Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic and regulatory hurdles are forcing every media, ad and tech company to reposition themselves in Washington.

Why it matters: As a result, top media industry trade groups are in an intense battle over who will represent legacy brands, ad tech companies and direct-to-consumer upstarts.

"The barriers that used to cleanly separate buyers from sellers and agencies are now merging in the middle and, to one degree or another, everyone is now in the data, experience and content businesses."
— IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg in an interview with Axios

The back story: Once an afterthought for big media companies, lobbying has become one of the most powerful strategies for advertising and content companies struggling to survive.

  • The newspaper industry is hoping that an antitrust safe harbor will save it from being eaten alive by Google and Facebook.
  • Data-driven advertising companies are hoping a national privacy law will prevent individual states from regulating them out of business.
  • Agencies are hoping strong representation protects them from regulatory probes into kickbacks and other shady business practices.
"Back in the golden age of newspapers when they had 30% net margin and they didn't have a lot of federal issues they would say, 'Hey, what do we need to lobby about?' But now that the critical business to our democracy is under really big economic stress, they are starting to learn what other industries, like oil, coal and manufacturing, have known well for decades — which is you have to lobby."
— David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, the largest newspaper trade group

Where things stand: Three large trade groups are responsible for representing different sides of the supply chain.

  • The sellers: Those that publish media and usually sell advertising against content are represented by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). While some industry insiders say that Google and Facebook keep the lights on at the IAB, the IAB says the majority of its more than 600 members are traditional publishers.
  • The buyers: Most of the biggest brands and ad spenders are members of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which now has roughly 2,000 members. It focuses most of its efforts on lobbying, thought leadership and tentpole conferences. The IAB focuses mostly on thought leadership through research, data and smaller events.
  • The middlemen: Advertising agencies have traditionally been represented by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As). The 4As represents over 700 members, which it says control more than 85% of total U.S. advertising spend.

While the bigger groups have more cash and support for bigger lobbying efforts, smaller niche trade groups are still relevant to media companies with specific needs. Still, almost all of them have had to rebrand and rebuild to stay relevant in the digital era.

  • Newspapers: The News Media Alliance changed its name from the Newspaper Association of America in 2016 to represent traditional papers going digital.
  • Magazines: The Association of Magazine Media changed its name from the Magazine Publishers Association in 2010 to account for magazines going digital.
  • Cable: The Video Advertising Bureau changed its name from the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau in 2015 to represent local cable's larger video efforts.
  • Desktop: The Online Publishers Association changed its name to Digital Content Next in 2014 to represent digital content more broadly than just the desktop web.

"Since DCN exclusively represents publishers, we’re uniquely close to consumer interest in helping to pave the media strategies of the future," says Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next.

The intrigue: Under pressure to grow, each group is looking to lure new members — or steal old ones.

  • The IAB, which has aligned itself with data-driven marketing platforms, is going after smaller direct-to-consumer brands, like Casper or Allbirds, that don't feel like they would fit in with the big brands at the ANA. "We're welcoming them and we're reaching out to them," says Rothenberg.
  • The ANA has gone a different route, acquiring many smaller trade groups to keep its membership diverse and broad. Over the past few years, it's acquired the Data & Marketing Association, the Brand Activation Association and others to expand its conferences business.
  • The 4As has continued to push for a greater foothold in the agency world, which is increasingly facing economic pressure from brands and tech companies bringing ad-buying and marketing solutions in-house. Many smaller agencies have been gobbled up by big holding groups (think WPP or IPG), shifting membership.

Companies like Google and Facebook belong to several media and marketing trade groups that lobby on behalf of their advertising interests, as well as broader tech groups like the Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council, which both lobby around issues like net neutrality, privacy or trade.

  • But they often struggle to find groups to lobby narrowly enough for their particular interests. That's why the companies have built massive D.C. offices of their own.

The bottom line: "There's more of a target on the backs of media and tech companies now that consumers have a problem with data driven advertising and privacy," says Greg Stuart, CEO of Mobile Marketing Association, which doesn't lobby but represents so many groups from all sides of the supply chain that it may one day consider doing so. "Now that there's a real impact on consumers, that changes the game."

Go deeper

Judge temporarily blocks South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked South Carolina's ban on mask mandates in schools, ruling that it discriminated against students with disabilities and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why it matters: As mask bans extend to public schools around the country, parents and disability rights activists have sounded alarm bells. The ruling may signal the outcomes of legal fights playing out across the country.

DeSantis takes legal action against Biden efforts on immigration

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took legal action on Tuesday to try to stop the Biden administration's immigration plans.

Why it matters: The Republican governor, who is running for re-election next year and is possibly eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, is picking a high-profile fight with Biden while re-upping his hardline stance on immigration.

Left: Senate's threat "insane"

The famously press-shy Sen. Kyrsten Sinema speaks briefly with reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) lambasted Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday, saying "it's insane" that "one senator" is blocking attempts to settle on a palatable figure for President Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

Why it matters: The figure is the linchpin to getting progressive support for the companion $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. Khanna's statement reflects broader dissatisfaction among House progressives with Sinema and her fellow holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).