Axios Media Trends

Two interconnected white triangles on a red square, both pointing forward.

August 14, 2018

Thanks for subscribing to Media Trends. Tell friends to follow along by signing up here.

Situational awareness: More than 1,000 local TV and radio stations are being asked join dozens of local newspapers in a coordinated editorial campaign objecting to President Trump's anti-press rhetoric. The push comes after The New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger said he tried to warn Trump that his language could endanger journalists abroad.

1 big thing: The talk of the swamp ...

Adapted from Quorum; Note: Mentions include press releases, floor statements, email newsletters and social media; Chart: Axios Visuals
Adapted from Quorum; Note: Mentions include press releases, floor statements, email newsletters and social media; Chart: Axios Visuals

Members of Congress have mentioned major tech companies more than any other type of company over the past decade, according to data compiled by Quorum. Facebook has by far experienced the most mentions, with Google coming in at a distant second.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of lawmakers' recent obsession with technology-related issues that impact most of their constituents — like data privacy, security, smartphone addiction and election integrity.

  • It's also a reflection of the ubiquity of Facebook, Google and other tech firms for Americans, transcending social classes, geographies and political parties.

Congress has mentioned technology more than twice as many times as it's mentioned financial services. By mentions over the past ten years (methodology below):

  1. Technology (26,609)
  2. Financial services (13,577)
  3. Motor (7,171)
  4. Retail (6,531)
  5. Aerospace & Defense (5,102)
  6. Health care (5,049)
  7. Transportation (4,978)
  8. Telecommunications (4,604)

Facebook has become the most-discussed company, spiking during the Cambridge Analytica scandal that occurred earlier this year. (More below.)

  • In total, 94.2% of 115th Congress have mentioned Facebook as a part of any official communications measured by Quorum.
  • Overall, mentions of Fortune 100 companies by members of Congress have steadily increased, per Quorom.

For kicks: Most members of Congress aren't tech experts, although many have policy backgrounds that touch tech issues. There are only 8 engineers in Congress (7 in the House and 1 in the Senate) and 8 software company executives in Congress (6 in the House and 2 in the Senate), per the Congressional Research Service.

Methodology: Mentions include press releases, floor statements, email newsletters and social media.

2. ... with Facebook leading the pack

Adapted from Quorum; Note: Mentions include press releases, floor statements, email newsletters and social media; Chart: Axios Visuals
Adapted from Quorum; Note: Mentions include press releases, floor statements, email newsletters and social media; Chart: Axios Visuals

From June 2008–June 2018, Facebook received more mentions than any other company in a given time period during this year's Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal, per Quorum. That includes financial services companies during their own scandals of account and bonus fraud.

Since then, Facebook also dealt with nearly constant controversy around policing content on the platform, accusations of bias, and its role in political disinformation campaigns.

Go deeper: Social media's new job: content cop.

3. Big Tech can't shake its sneaky reputation

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Big Tech is constantly reassuring the public and policymakers that its technology isn't being used to spy on its users.

Why it matters: Trust issues around technology companies persist in America. According to Pew Research Center, relatively few Americans trust major technology companies to consistently do what is right. And more than half (51%) think they should be regulated more than they are currently

The irony: Most of these companies don't even need to spy on their users, since they are so sophisticated at tracking users' information with their permission.

Yes, but: Many Google smartphone apps store your location data even if you’ve used privacy settings that say they will prevent them from doing so, per AP's Ryan Nakashima.

  • Google's spokesperson tells Axios' Mike Allen, "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”
  • Apple penned a letter to Congress last week stating that iPhones don't listen to users without their permission and that it doesn't allow third-party apps to do so either. The letter came in response to a request to Apple and Alphabet CEOs for more information about the companies' data privacy policies.
  • Facebook has been battling for years the conspiracy theory that it listens to users' conversation to better target ads. In March, The Wall Street Journal detailed all of the ways the company uses data to target ads in a way that's so effective, it's probably easier than listening to user conversations.
  • Amazon faced questions over whether its home assistant Echo secretly listens to conversations of users after a woman reported in May that her device had recorded a conversation then shared it with one of her husband’s employees in Seattle. Amazon told NYT that the woman's device heard a word that triggered it to take action on their conversation.

Go deeper: Media’s New Business Model: Surveillance Capitalism.

4. Scoop: NBC expanding "Stay Tuned"

NBC is expanding "Stay Tuned," its Gen. Z-focused daily news show on Snapchat to Instagram and YouTube, Axios has learned. The show will air twice daily on Instagram Stories shortly after they post to Snapchat.

Why it matters: NBC's partnership with Snapchat has thus far turned out to be so successful that the network wants to take the show elsewhere.

  • NBC News has been pushing to get its news brand to resonate with younger audiences for some time. It's planning to launch an OTT streaming service for younger users.

The big picture: It shows brands can build franchises that resonate with younger audiences on Snapchat and then move them to other networks once they gain steam.

The details:

  • Sources say NBC has been waiting to launch "Stay Tuned" on other platforms until its exclusivity contract expired with Snapchat this year.
  • It will not be using IGTV, Instagram's new video platform, but it will use Instagram posts to share behind the scenes photos and videos and Stories to air Instagram-friendly versions of episodes.
  • NBC News will also be adding video to a recently-launched YouTube channel for "Stay Tuned" where it's posting extended cuts of interviews and features that don’t make it to the show.

5. Exclusive: Bustle buys Favorpill


Bustle Digital Group (BDG) will announce today the acquisition of Flavorpill Media Inc., an online publisher and experiential brand focused on events. Terms will not be disclosed.

Why it matters: The acquisition gives BDG an entrance into the large-scale experiential events business, which is a massive growth point for some of BDG's biggest competitors in the millennial, female-focused digital media industry, like Refinery29 and PopSugar.

"This acquisition was made with an eye towards our 2019 growth — in both user engagement and revenue ... We expect to see a substantial increase in paid attendees for our experiential programs to come through Flavorpill."
— Bryan Goldberg, founder and CEO, Bustle Digital Group

Experiential events have become tentpole business opportunities for millennial media companies looking to engage consumers directly.

  • Refinery29's annual event, #29rooms, sold 20,000 tickets in two weeks this year, and all directly to consumers.
  • PopSugar's Play/Ground weekend festival had over 15,000 women participate this June.

The big picture: Flavorpill is Bustle's latest acquisition of a millennial and women-focused media brand. It acquired fashion designer Rachel Zoe's "The Zoe Report" earlier this year and Elite Daily in 2017, which Goldberg says is outperforming the audience and revenue goals set last year.

The details: The acquisition includes all of Flavorpill’s current staff, including co-founder Sascha Lewis, who will become BDG’s vice president of experiential and president of Flavorpill Media.

  • BDG will also acquire Flavorwire, Flavorpill's online news and culture magazine, through the deal. The site will be overseen by the company’s editor-in-chief, Kate Ward.
  • Flavorpill's first project for Bustle will be to manage the inaugural Bustle Rule Breakers event in New York City in September.
  • While Bustle has done events in the past, Goldberg says Rule Breakers will be its largest event to date.

What's next? Goldberg says Bustle would like to do at least one more deal this year.

6. Spotify to overtake Pandora by 2022

A new forecast from eMarketer predicts that Pandora, the most popular music streaming service in the U.S., will see its U.S. user base decline slightly the next couple of years, while Spotify will see double-digit growth this year and next.

  • In 2018, Pandora will have 75.9 million users in the U.S., compared with 58.4 million for Spotify, eMarketer estimates.
  • But by 2022, Pandora’s user base will dip to 75.3 million users, while Spotify’s will swell to 76.7 million.
“Pandora’s focus on converting free listeners to subscribers, coupled with much stiffer competition, will keep their overall reach from growing. Meanwhile, Spotify has benefited from being first to market with family plans, offline listening, integrations with other services like Hulu and effective social sharing tools, which have left Pandora to play catch-up.”
— Martín Utreras, VP of forecasting, eMarketer

7. What Trump bump? 1/3 NYT subscriptions don't come from news

Over the past year, roughly one third of the New York Times' net new digital subscriptions came from its cooking and crosswords subscription products each quarter, not core news products. 

Why it matters: Relying on the Trump bump has never been the Times' long-term subscription strategy — lifestyle services is.

What's next? NYT is adding other core lifestyle products to its subscription suite, like parenting. 

By the numbers:

  • Q2 2018: Total adds: 109,000; core news: 68,000 (62%); cooking+crosswords: 41,000 (38%).
  • Q1 2018: Total adds: 139,000; core news: 99,000 (71%); cooking+crosswords: 40,000 (29%).
  • Q4 2017 : Total adds: 157,000; core news: 99,000 (63%); cooking+crosswords: 58,000 (37%).
  • Q3 2017: Total adds: 154,000; core news:105,000 (68%); cooking+crosswords: 49,000 (32%).

8. ICYMI: The local TV consolidation race is here

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Changes in decades-old broadcasting rules, combined with new types of competition in news and entertainment, are creating a drama-filled free-for-all as local U.S. broadcasters consolidate.

Why it matters: Consolidation will inevitably mean that fewer voices reach more people, but some in the industry argue it's the only way local broadcasting will be able to compete with Big Tech.

The back story: Many local broadcasters cite one key reason for their consolidation — the FCC's landmark decision last year to roll back old regulations that limited the ability of TV companies to own properties in the same market.

Go deeper.