Thanks for subscribing to Media Trends. Tell friends to follow along by signing up here.
Situational Awareness: The Western world's Big Tech disillusionment grows...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The world’s biggest tech companies are spending billions of dollars on projects to get more people around the world connected to the internet.
Why it matters: Tech companies historically have specialized in services (like social media or payments) that ride on top of internet connections, rather than building the networks themselves.
Driving the news: Facebook is in talks to develop an underwater data cable ring around Africa, the Wall Street Journal reports. The project aims to drive down internet costs so that Facebook can get more people using its services.
The internet space race is also heating up. Amazon said Wednesday that it will launch thousands of satellites into space to provide internet around the world via a new effort called Project Kuiper.
The big picture: Telecom providers have traditionally managed internet expansion and footed the bill for the huge costs of digging fiber trenches and installing wireless infrastructure.
Between the lines: Tech companies are pushing into the broadband space as many internet service providers (like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast) are buying up media properties to own more of the content that flows through those pipes.
The bottom line: The war for consumers' attention is intensely cutthroat, but the competition to get more people connected to the internet is just as fierce.
Go deeper: Read the full piece from Axios' Kim Hart and me.
Screenshot from The Athletic twitter feed
The Athletic, a subscription-based digital sports media company, is launching a multimillion dollar podcasting business.
What's new: Over 20 exclusive, ad-free podcasts will debut behind the company's subscription paywall on its app and website on Tuesday. The podcasts will be produced in-house by a team of 12 new hires.
Why it matters: The sports podcasting space has become more crowded over the past few years, with digital upstarts like Barstool Sports, The Ringer and SB Nation, in addition to TV sports giants like Fox Sports and ESPN, all launching new podcasts. The Athletic is hoping to differentiate itself by focusing on quality, hyper-localized podcasts that live only behind a paywall.
Details: The programming strategy is to leverage The Athletic's 300+ sports reporters around the country and in Canada to create local and national podcasts, varying in topics and cadence. Most podcasts will range from 15–40 minutes long.
The catch: The podcasts will only be available on The Athletic's owned and operated channels, and will not be accessible anywhere outside of its paywall, like on Spotify or Apple Music. The hope is that by keeping them behind a paywall, the company will be able to attract new segments of sports fans who engage with sports differently.
Read more of the full story, which has the list of debut programming.
Dozens of media companies have unionized over the past 2 years in an effort to weather the turbulent economic environment for the content industry.
Meanwhile, Hollywood writers are waging war with talent agents who, writers claim, are taking an unfair cut of their profits.
Why it matters: Content creators have in some cases become collateral damage in a power struggle between the media industry and technology-driven business disruptions. Now, the talent is trying to fight back.
By the numbers: In the past 2 years, more than 30 media companies have partially or fully unionized — an unprecedented pace. Most are fighting for equal pay and job security.
The other coast: Hollywood is experiencing a similar talent uprising. After failing to reach an agreement over the weekend, the Writers Guild agreed to extend to Friday the deadline to renegotiate a decades-old agreement with Hollywood talent agencies.
The bottom line: The media industry is facing unprecedented disruption, which is forcing the employment dynamics to change. Those transitions will come with pain points.
Go deeper: Read the full story from Axios' Marisa Fernandez and me.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Move over Apple and Google, the next big news efforts to follow are two Chinese news aggregation rivals: Qutoutiao and Toutiao.
Driving the news: Qutoutiao, the 3-year-old news and video aggregation startup backed by Tencent, recently announced that it is receiving a $171 million convertible loan from Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba.
Why it matters: Tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent are backing Qutoutiao as it pushes to take on Toutiao, a popular news aggregation app owned by ByteDance.
Be smart: "It is prudent for both Tencent and Alibaba to invest in Qutoutiao given ByteDance's valuations and progression into the short-form video space," says Humphrey Ho, managing partner at Hylink, China's largest independent digital advertising agency.
Jay Inslee, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders (from l to r). Photos via Getty Images: Mark Wilson, Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Scott Olson
Some Democratic candidates for president are adding Fox News to their campaign stops as the primary battle heats up, hoping to reach as many potential voters as possible.
Why it matters: The debate among Democrats over whether or how the party should engage with Fox News is sowing division within the party ahead of 2020.
After months of speculation, Great Hill Partners, a growth-oriented private equity firm, agreed to acquire Gizmodo Media Group and The Onion from Univision Communications.
Why it matters: Univision bought the digital conglomerate for roughly $135 million in 2016. Recode's Peter Kafka reports that Univision sold the sites to Great Hill for roughly $50 million — a more than 60% estimated write-down.
Details: Digital media vet James Spanfeller will be CEO and is a significant investor in the company, which is rebranding as G/O Media Inc.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Cord-cutting: Video games are the next entertainment industry undergoing a major disruption, all the way down to the consoles and controllers. (Axios)
Snapchat's launches: Snap announced a new gaming service and updates to its ad service. Snap intends to keep growing its ad revenue while also building revenue-generating services that users can access across apps and activities. (Axios)
Accenture move: The company's marketing arm acquired the popular creative agency Droga5. With the deal, Accenture Interactive has bought out a 49% stake in the company — previously owned by talent agency Endeavor, which is reportedly about to file confidential paperwork for an IPO. (Axios)
Apple Music growth: Apple Music overtook Spotify in paid U.S. subscribers. Apple Music had more than 28 million subscribers in the U.S. as of February, compared with Spotify’s 26 million, according to people familiar with the numbers. (WSJ)
IHeartMedia's IPO: The company has filed for an initial public offering. It's the latest chapter in a complex corporate saga that began when iHeart (then known as Clear Channel) was acquired in 2006 for $18.7 billion. (Axios)
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Print is making a comeback. Digital media companies are launching print products to better market themselves amid a crowded digital field.
Why print matters: Via Andrew Sondern, art director at the New York Times: "It’s not that the medium is the message; it’s that the medium is a container and shapes the message to its contours."