Axios Media Trends

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August 22, 2017

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1. The war for attention

For decades, media has been measured by reach: How many people read the paper, listen to a radio broadcast or watch a show? In the smartphone-dominated world — where any media company can access almost anyone at anytime — the fight is shifting to dominating a person's attention.

  • Tech companies are crushing media at this game. Most ignore bulk traffic numbers and obsess about daily engagement. This is why they report daily active users instead of monthly unique visitors.
  • Life hacking is the hot trend for feeding addiction. The trick here is elbowing your way into every aspect of a person's life to create an unkickable habit and crank up engagement. Become a utility. The New York Times is focusing its subscription efforts on entities like "Cooking" and "Crosswords," two highly habit-forming topics. Last year, The Washington Post created "Floppy Candidate," an IOS and Android game aimed at attracting younger audiences. Facebook and Amazon are racing into the food delivery market, reaching deeper into consumers' lives.
  • Everyone's investing in binge video: Tech companies are pouring billions of dollars into creating original content to get a piece of binge-watching time. (See below.) At the same time, digital-first media companies, like BuzzFeed and Mashable, are going all in on original shows.

All of this creates a measurement conundrum, especially around video (more on that below, too). With Amazon, Apple, Facebook and others jumping into the business of original content, there is no way to accurately measure who is watching what, where and for how long. Tech standards for how they measure video consumption are very different from television, and they're often not vetted and verified. Snapchat, for example, measures a video view as any time a video is opened, while Nielsen counts video views on linear (and now digital) TV as active engagement for at least a minute.

Bottom line: "What people want to combine is digital video and TV metrics," says Jane Clarke, Managing Director of The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement. "And the current data sets aren't always clean."

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2. NEW: Facebook losing younger audiences to Snapchat

Facebook usage among people aged 12 to 17 will decline for the first time this year, eMarketer estimates. Meanwhile, eMarketer's latest forecast for the first time has Snapchat beating both Instagram and Facebook in terms of total users aged 12 to 17 and 18 to 24.

  • "We see teens and tweens migrating to Snapchat and Instagram," says eMarketer forecasting analyst Oscar Orozco. "Both platforms have found success with this demographic since they are more aligned with how they communicate – using visual content."
  • "Outside of the Facebook-cutters, teens and tweens remaining on Facebook seem to be less engaged – logging in less frequently and spending less time on the platform," Orozco writes. "At the same time, we now have Facebook-nevers, many children aging into the tween demographic that appear to be overlooking Facebook altogether, yet still engaging with Facebook-owned Instagram."

Why it matters: This marks the first time eMarketer has predicted a decline in Facebook usage for any age group, and usage among people 24 and younger will grow more slowly than previously forecasted.

Writing on the wall: Forbes headline from February — Facebook Users Posted A Third Less Content In 2016 Than In 2015.

Publishers take notice: BuzzFeed announced Tuesday it will launch new Snapchat Discover Publisher Stories for its Tasty and Nifty brands in early September. Both brands started as Facebook pages.

​3. Coming soon: a standard for cross-platform video measurement

A better standard is needed to hold tech companies accountable that are moving into the media and entertainment space.

The media industry's standards group, the MRC (Media Rating Council), is gathering comments for a proposed "Audience Measurement Standard" that will be finalized and introduced in Q3, MRC CEO George Ivie tells Axios. The standard will provide more powerful metrics, such as progress through the video ad coupled with in-target audience performance.

  • Why it matters: Until a company is audited by the Media Ratings Council, there's no real way of knowing whether their metrics are legitimate. "Advertisers are more serious than I've ever seen them in pulling back dollars from those who won't be audited," Ivie says. "I've never seen advertisers more energized than right now about the quality of measurement."
  • How it works: The "duration-weighted metric," as the MRC puts it, will be calculated by measuring impressions (the number of times someone is reached) that are viewable by the MRC's standards (viewed for at least 2 consecutive seconds), combined with how long each of those verified views lasts.
  • "Not everyone loves it", says Ivie. "Some don't think weighting is necessary because in digital you have long-form and short-form viewing (which can be just seconds)," Ivie says. He hopes the new standard will be adopted by everyone, creating a single standard for all video measurement and ad buying across TV and digital in the U.S.

Audit pressure rising: Earlier this year, Google and Facebook both agreed to be audited by the MRC after reports of inflated video metrics received pushback from ad buyers. Snapchat received a lot of pressure to audit ahead of its IPO, but has yet to do so.

  • Of the six tech companies the MRC is in touch with about audits — Amazon, Foursquare, Snapchat, Linkedin, Pinterest and Twitter — two will likely agree to be audited this fall, two more are actively considering it, and two aren't close at all, Ivie says.

4. Gut Check: Content spend, by the numbers

Facebook, YouTube and Apple: Sources tell the The New York Times that Facebook plans to spend $3 million per episode on a drama and YouTube will spend up to $2 million an episode on a comedy, and more than $3 million on a drama. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple will pour $1 billion into original content.

Meanwhile, some legacy media companies are spending less: Viacom CEO Robert M. Bakish said on last quarter's earnings call: "MTV will have 60% more original hours versus 2017 and it will actually spend less. That includes more live programming."

5. Millennials ditch texts, communicate in groups

Millennials are moving away from plain texting to communicating through visuals, according to Nielsen's latest millennial media report.

Plain text messaging:

  • 18-35 years-old: 59%
  • 35+ years-old: 73%

Visual messaging:

  • 18-35 years-old: 52%
  • 35+ years-old: 30%

They're also more likely to communicate in groups:

1:1 messaging:

  • 18-35 years-old: 83%
  • 35+ years-old: 70%

Group messaging:

  • 18-35 years-old: 52%
  • 35+ years-old: 40%

6. Studios v. theaters

Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are negotiating a deal with Apple and Comcast to offer audiences digital versions of movies two weeks after their theater releases, Bloomberg reports. The theater chain and studio businesses have been unable to reach a deal that would let studios distribute more expensive ($30+) digital movies to viewers at home shortly after their release in theaters.

Why it matters: The debate over the how long theaters have to exclusively distribute movies is heating up. Studios were hoping to work with the theater chains on a revenue deal, but now seem to be charging ahead without their blessing, despite the fact that theaters still hold power distributing movies and driving revenue. Noticeably missing from the reported negotiations is Disney, which announced it would build its own entertainment streaming package in 2019.

Bottom line: The movie business is becoming more reliant on digital distribution than ever (shocking). Cinema revenues are rising, but are being outpaced by digital video rentals and the DVD business is dying, as expected. "Theaters have to focus on providing an experience that goes well beyond what's available at home — hence all the focus on luxury seating, 4DX, live event programming, VR, and better food and beverage options," says Chris Vollmer, Global Advisory Leader, Entertainment and Media at PwC.

7. 1 fun thing: You are what you tweet

New data from Northeastern University shows a correlation between a journalist's social network and the content they produce. The data scientists that conducted the study found a reasonably clear relationship between the ideological leaning of the accounts a journalist follows on Twitter and the news content he or she produces.

Note: The methodology for determining ideological slant of journalists comes from the researchers at Northeastern, and is based on the articles journalists write. They first extracted phrases indicative of a left or right leaning ideology, and then they score journalists based on the number of times they express these terms in their articles. They discuss each of these pieces in more detail here.

ICYMI: The L.A. Times cut its masthead amid a digital-first transformation yesterday. Former Yahoo executive Ross Levinsohn has been named publisher and veteran Chicago Sun-Times publisher/editor Jim Kirk will become the interim Editor-in-chief. The L.A. Times is owned by Tronc, which has been trying to transform legacy newsrooms to digital to keep up with the speed of innovation by East Coast heavyweights like NYT and Washington Post.

For your radar: Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the hashtag. The first hashtag ever was tweeted as a recommendation for Twitter to create groups by former Google designer Chris Messina and it was #barcamp. Twitter initially rejected the idea of using hashtags, saying they were for "nerds." #lol