January 26, 2024

🍻 Happy Friday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,595 words ... 6 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

🎬 "The Money Game" — a newly greenlit Prime Video docuseries co-produced by Axios — will track the stunning impact of NIL licensing deals on college sports through an exclusive look inside LSU athletics, Deadline scooped.

  • The show follows gymnast and social media sensation Olivia Dunne, Heisman winner Jayden Daniels and basketball star Angel Reese. Go deeper.

⚡ 1 big thing — Scoop: Biden’s fear

President Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wis., to promote a $1 billion infrastructure project.
President Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wis., yesterday to promote a $1 billion infrastructure project. Photo: Adam Bettcher/AP

President Biden — increasingly nervous about Gaza's impact on his re-election chances — pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week to quickly scale down military operations, Axios' Barak Ravid scoops.

  • Why it matters: Biden's comments during the two leaders' call last Friday reflect growing U.S. concern about the continuation of the war and the president's desire to see it end well before the November elections.

Biden stressed in his call with Netanyahu that he's not in it for a year of war, two U.S. officials told Axios.

  • A Biden adviser told Axios that the White House is very concerned about losing young voters, who are increasingly opposed to the president's policies on the Gaza war.
  • A source close to the White House said Biden can't have the war — and the growing death toll — continue to dominate the news cycle as the election gets closer.

🔎 Behind the scenes: At least a third of Biden's 40-minute call with Netanyahu focused on the Israeli timetable for moving to low-intensity operations across the Gaza Strip and Israel's war strategy as a whole, one U.S. official said.

  • Netanyahu had said a day earlier that the war would continue for "many more months." Speaking to the Israeli leader about that comment, Biden urged Netanyahu to move faster.

🔎 Between the lines: Biden has become increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu in recent weeks.

  • The call a week ago between the two leaders was their first in nearly a month. During their previous call on Dec. 23, a frustrated Biden ended the call by saying the "conversation is over" and hanging up the phone.
  • In the first two months of the war, the two leaders had talked almost every other day.

🔮 What's next: CIA Director Bill Burns is expected to meet with the Qatari prime minister and the spy chiefs of Israel and Egypt in the coming days in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in talks to release all hostages held by Hamas.

2. Mainstream media bloodbath

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Nearly a dozen mainstream media companies are gutting staff and scrambling to rescue their struggling businesses, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: The media business is shrinking at the national, state and local levels — a scary, stark new reality for thousands of journalists.

Media cuts were so severe last year that most industry observers weren't expecting such intense cutbacks in 2024. But an ongoing bloodbath is decimating news outlets nationwide.

  • That's fueling a new round of conflict between unions and management as tensions run high.

What's happening: Business Insider yesterday announced it was eliminating 8% of its workforce, months after a union strike over a contract impasse.

  • The L.A. Times this week laid off about 120 journalists (more than 20% of the newsroom), after cutting 74 newsroom positions in June. Two top editors resigned, less than two weeks after executive editor Kevin Merida stepped down Jan. 9.
  • TIME on Tuesday told staff about an unspecified number of layoffs across editorial, tech, sales and TIME Studios.
  • The Washington Post lost a whole newsroom's worth of talent at the end of last year through a buyout offer aimed at eliminating 240 jobs.
  • Condé Nast saw hundreds of union workers walk off the job Tuesday to protest hundreds of previously announced layoffs impacting approximately 5% of staff, or roughly 300 people.
  • Sports Illustrated's newsroom was gutted by sweeping layoffs after its parent company, The Arena Group, failed to make a $3.75 million quarterly payment to the group from which it licenses the Sports Illustrated brand.
  • Paramount CEO Bob Bakish warned employees yesterday that the company is planning a fresh round of layoffs.
  • The New York Daily News editorial union walked off the job yesterday to protest "chronic cuts" by its owner, private equity firm Alden Capital.
  • Forbes' newsroom union began a three-day walkout yesterday, arguing management was union busting. Its CEO announced layoffs later that afternoon hitting roughly 3% of the company.
Data: Axios research. Chart: Alice Feng/Axios
Data: Axios research. Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

🧠 How we got here: Ad growth in the 2010s was unsustainably high, and publishers acted like it would last forever.

  • It didn't. Now high interest rates are preventing them from taking on new debt to try to buy themselves time to figure it out.

👓 What we're watching: Heading into 2024, analysts predicted that digital advertising will only grow in the mid-single digits for the foreseeable future.

Share this story ... Sign up here for Sara Fischer's weekly Axios Media Trends.

🗞️ The L.A. Times yesterday named its first female editor in its 142-year history: Terry Tang, 65, who had been editor of the editorial page, will be interim executive editor, overseeing the newsroom and the editorial page. She had worked at the N.Y. Times for 20 years. Go deeper.

3. 📊 It's official: Wall Street was wrong

Wall Street's changing predictions for 2023 GDP growth
Data: Factset. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Nearly every economist on and off Wall Street was all but certain that the U.S. would face a sharp slowdown in economic growth last year, Axios' Matt Phillips writes.

  • It never happened.

🔬 Zoom in: Yesterday's blistering GDP report indicated that the economy might've achieved an elusive soft landing in 2023.

  • The economy expanded at a 3.3% annualized rate in the fourth quarter, well above what forecasters expected.

The consensus forecast for annual GDP growth from Wall Street economists (charted above) collapsed at the end of 2022 — only to rebound toward the end of last year.

4. 🚢 Shipping's double trouble

Data: Freightos. Chart: Axios Visuals (This is the cost to ship one 40-foot shipping container.)
Data: Freightos. Chart: Axios Visuals (This is the cost to ship one 40-foot shipping container.)

Geopolitical risks in the Red Sea and extreme weather in Central America are wrecking global supply chains fed by the Suez and Panama Canals, Axios' Andrew Freedman and Emily Peck write.

  • The dual canal delays are driving up shipping costs on the route from Asia to the U.S. East Coast, according to Freightos data.

Why it matters: Especially at risk of higher prices: cars and electronics.

5. 💰 Where Haley beat Trump

Nikki Haley campaigns in North Charleston, S.C., yesterday. South Carolina's GOP primary is on Feb. 24.
Nikki Haley campaigns in North Charleston, S.C., yesterday. South Carolina's GOP primary is Feb. 24. Photo: Sam Wolfe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the second half of '23, the primary super PAC backing Nikki Haley narrowly outraised the leading super PAC supporting former President Trump, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Why it matters: The narrow victory — $50.1 million to $46 million — provides Haley, former ambassador to the UN, a tepid consolation prize after not-exactly-narrow losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Trump-aligned Make America Great Again super PAC (MAGA Inc.), which has $23 million in cash on hand, says its report pours cold water on the idea that major money is avoiding Trump.

  • Taylor Budowich, CEO of the super PAC, tells me: "The general election has already started. ... MAGA Inc. is proud to be the organization entrusted to lead the outside effort to support President Trump and his America First movement into November."

Keep reading (NYT gift link — no paywall).

6. 🪖 Trump summons National Guard

Former President Trump raises his fist before briefly taking the stand at a defamation trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.
Former President Trump raises his fist before briefly taking the stand in Manhattan yesterday at a defamation trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll. Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

In a stunning set of social media posts yesterday, former President Trump called on "all willing states" to send National Guard troops to help Texas stop migrants from crossing the U.S. border with Mexico.

  • Why it matters: Trump and other Republican officials are rallying behind Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has dramatically escalated a standoff with the Biden administration in recent weeks.

🥊 Reality check: Since Trump is no longer commander-in-chief, this is just a press release. But it's a sign of the general-election campaign to come.

7. 📚 Scoop: David Sanger's new book

Cover: Crown

David E. Sanger, White House and national security correspondent for The New York Times, will be out April 16 with his fourth book, "New Cold Wars" — reported from around the world, with interviews with leaders, combatants and former government officials.

  • "The first hundred pages or so are a reported, sometimes anecdotal account of how the U.S. deceived itself into thinking it would bring China and Russia into the West's economies and into its embrace," Sanger tells me from a reporting assignment in Berlin.
  • "And then what happened when the inevitable collision occurred — with Russia over Ukraine and a new hostility to the West that will change our lives for decades, and with China in a technology competition that seems increasingly likely to veer into something worse."

Why it matters: The book "explores the question of whether this hostility was avoidable, and how this set of Cold Wars will be infinitely more complex than the past," Sanger says.

8. 🥛 1 food thing: Nuts for pistachio milk

Four cartons of Táche pistachio milk.
Photo: Táche

Most milk alternatives don't taste like the ingredient they feature (oat, almond, cashew, etc.). But a newcomer called pistachio milk does — and delightfully so, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • Why it matters: Pistachios are all the rage. Just look at the Starbucks Pistachio Latte and Pistachio Cream Cold Brew.

A 4-year-old company called Táche — founded by an Iranian-American named Roxana Saidi, who grew up eating lots of pistachios, is trying to turn the product category mainstream.

  • Táche sent us four cartons of pistachio milk to sample: original, vanilla and unsweetened versions of both.

😋 Taste test: The original option is creamy and tastes like a pistachio version of chocolate milk without being too sweet. The original vanilla tastes like an indulgent barista drink.

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