Dec 10, 2019

Axios Media Trends

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Situational awareness: The success of T-Mobile's bid to acquire Sprint hinges on whether a federal judge believes the deal will boost or harm competition.

  • The trial, which is expected to last for several weeks, began Monday in the U.S. District Court in New York, with 14 state attorneys general suing to block the deal.
1 big thing: Google's next local news investment

Berkeleyside founders Lance Knobel, Frances Dinkelspiel and Tracey Taylor. Photo credit: Tippett Studio

A new Oakland, California-based journalism venture will launch next spring with $1.56 million in funding from the Google News Initiative (GNI), executives tell Axios.

  • It has also raised $1.56 million from the American Journalism Project, a new, well-funded venture philanthropy nonprofit focused on local news.

Why it matters: It's the third local news organization that Google has funded this year as part of its larger $300 million effort to support journalism.

  • Unlike previous projects Google has previously backed, this initiative isn't serving a small town but a city with 425,000 residents that sits in its backyard.

Yes, but: Like many other cities across the country, Oakland finds itself reeling from the economic crisis in local news.

Details: The publication will launch as a website next spring with eight editorial staffers and hopes to grow to 20 by the end of the year. The team plans to launch a newsletter and is exploring other mediums, like podcasts. Its name is TBD.

  • It's being launched by the same leadership team behind Berkeleyside, a local news outlet in Oakland's neighbor town.
  • The site's editorial team will be led by editor-in-chief Tasneem Raja, a former senior editor at NPR and Mother Jones. She said she received written assurance that Google would have no input whatsoever into editorial decisions.
  • The business model will be a mix of non-profit donations, live experiences and underwriting from corporations.

The big picture: These news outlets are part of a trend in local media toward the non-profit model, which allows them to accept donations while still selling commercial sponsorships or advertising.

Go deeper.

2. A new entertainment world order

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Streaming companies are taking over as dominant players in film and television, forcing traditional entertainment companies to invest more.

Driving the news: Broadcast networks were shut out of Golden Globe nominations yesterday, while Netflix received 17 nominations for its TV hits.

  • Premium cable networks, like Showtime and HBO, which typically dominate nominations, also received fewer combined nominations than Netflix.

Yes, but: The Golden Globes will still air on NBC, a broadcast network.

  • That's because broadcast networks are still the most reliable places that award show creators, sports leagues and news producers can find a reliable live audience.
  • That's why TV advertising continues to command higher rates, according to a new report from ad-buying agency MAGNA.

Cable networks, which can't be accessed "over the air" through free TV antennas, are much more susceptible than broadcast channels to the viewership declines from cord-cutting.

  • Case-in-point: NBA ratings are falling heavily this season compared to their NFL counterparts. NBA games air mostly on cable, while NFL games air mostly on broadcast.

Be smart: Measurement still needs to be sorted out for streaming.

  • Part of why advertisers are still willing to invest heavily is they can reliable measure TV consumption across networks via Nielsen ratings, but streaming is proving much harder to measure.
  • Nielsen debuted streaming ratings last year.
  • At first, Netflix denounced them. But signs show that they are warming up to the idea of having a reputable third-party measure the success of their content against their competitors.
  • Nielsen said last week that Netflix's new hit movie "The Irishman" was streamed by 17 million in the U.S. in the first 5 days. Netflix didn't outwardly dispute the stat.

Between the lines: It will be hard for a company like Nielsen, which measures a sample of households only in the U.S., to paint a perfect picture of Netflix's total audience, which is mostly international.

The big picture: Many of the traditional TV networks and film studios will have to wait some time before they see any of their investments pay off.

  • For example, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said at an investor conference Monday that Comcast/NBCUniversal's new streaming service Peacock could be break-even in five years .

At the box office, film studios are investing more in major franchises that tend to wade heavily into action and adventure franchises, which are better experienced in a big-screen theater,

  • Disney, which has invested in expanding its franchise portfolio in the past few years, raked in more than $10 billion this year in box office sales, a new record.
3. Traffic tools help publishers go viral
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Data:; Table: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Google has created a new tool to help newsrooms make coverage decisions based on real-time data of what’s being searched on Google and talked about on Twitter, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: It’s the latest effort by a tech giant to help give newsrooms access to data that could help them make content decisions around what's trending online.

  • Facebook bought CrowdTangle, a tool that publishers use to see what's trending on the web, in 2016.

The tool, called Trending Topics, is available for free to any newsroom that utilizes Google’s free analytics platform, Google Analytics.

The big picture: Google argues newsrooms can boost user loyalty by using the tool to cover the topics they are most interested in.

But new data from traffic analytics company finds that not all publishers need to be as reliant on what's going viral.

  • The data suggests that health and lifestyle content tend to get most of its traffic referrals internally from the home pages or other destinations within the publishers' ecosystem.
  • This means that for some niche topics, understanding what's going viral means more than it does for others.

The bottom line: News publishers need this tool more than evergreen lifestyle publishers.

4. Trump, Buttigieg battle for young voters on Snap

Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images

Mayor Pete Buttigieg and President Trump are going head to head in Snapchat ad spend, according to data pulled from Snapchat's public ads library provided by social analytics company Storyful.

Why it matters: While the spend on Snapchat is dwarfed by the millions spent by Democratic candidates on Facebook and Google ads, the data provides an insight into how candidates are targeting young and first-time voters ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.

Details: The Trump campaign and an affiliated PAC have spent a combined $43,955 this year — the exact same amount as the Buttigieg campaign.

  • Buttigieg's punchy and colorful ads target groups like collegiates, advocates, activists, green living enthusiasts, and political news watchers. They cover a variety of topics from climate change to health care. Many of his ads ran between October and November and specifically targeted voters in key battleground states including Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Trump is getting more bang for his buck as his ad spend has created over 26 million impressions, compared to the 10.6 million impressions on Buttigieg’s ads, according to the ad library. Trump has spent nearly $30,000 on one ad which began running in July and has continued to feature on the app. It was paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee PAC and asked Snap users to take a survey on how much they support the president.

Between the lines: Sen. Elizabeth Warren has spent $31,190 since the start of 2019, spread out over numerous ads which began running in April.

  • She's the only other Democratic contender that's spent more than a few thousand on the platform, although other contenders have invested a lot in their earned media on Snapchat through their own Snapchat profiles, like Joe Biden. 

The big picture: Snapchat began releasing its ad library in September, making information about all political and issue-based ads on the platform publicly available for the first time.

  • It's one of the only tech platforms whose policy includes fact-checking all political ads to make sure they include true statements before they run on the platform.

Go deeper: Snapchat readies 2020 news push

5. News podcasts go mainstream
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Data: PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New data and investments into news podcasting suggests that the format is here to stay.

Why it matters: Newsrooms are finding that podcasts are helping them develop stronger audiences and, in some cases, make more money.

  • At a time when the news economy is unstable, podcasts offer newsrooms a chance to drive new business.

Driving the news: The Pulitzer Prize Board said Thursday that they would include audio reporting as a new journalism prize category in its 2020 cycle.

  • The announcement comes on the heels of new research released by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University that finds news podcasts have exploded in popularity in the U.S.

By the numbers: According to the report, the number of new news podcasts around the world increased by one-third (32%) from January through October 2019, citing data from Chartable.

  • More than 12,000 news podcasts have been launched this year.

Yes, but: While podcasts offer some newsrooms the opportunity to make millions in ad revenue, they are still a small portion of overall revenue.

  • And while some newsrooms, like the New York Times, have had unprecedented success building podcasts, others have had less luck with their audio strategies.

Read the full story.

6. Earwear blowing up
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Data: International Data Corporation; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The market for wearables — from smartwatches to souped-up headphones — is surging as sales rose 96% last quarter from a year earlier, per IDC.

Why it matters: The market is shifting from niche to mainstream at a time when smartphone growth is slowing, Axios' Ina Fried writes.

  • Apple led the way, thanks to Apple Watch and AirPods, selling 29.5 million wearables, up from 10 million in the same quarter a year earlier.
  • Apple was followed by Xiaomi, Samsung, Huawei and Fitbit.
  • By category, smart earwear led the way, with shipments of 40.7 million devices, up from 11.9 million in the third quarter of last year.

Sign up for Ina's daily tech newsletter, Login, here.

7. 1 fun thing: Jersey gone wild

Screen shot from Tiwtter handle for @NJGov

The official Twitter account for the state of New Jersey has been blowing up the internet over the past few weeks.

  • The account tweets important government information alongside a witty mix of New Jersey inside jokes about good pizza and Central New Jersey.

Why it matters: It's a good example of ways that public service accounts can be relevant and keep citizens informed.

  • The TSA has been doing this for a long time on Instagram, posting photos about the most ridiculous items they encounter at checkpoints to explain whether they break the rules of travel.

Details: The account is run by two New Jersey women, Pearl Gabel and Megan Coyne, who serve on N.J. Governor Phil Murphy's digital team.

  • Coyne says the response has been overwhelmingly positive and that "the engagement on our policy-focused stuff is improving consistently, which goes to show that the message is penetrating."
  • "It is about more than memes," says Gabel. "It is about getting people to pay attention for the fun stuff so that they can get information about things like education, health care, or environmental policy that they otherwise might have missed.
  • But on the fun side, "we have learned that people take a lot of pride in having good pizza and bagels," Coyne said.

Between the lines: "We don’t have time for haters," Gabel said.

What's next: The account has already gotten into a fight with the official account of Delaware. Expect more beef.

Worth a follow.