Axios Media Trends

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August 18, 2020

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Situational awareness: Oracle has entered the race to buy TikTok’s US operations, the FT reports.

  • Microsoft has been the top contender to buy the app, while Twitter reportedly held early talks about a merger. Trump tightened the screws last week on TikTok parent ByteDance.

Axios will be hosting virtual convention events all week. Register here. And follow along with all of our coverage via the new Axios convention hub.

1 big thing: Harris gives Biden big shot of online enthusiasm

Data: Newswhip; Graphic: Axios Visuals
Data: Newswhip; Graphic: Axios Visuals

The addition of Kamala Harris to the Democratic ticket provided Joe Biden with the biggest surge of online enthusiasm he's seen in the entire campaign, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: While Biden has been getting much of his momentum from voters who are opposed to President Trump, rather than excited about him, Harris could stir other voters looking for reasons to turn out, Axios' Neal Rothschild and I write.

  • Biden stories received 64 million interactions on social media last week — 35% higher than the next biggest week of his campaign, according to the NewsWhip data.
  • The 55 million interactions on stories about Harris were higher than Biden had in any other week.
  • Biden's 2nd-most engaged tweet of the campaign was his announcement of Harris last Tuesday (1.02 million engagements), according to data from KeyHole.
  • The #1 engager: "I can't believe I have to say this, but please don't drink bleach."

Be smart: For the 36% of voters who say, according to a recent poll, that they are "more for Joe Biden" than "against Donald Trump," Harris on the ticket could make a difference in whether they actually show up to vote.

Harris' online following is loyal and hyperactive online. In 2018, supporters started posting about Harris using the hashtag #KHive.

  • Few other politicians have loyal followings online, with the exceptions of Trump's #MAGA followers, Bernie Sanders devotees and the #YangGang.

She could also help inspire social change-makers on social media if she builds enthusiasm for the ticket among Black voters. Black social media users tend to be far more civically engaged online than white social media users, per Pew Research Center.

The bottom line: Biden's attention deficit to Trump may not be such a disadvantage. He's grown his national polling average lead to 8 points, per FiveThirtyEight, while generating 6x less online buzz than Trump over the past few months, according to NewsWhip data.

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2: Virtual conventions make TV debut

Photo by DNCC via Getty Images) (Photo by Handout/DNCC via Getty Images

Last night's historic debut of the virtual Democratic National Convention gave Americans a taste of what politics looks like without the big crowds.

Why it matters: Without the glamour of a convention stage, many of the speeches felt flat. The major exception was Michelle Obama's speech, which stood out as the most compelling fifteen minutes of the night by far.

How it looked: The virtual event featured far more voices and faces of everyday Americans, but the videos made for less compelling TV.

  • The mostly-taped event left little little room for funny gaffes or inter-personal moments, like handshakes and hugs, although several tech issues during live shots provided some of that touch.

Who aired it: MSNBC and CNN carried the full convention from roughly 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fox News ran Sean Hannity's show from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m and then took the convention live in the 10 p.m. hour. Hannity played parts of speeches and commented on them with panelists on his show.

Our thought bubble: It was clear that some of the virtual cuts were built for social moments, but few really went viral. The biggest social media moment was probably Michelle Obama's speech.

3. Scoop: Snapchat tests pushing shows off of the app

Illustration of Snapchat ghost holding speech bubbles
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Snapchat is testing a feature that would allow users to share Snapchat content that is not their own off of the platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The company had previously announced a push to get users to share "Stories" outside of its app. It's now taking that a step further by allowing users to easily share content that was previously proprietary to Snapchat off of the app, like original shows, content from its Discover partners and celebrity Snapchats.

Details: The update will allow Snapchat users to share "Snap Originals," "Shows" and "Publisher Stories" with their friends off the platform using easily shareable links.

  • Snapchat users can also share "Our Stories," photos and videos submitted from different Snapchatters within a certain community that are collected and categorized by Snapchat. These types of "Stories" can be especially newsy during breaking news events, like hurricanes or protests.
  • The links when shared will take users back to watch the videos in the Snapchat app or to a web or mobile web-viewing experience, according to a source familiar with the plans.
  • All content will continue to be hosted on Snap’s own servers and streamed through Snap’s online media player.

Snapchat is also testing a rebrand of its personalized content feed called "For You," according to a source familiar with the plans.

  • The new feed will be called "Spotlight," and will feature content from Snap creators, curated Snapchat stories and premium content, including "Discover" shows and "Publisher Stories."

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4. Billboard industry clobbered by coronavirus

Data: MAGNA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: MAGNA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While there's been a lot of focus on how the coronavirus has impacted the print industry, the media market that's actually expected to see some of the most devastating declines is the out-of-home industry, which includes things like billboards, subway posters, and transit advertisements.

Why it matters: Out-of-home was one of the fastest-growing and most stable linear media channels pre-pandemic. But with fewer people commuting and leaving their homes — and with sports on pause — the opportunity to reach folks with out-of-home advertising has fallen significantly.

By the numbers: Global OOH ad sales are expected to decline by 22% this year with the transit segment within the sector experiencing even deeper decreases, according to ad agency Magna's latest global ad forecast.

  • Zenith, another ad buying firm, predicts it could be even worse and is forecasting a 25% decline in OOH this year.
  • "It's partly down to the decline in transit, but more generally to reduced footfall in public areas that normally attract heavy traffic, where out-of-home advertising space is most concentrated," says Jonathan Barnard, Head of Forecasting and Director of Global Intelligence at Zenith.

Yes, but: The sector is expected to rebound quickly, once travel starts to increase again. Zenith forecasts a 15% recovery in 2021 and 8% growth in 2022.

  • "We expect a rapid recovery next year because, even if it does not return to normal, footfall should be a lot higher than during the weeks of lockdown, when it plunged precipitously. This will make the year-on-year comparisons look very positive," says Barnard.

5. Tech pushes music deals amid karaoke craze

Multiple musical notes merging into one
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Tech giants, eager to capitalize on shifting music consumption trends pegged to the rise of TikTok, are pushing to line up music rights with record labels and launch partnerships with music distributors.

Why it matters: “Music is a giant driver of social media, attracting enormous followers," says Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

  • "As live streaming and new social media platforms emerge, they must be accountable, compete fairly, and respect the work of music creators posted online.”

Driving the news: TikTok on Monday announced a partnership with UnitedMasters, a music distributor, for artists discovered on TikTok to distribute their music to fans on other music streaming platforms, like Spotify, YouTube or Apple Music.

  • Facebook last month announced deals with a slew of music labels, including Sony Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Merlin and others to be able to showcase music videos on its platform.  
  • Snapchat last month confirmed that it is in the early stages of testing new ways to integrate music into Snapchat after brokering licensing partnerships with Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and others.

Be smart: YouTube has long been one of the biggest players in the on-demand music market.

  • YouTube streams so many music videos that a 2017 report found that it accounted for 46% of time spent listening to on-demand music.

The big picture: TikTok's rise to social media dominance has helped fuel a social media karaoke and music video boom.

6. Exclusive: Group Nine launches NowThis Kids


NowThis, the millennial-focused video brand from Group Nine Media, is launching a new brand aimed at children of millennials called "NowThis Kids," executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The launch comes while parents debate how to keep kids occupied at home if they don't return to in-person classes.

Details: The new vertical will target millennial parents (NowThis's main audience) and their Gen-Z children, ages six to 11.

  • It will initially launch with a new dedicated YouTube channel and programming, as well as a podcast and newsletter.
  • NowThis Kids will be hosted by 13-year-old activist Naomi Wadler, who gained notoriety when NowThis first interviewed her in 2018 after she led a gun violence walk-out at her school focused on Black women.
  • Cheerios will be the launch sponsor. Its sponsorship will include a combination of advertising around the programming and some sponsored integrations on YouTube.

Be smart: This will be the second kids-focused vertical within Group Nine Media.

  • Group Nine Media is also home to The Dodo, Thrillist, Seeker, PopSugar and NowThis. Last year, The Dodo, an animal media brand, launched "Dodo Kids" with Paramount Pictures as a launch partner.
  • Group Nine also launched a "parenting" vertical within its PopSugar brand last year.

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7. Media giants look abroad for streaming growth

Data: Company filings; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Company filings; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Facing saturation and stiff competition in the U.S., media giants are planning to launch new streaming services internationally to accrue more subscribers.

The big picture: Growth in streaming video is exploding, particularly since the pandemic began, and media companies seem to see a lot of unclaimed territory. Streaming made up 25% of TV usage last quarter, up from 19% at the same time last year, according to Nielsen's latest total audience report.

New international streaming plans announced last week:

  • Fox News says it's launching FOX News International, a new live streaming service that includes programming from Fox's two linear channels, Fox News and Fox Business, for $6.99 monthly.
  • ViacomCBS said this week that it plans to launch a paid international streaming service in early 2021, starting with Australia, Latin America, and Nordic countries.
  • Disney says it plans to launch a new general entertainment streaming service overseas in 2021. The service will include content from ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios.

Yes, but: Growing international audiences presents challenges, like obtaining programming rights for different markets overseas. And even big media companies will still need to compete with massive tech companies like Netflix which have been investing in overseas expansions for years.

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8. TV networks push voting efforts

Illustration of voter checkbook crushed by stars and stripes
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nearly all of the major network news giants are launching new voter initiatives ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Media companies have a long history of using their wide reach to promote voting efforts in the U.S. But ahead of this year's historic election, they are doubling down on those efforts to ensure that changes to voting procedures due to the pandemic don't dissuade voters from taking part.

Driving the news: Rock the Vote has created an election center for WarnerMedia that allows employees and audiences to register to vote, check their voter registration status, and find out how to vote in their state, executives tell Axios.

  • ABC News and NBC News also announced new voter initiatives Monday. Both launched tools to help users plan their vote.
  • ViacomCBS's flagship youth brand MTV has long championed voter initiatives from the TV network side, including helping to launch Rock the Vote in 1990. 
  • Telemundo and Univision have launched extensive voter efforts catered to the Hispanic population.

Noticeably absent from the list of networks that have rolled out voter initiatives is Fox News. In October 2019, Fox rolled out a new election tagline, "Democracy 2020 – It’s in your Hands," which focuses on Americans and the choice they will be making in November, according to AdWeek.

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9. Newsrooms abandoned as pandemic drags on

The News Building, also known as Daily News Building, East 42nd Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. (Photo by: Mel Longhurst/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Facing enormous financial pressure and uncertainty around reopenings, media companies are giving up on their years-long building leases for more permanent work-from-home structures. Others are letting employees work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: Real estate is often the most expensive asset that media companies own. For companies that don't own their space, it's often the biggest expense.

  • The Orlando Sentinel is officially leaving its downtown office building after 69 years.
  • Tribune Publishing has permanently closed the Manhattan headquarters for The New York Daily News. It has terminated eight leases since March and hasn’t made rent payments at many of its other properties since then.
  • Condé Nast, home to Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and others, may move from its headquarters at One World Trade Center, a spokesperson from its parent company, Advance Publications, confirmed to the New York Post.

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