Feb 19, 2019

Axios Media Trends

By Sara Fischer
Sara Fischer

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1 big thing: Screen time doubles for babies

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Screen time for children ages 0-2 more than doubled from 1997 to 2014, according to new research published in the science journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The twist: The study found that, despite the advent of new types of devices in that time span, like iPads and smartphones, most of the uptick came from screen time spent on television. In total, TV consumption has more than doubled in percentage points of overall consumption of screen time from 1997 to 2014.

Why it matters: This means that the increase in screen time might not be the result of an onslaught of new technologies, but rather caused by changes in parental interactions because of work schedules or other socio-economic factors.

  • To that end, the study notes that the high screen-user group in 2014 was dominated by boys and children with low parental education level and family income.
  • The authors recommend that future research examine the association between screen time and other "child development supplement measures," such as parenting style and sibling and peer influence.

By the numbers: In 1997, daily screen time averaged 1.32 hours for children aged 0 to 2 years and 2.47 hours for children aged 3 to 5 years. By 2014, total screen time among children aged 0 to 2 years had risen to 3.05 hours per day. In comparison with other devices, screen time allocated to television comes in highest.

  • In 1997, the study found that on average, children ages 0-2 and ages 3-5 watched television for roughly 43% and 48% of their screen exposure, respectively.
  • In 2014, the study found that on average, children ages 0-2 and ages 3-5 watched television for roughly 86% and 78% of their screen exposure, respectively.

Yes, but: Dylan Collins, CEO of children's tech company SuperAwesome, emails that this study stopped measuring viewing habits after a pivotal switch occurred in the media diets of young children.

  • "The real acceleration of decline in kids TV started in 2013/2014 so I think what you're seeing here is the passing of peak kids TV. At this point you were also seeing kids consume content in a multi-screen manner (e.g. tablet + TV on in background)."

The big picture: While there haven't been many long-term studies on the impact of screen time on children's health to date, there has been research that suggests that prolonged screen time can increase risks of obesity in children and can be linked to poorer performance on developmental screening tests later in childhood.

2. Pledges to save local news reach nearly $1B

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly $1 billion has been committed to saving local news in America over the next several years, as the country grapples with the consequences of less local coverage and accountability.

Why it matters: Despite valiant efforts, there's still no real business model for local news to continue to operate the way it has been for decades. Many of these donations, however, are being used to fund the research and development of sustainable business models for local news.

  • Driving the news: The Knight Foundation today said it would double its commitment to local news, donating $300 million via Knight’s endowment over the next five years, doubling its previous commitment.
  • Between the lines: The Knight Foundation's efforts are reminiscent of those from Google and Facebook, both of which have pledged over the past year to give $300 million to local journalism efforts over the next three years. They join several smaller efforts dedicated to bolstering local news.

The big picture: While some smaller, local digital operations have found ways to drive profits, larger local newspaper and TV companies continue to shutter, consolidate or reduce headcount.

Go deeper: Read my full piece here.

3. The next local media behemoth

Illustration: SOPA Images/Contributor, Getty Images

One of the world’s largest private equity firms is moving in on the local media landscape, placing billion-dollar bets on some of the biggest local TV franchises in the U.S.

Why it matters: Apollo Global Management's local media spree could one day give the firm a significant local TV power. Bloomberg reports that if Apollo's next big deal with Nexstar Media pans out, it would reach almost a quarter of U.S. households with its TV stations, based on Bloomberg Intelligence estimates.

Driving the news: Apollo announced last week that it will purchase a majority stake in 14 of Cox Media Group’s television stations and its integrated media operations in Ohio. Cox will keep a minority ownership. The deal is reportedly worth roughly $3 billion.

The big picture: An employee Q&A document obtained by Axios related to its recent takeover of Cox says that Apollo is planning "to build a larger media company," starting with Cox Media, that will be headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, where Cox is currently headquartered.

  • The document says that Apollo intends to use the Cox TV platform as "the cornerstone of this new venture."

Apollo is reportedly working on more deals to acquire other local television stations, including Nexstar, and could be aiming to acquire other Cox assets in the future.

  • It's been reported that Apollo also had a deal to buy roughly a dozen stations last year from Northwest Broadcasting, originally as part of its bid for Tribune Media.

Read more on why Apollo needs scale here.

4. Instagram, an engagement powerhouse
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Data: CrowdTangle; Table: Axios Visuals

Despite having less than half of Facebook's monthly active users (MAUs), Instagram's top 10 accounts generate 5 times more interactions than Facebook's most-engaged accounts, according to data from CrowdTangle between Nov. 17–Feb. 17, Axios' Neal Rothschild reports.

Why it matters: The numbers illustrate the level of engagement Instagram has captured. The disadvantage in MAUs can be overcome if users come to the platform more times in a day, spend more time when on the app and engage more while there.

Between the lines: The type of accounts filling out the top 10 of each platform reflect the ethos of that platform and what sort of media presentation get incentivized.

  • Instagram — Celebrity, personality, lifestyle, aspiration, influence
  • Facebook — Virality, faceless media brands, low-intention, all media
  • Twitter — Ideas, combative, partisan warfare, conflict as entertainment

Go deeper: Read Neal's piece here.

5. Europe vs. Facebook and "digital gangsters"

Illustration: Caresse Haaser, Sarah Grillo/Axios

A withering report from a U.K. parliamentary committee that calls out Facebook and other tech platforms as "digital gangsters" is adding new heat to a European campaign against U.S.-based tech giants.

Why it matters: U.S. regulators have fewer powers at their disposal and have moved more slowly than their European counterparts, leaving Europe to frame the debate over tech firms' privacy controversies, misinformation problems, and potential antitrust violations.

Yes, but: Results from an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation could show that U.S. regulators are starting to follow Europe's lead. The Washington Post reports that Facebook is weighing a "multibillion" dollar fine to settle with the FTC in its investigation into against Facebook's privacy practices.

The big picture: New measures to clamp down on Big Tech are seeing the light of day in the E.U., and are inching closer to reality. In the past week:

  • A draft to update to Europe's copyright laws were agreed upon by various European regulators after more than two years of deliberation. The text, would allow online publishers to charge big web aggregators and search engines for distributing even small amounts of their content.
  • Germany's antitrust office took a major step in reigning in Facebook's dominance by ruling that Facebook has exploited its market position by combining user data from its three big apps: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Be smart: A culture of privacy and market regulation is driving Europe to take the lead on many of the issues surrounding Big Tech, like data security, fake news, content liability, competition, etc. The U.S., led currently by a conservative administration with a priority to deregulate industry, has not made policing tech companies as big of a priority.

6. Exclusive: Vox Media expands podcast push

Illustration: Vox Media

Vox Media is expanding its partnership with Stitcher, one of the biggest end-to-end podcast companies, to produce a new technology news podcast from Recode as part of a multimillion dollar deal.

Why it matters: It's part of Vox's Media bigger effort to grow a standalone podcast network and business, as opposed to producing one-off podcasts for distribution.

About the show: The new show, which has yet to be named, will focus on the business of technology from a broader lens.

  • “The core idea is to take what Recode is good at, which is digging into the heart of the intersection of tech and business, and make accessible to broader audience,” Stitcher CEO Erik Diehn says.

Details: The show will feature a to-be-hired host, and will be produced by a new team with backing and support from Stitcher. The show will air three times weekly beginning this summer, with each episode slated to run 25–30 minutes.

  • The host and team will be headquartered in New York. Stitcher will be responsible for selling ads for the new show, but revenue will be shared.

By the numbers: Vox Media’s revenue from podcast advertising tripled year over year and is on pace to more than double again this year, according to Vox Media President Marty Moe.

  • Moe says Vox Media’s podcast business is an eight figure business.
  • The amount of podcasts in its portfolio has tripled from 25 active shows in 2017 to over 75 in 2018.

Go deeper: Read my full piece here.

7. Apple's media pivot
Expand chart
Data: Company earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

As iPhone sales have tapered off, Apple has been increasing its focus on growing its services business.

Why it matters: What started out as cloud storage and extended support contracts, Apples' "services" revenue sector has expanded to include Apple Music and will soon likely expand further to news, video and gaming.

  • Details: Apple has made an aggressive push into media and entertainment over the past year, which has sparked rumors that it could one day sell a bundled subscription, where consumers could potentially pay one fee for an array of entertainment and media services.
  • The big picture: Apple has pledged that by 2020 its services business will be double that of 2017. However, as this chart shows, hardware in general, and the iPhone in particular, still dominate companywide revenue.

What's next: The Wall Street journal reports that the tech giant is "shaking up leadership and reordering priorities across its services, artificial intelligence, hardware and retail divisions as it works to reduce the company’s reliance on iPhone sales."

Read more of the full piece by Axios' Ina Fried and me.

8. NYT's new billboard campaign

Credit: The New York Times

The New York Times is running its first out-of-home marketing campaign for its Crossword puzzle app in Seattle and Boston through the end of March.

Why it matters: When it comes to bolstering its overall subscription count, the Times leans heavily on its crossword puzzle app and its cooking app.

  • The big picture: Out-of-home ads, which include billboards, transit posters and bus banners, make up the fastest-growing traditional ad medium, and they can be one of the most effective. Out of home ads can't be blocked by an ad-blocker, paused or muted. And they reach people usually while they're commuting, looking for something to entertain them.
  • Be smart: When it comes to luring subscribers, using traditional media is the hottest way to do it. NYT and the Washington Post both ran multimillion dollar television ad campaigns this year.

Details: The campaign’s central message is, “Wordplay, every day,” encouraging players to download the NYT Crossword app and play its "mini puzzle."

  • NYT chose those cities because it knows part of its potential audience in these cities are commuting in urban settings and on public transit, and it thinks those commuters could use crosswords to fill hands-free commuter time.

Go deeper: Read the full story here.

9. 1 fun thing: The "Peppa Pig Syndrome"

Photo: Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images

American parents say that their kids are picking up British accents from watching Nickelodeon show “Peppa Pig,” per Business Insider.

The twist: Millennial motherhood blog Romper interviewed Emma Byrne, an AI scientist that studies neural networks, who says kids are adopting the language in part because they know the unusualness of it gets their parents' attention.

Sara Fischer