Pew study earlier this year found that 10% of consumers, when asked to name the source of the news they saw on Facebook, wrote in “Facebook" as a specific news outlet.
  • To combat this, news organiations have lobbied for more visibilty on platforms to highlight their brands. Facebook has tested breaking news banners and added logos to some articles this year in response.

7. ICYMI

  • Netflix is getting hit for this tweet that shows how they closely it tracks personal user data.
  • Comcast says it's no longer reviewing a deal to purchase 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, per WSJ. "Comcast says in statement it never got the level of engagement from Fox to make definitive offer."
  • Apple confirms it's buying Shazam for a reported price tage of $400 million. Why it matters, via Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva: "It's a natural fit to continue driving downloads to iTunes, subscriptions to Apple Music, and to help with music (and voice) recognition as part of Siri and Apple's upcoming HomePod home speaker."
  • Spotify and Tencent are swapping stakes. The investments could allow each company to expand global footprints. Tencent has made investments in American companies like Snapchat. Spotify anticipates going public through a direct listing. An investment could help convinvce investors it has global appeal.

8. One fun thing: Everyone wants in on the ad biz

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Kroger, one of the biggest grocery brands in the U.S., is venturing into retail media, Digiday reports.

  • "Kroger is selling its suppliers ad units and solutions, and it is developing a programmatic platform that will go live next year."
  • "Amazon’s advertising business is worth at least $1 billion, and Walmart has a growing advertising platform, too."
  • "Kroger bought the data analytics piece of agency Dunnhumby (formerly a joint venture between Kroger and Tesco) around three years ago to form its own consumer insights subsidiary called 84.51°."

Our thought bubble: Digital has democratized the advertising business. Any company with a digital audience — a loyalty program, app, etc., — can monetize it.

9. Bonus: TicToc

Bloomberg's new Twitter 24-hour news network debuting next Monday will be called TicToc, Variety reports. The network will be available on Twitter at @tictoc (twitter.com/tictoc). TicToc is a "completely separate" product from Bloomberg Television.

Featured

Exclusive: Digital vet Jim Roberts joins Cheddar as EIC

Cheddar

Jim Roberts, former Mashable executive editor and veteran New York Times and Reuters digital editor, is joining streaming TV startup Cheddar as editor-in-chief to lead Cheddar's newsroom and editorial coverage. The company is also launching "Cheddar Scoops," an exclusive-news reporting unit. Business Insider's Alex Heath is the first Cheddar Scoops hire.
Why it matters: Cheddar continues to expand amid a tumultuous landscape for VC-backed digital media. These hires are part of a push to strengthen the company's editorial product to keep up with its aggressive business deals.
  • The company hopes to add five to 10 people to the Cheddar Scoops team next year, many of whom will be experts in hot topic areas within business, deals, tech and media — Cheddar's specialties. Cryptocurrency, for example, is a "no brainer," says Cheddar Chief Content Officer Peter Gorenstein.
  • Roberts and Heath will begin December 19 and 18, respectively, and will be the first of several newsroom hires that will work to expand Cheddar's original reporting footprint. "We will use all of the weapons of distribution to get our scoops out there," says Roberts. "That means breaking things on our air, and pushing scoops out on social media."
Sound smart: Roughly a year old, Cheddar now has 100 employees — 46 of which work in content. But most of that editorial staff works on creating the product, not breaking its own news. Now, Cheddar is investing in original reporting, which it hopes will distinguish itself from other over-the-top livestreamers, like The Young Turks and Barstool Sports.

Prior to his role at Cheddar, Roberts was executive editor at Mashable, and has also held high ranking positions at The New York Times and Reuters. He sees his new role at Cheddar as a chance to be disruptive. "We know how difficult it is to make a news and information business work," Roberts tells Axios. "The ones taking chances and trying different things are the ones making an impact right now."

Featured

You can log out, but you can’t hide

A new study from Ghostery, an anti-tracking tool, shows that an overwhelming majority (79%) of websites globally are tracking visitors' data — with 10% of these sites actually sending user data to 10 companies or more.

Why it matters: Trackers can collect and sell visitor data in ways that aren't always obvious to consumers. Too many trackers can also slow down website load times. As the trade war for data intensifies, companies that collect the most data through trackers will become the biggest targets of data privacy reform.

Reproduced from Ghostery; Chart: Axios Visuals
  • Tracking scripts from Google and Facebook are by far the most pervasive. Together, those two companies collect more data than most other companies combined.
  • The U.S., Russia and U.K. have more trackers per page load than the global average, while Germany, France and India have fewer. (Germany and many European countries are known for their culture of strong data privacy.)
  • The advertising supply chain represents the vast majority of tracking companies.
New regulatory efforts to protect consumer privacy will significantly hinder these companies' ability to collect data via tracking scripts. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect next year in Europe, will require companies to get explicit permission from consumers to collect their data.
Too many trackers can often create slower web experiences. A Princeton study earlier this year found that mainstream news websites use more third-party ad tech vendors than any other type of website: sports, shopping, adult, etc. Such partnerships can slow down load times for publisher sites if there are too many trackers dropped on a page, or if they're using certain techniques to capture data.
  • Some of the more heavily-trafficked user websites are trying to peel back on these partnerships to speed up their sites. Bloomberg, The Washington Post and others have made significant efforts to curb the number of tracking scripts on their web-pages in an effort to keep their sites nimble.
  • Some websites use "redirect" buttons that allow users to post content to social media without giving those sites direct access to their first-party data that they could monetize. Sites may still share data with these platforms in other ways, however.
  • Nealy one third of websites tracked has a hidden Facebook tracker, per Ghostery's whotracksme.com site. Facebook won a critical privacy lawsuit in July over tracking users' internet activity through "like" button trackers even after they logged out of the social media website, per Reuters.
Our thought bubble: It benefits these ad companies to have as access to as much data as possible, not just for profit, but because they want to provide better advertising experiences for users. (Studies have shown that consumers prefer customized ads.) Some may argue it's the cost of having free access to their tools.
Methodology: The data was collected by the Ghostery browser extension's GhostRank feature and covers all major browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, and the Ghostery Privacy Browser for iOS and Android). It encompasses the internet activity of 850,000 internet users internationally across 440 million page loads.
Featured

"A moment of Palestinian soul-searching"

Palestinian protesters burn tires and clash with Israeli troops following protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Photo Nasser Nasser / AP

President Trump's decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked demonstrations in The West Bank, where NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reports Palestinians are saying the peace process is "dead."

"Some Palestinians say this is the start of a new intifada (uprising). I’d say most of the analysts I’ve spoken to -- argue that the Palestinians don’t have the leadership right now to organize or sustain it ... This is a moment of Palestinian soul-searching.  Some say they need to go to the streets in a violent uprising, others have told me Palestinians need to push for a “one state solution,” pushing for Palestinians to become Israeli citizens with the hope that, over time, democracy and demographics will be in their favor."
— Engel in an interview with Axios

Disclosure: NBC is an investor in Axios

Featured

Report: Apple to acquire Shazam

Apple is getting close to acquiring song recognition app Shazam, sources tell TechCrunch.

Why it matters: Shazam and Apple already have history together—in 2014, the two inked a deal to let Apple's Siri identify songs playing via Shazam's technology. An acquisition would be a natural deepening of that partnership that could both help iOS strengthen its sound-indentification tech and help drive more song purchases via iTunes (which it already does) and convert more users to the Apple Music subscription service.

Terms of the deal are unclear, though TechCrunch reports it could be valued at about £300 million ($401 million), much lower than the $1 billion-plus valuation Shazam commanded when it last raised funding.

Featured

YouTube will launch a new music subscription service

YouTube, the Google-owned video platform, plans to launch a new music subscription service in March 2018, Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg reports. Warner Music Group, has already signed on, sources tell Shaw, and YouTube is already in talks with other major record labels, like Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group.

Why it matters: It's a foray into the subscription music scene that's primarily been dominated by Googls's biggest competitors in the space: Apple, Spotify and to an extent, Amazon. YouTube's biggest challenge will be striking deals with music groups, which in the past have argued that they have not been fairly compensated in deals with YouTube. Roughly 25% of music streaming happens on YouTube.

Featured

Tencent and Spotify swap stakes

Music streaming services Spotify and Tencent Music Holdings have agreed to invest minority stakes in one another, both companies announced on Friday.

Why it matters: The investments could allow each company to expand their global footprints. Tencent Music's parent company is a dominant force in China's social internet economy, and has recently made investments in American companies like Snapchat. Spotify has been working to go public through a direct listing, and an investment from Tencent could help convinvce shareholders that it has global appeal.

Deal details: Financials haven't been disclosed, but reports suggest each company acquired roughly 10% in one another. Tencent Inc. also is investing in Spotify through secondary purchases, making both Tencent Inc. and Tencent Music Holdings minority stakeholders in the streaming giant.

Featured

Fusion Media expands internationally

Fusion Media Group

Fusion Media Group (FMG), which houses digital sites like Gizmodo and Jezebel, announced plans to expand into Latin America through a new digital and television deal with Grupo Televisa. S.A.B. Televisa, a global Spanish-'speaking media company, has acquired a license to the brands and content from Fusion for its Mexican market and will launch a new Fusion-branded 24-hour cable network in Spanish, according to a statement from Fusion.
Why it matters: The news is part of a larger push by FMG, which has a large and diverse millennial audience, to move into international markets. In a memo to staff, Fusion CEO Felipe Holguin noted; "Opportunities for expansion into new markets internationally will continue to be a focus for us in 2018."
Featured

Iger's Disney contract likely to be extended after Fox deal

Evan Agostini/ Invision via AP

Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger's contract is likely to be extended should the company move forward with a $40-$60+ billion deal to acquire 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sources tell CNBC that a deal could come as soon next week.

Why it matters: Iger's last contract negotiation had him slated to exit in July, 2019, leading to speculation that he might run for president.

Featured

The coming trade war over data

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Technology companies are facing growing international obstacles affecting how their most valuable asset — data — flows across borders. New trade agreements and laws are affecting how companies share and store their troves of data around the world.

Why it matters: For decades, trade talks centered around tangible goods such as oil, agriculture and cars. But now that the economy is rooted in data that has to cross borders to meet the demands of global business, rules governing how data is housed and accessed are at the forefront of trade conversations.

How it works: For example, China, Russia and Vietnam require companies to store data on servers physically located within their borders. And countries including Argentina and Brazil restrict international data transfers under certain conditions.

The big picture: There are currently no international rules on how data cross borders. So a patchwork of government policies that trap data inside their countries or prevent foreign data brokers from doing business there could hamper the development of data-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence, experts say.

Where it stands:

  • New digital obstacles threaten nearly $400 billion of annual U.S. exports, according to the Washington Post.
  • Most of the world's biggest data processors are based in the U.S., which means firms like Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Google have the most on the line in these international negotiations.

Social media companies also have a lot to lose to data regulation and overseas trade barriers. Here's how many of their users are located outside of North America:

The issue becomes even more complicated and critical as major tech companies almost exclusively store data in "clouds" that can be located anywhere, rather than physical servers in a handful of domestic locations.

  • The biggest technology companies are transitioning business opportunities into cloud-based software. Amazon's Web Services business (AWS), is pushing to become the biggest enterprise business globally.. Microsoft's Cloud business is projected to bring in a whopping $20 billion in net revenue, per the company's last quarterly earnings statement.

Several dynamics are shaping the way data flows internationally.

North American Free Trade Agreement: The Trump administration wants to "modernize" the 23-year-old NAFTA to include digital provisions that would prevent trading partners from requiring data to be processed or stored within their borders. The broader Trans-Pacific Partnership also includes digital provisions supported by the U.S., but the Trump administration pulled out of the treaty.

  • "Digital trade didn't exist two decades ago when the agreement was first negotiated," said Kenneth Propp of the Business Software Alliance, which represents companies like IBM and Salesforce — whose bottom lines depend on the movement of data. "We need protection not only for source code but for software algorithms that are increasing importance in artificial intelligence, for example."
  • Forging data-focused trade provisions in NAFTA is important, he said, for setting a precedent for future trade agreements with other countries.

Data localism: Countries including China, Russia and Brazil have put in place rules requiring a company to locate data centers inside their borders in order to do business in the country, a practice known as "data localism." Such measures are typically seen as protectionist moves intended to favor home-grown industries.

  • For example, Europe's Digital Single Market is an agreement allowing for the free flow of data between European countries. It prohibits data localization restrictions within the bloc, but allows different rules to apply to data originating outside the continent.

Data collection rules: U.S. tech companies are spending millions of dollars to comply with sweeping EU data laws taking effect next year.

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) will require companies next year to keep track of how they store and share personal information collected on their users. Failure to comply could mean steep fines of up to 4% of a company's global annual revenue.
  • "Europe is setting the playing field on privacy," said Justin Antonipillai, a former Commerce Department official who is now CEO of WireWheel.io, a data and privacy compliance startup. "If you want to do business there, you have to comply, regardless of whether you're a huge global corporation or a Silicon Valley app on an app store in Europe."

Law enforcement: Battles continue to play out between the Justice Department and tech companies about how data can be stored and accessed outside of the U.S.

  • Google lost a symbolic challenge to federal court in September regarding whether a search warrant can be used for data it stores abroad.
  • A panel of judges ruled in favor of Microsoft in a similar case last year, determining that the current law about how tech companies can store data doesn't apply outside of the country. They ruled that the Justice Department would instead need to request the data through an international process.