Axios Media Trends
September 21, 2021
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Situational awareness: Fortune announced Tuesday that Alyson Shontell, the current co-editor-in-chief of Insider's business division, will become its first female editor-in-chief in its 92-year history.
1 big thing: Minute Media, FanDuel team up
Minute Media raised “tens of millions of dollars” in a previously unreported funding round, with participation from sports betting giant FanDuel, its founder and CEO Asaf Peled tells Axios.
Why it matters: The funding strengthens a years-long partnership as Minute Media seeks to invest more in sports betting, and FanDuel more in content.
- "Investing further in Minute Media is another step forward in trying to take advantage of our position," says Adam Kaplan, General Manager & VP at FanDuel Group, which is one of the largest online sportsbooks in the country.
Catch up quick: Minute Media is a digital holding group that owns sports and entertainment websites like The Players' Tribune and The Big Lead.
- It last publicly announced a $40 million raise in early 2020, at a valuation of more than $500 million.
- The previously unreported round happened several quarters ago.
Details: FanDuel first partnered with Minute Media in 2018 to create The Duel, a digital platform focused on fantasy sports and sports betting news. The site is powered by Voltax, Minute Media's proprietary publishing platform which launched in early 2020.
- Kaplan says readers of The Duel have bet more than $10 million on FanDuel since 2020 across its SBK sportsbook and its Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platform through its work with Minute Media.
By the numbers: Asked whether the new round puts Minute Media's valuation north of $1 billion, Peled said, "I cannot comment on the valuation, but I think that you probably seem like you know what you're asking here."
- Peled said casino giant Wynn also participated in the undisclosed financing round.
The big picture: FanDuel has launched dozens of partnerships with media companies in the past few years, including most-recently an exclusive sports betting partnership with the AP.
- It works with media companies like The Ringer, CBS, Audacy, Hulu, as well as sports franchises, like the NFL, NBC, Brooklyn Nets and others. FanDuel has its own podcast network and a TV affiliate around horse racing.
What to watch: Kaplan said FanDuel is "definitely" looking to invest in more content deals.
⚡ Breaking this AM: CNBC reports that DraftKings has made a $20 billion takeover offer to UK-based online sports betting company Entain.
2. Exclusive: WaPo launches digital ad network
The Washington Post on Tuesday launched an ad network as part of its Zeus advertising technology business, executives told Axios. The network has been in the works for two years.
Why it matters: "It's a new revenue stream for the Post," WashPost chief revenue officer Joy Robins said.
Beginning Tuesday, The Post will be on-boarding other publishers onto Zeus Prime to create a broader ad network, giving any advertiser the opportunity to buy and target ads across an array of premium publisher websites.
- The team will bring on some of Zeus Technology's existing publishing partners, like the Ad Council, Dallas Morning News, and soon Graham Media Group — which operates seven local media hubs.
The pricing for ads in the ad network will be $9 per thousand impressions. Ads that wish to add a layer of targeting (i.e.— reach a person that works in finance) will be $10.
The big picture: Robins is hoping that the ad network will help Zeus Technology hit nine-figures in revenue "easily" next year.
- Zeus Technology, which launched in 2019, is The Post's second standalone tech company. In 2015, the Post launched Arc Publishing, a publishing software business that powers over 2,400 sites.
- "Our ambition for Zeus Technology is — just as Arc has stood on its own and is its own business — no smaller than that."
3. Scoop: More boycotts coming for Facebook
Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are discussing whether to organize another campaign against Facebook in light of an explosive investigative series from The Wall Street Journal, Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer tells Axios.
The intrigue: Sources tell Axios that another group, separate from the Stop Hate For Profit organization, is expected to launch its own ad boycott campaign this week.
Details: "The founders of that campaign are discussing new efforts we should do," Steyer said. "We are considering the idea of a major consumer effort and if we did, it would be similar to what we did last time with Stop Hate For Profit. It would have the same kind of elements."
- A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League told Axios, "We are still watching Facebook in light of the news and are considering what steps, if any, to take in light of the most recent revelations."
What to watch: Stop Hate For Profit last year focused on Facebook advertisers. This time, Steyer says, they've been discussing actions that might target consumers, as well as Facebook employees and board members.
4. Exclusive: 6AM City raises $5M+, expands to 24 new cities
6AM City, a newsletter-driven local news company, has raised a new round of funding north of $5 million, Axios has learned.
Driving the news: The Greenville, South Carolina-based company is expected to bring in $5 million in revenue this year and is projecting a 250-300% increase in revenue in 2022, its co-founder and COO Ryan Heafy tells Axios.
- The expansion moves 6AM City this year from eight cities, mostly in the Southeast, to 24, adding operations in five new metros on the West Coast, three in Texas, and several in the Midwest.
The latest round of funding was led by the private investment office of Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- Additional funds came from media executives, including a team led by Rohit Agarwal, longtime chief product officer at CNN, and separately, Jerry Scott, former publisher of Scott Publishing.
- Two of 6AM City’s existing investors, VentureSouth and Harbright Ventures, also participated in the newest round, which brings 6AM City's total amount of money raised to nearly $9 million.
5. Exclusive: Industry Dive acquires PharmaVOICE, revenue to hit $80M
Industry Dive, a Washington, D.C.-based business journalism outlet, is acquiring PharmaVOICE, a trade publication for pharmaceutical industry executives, its CEO and co-founder Sean Griffey tells Axios. The deal marks Industry Dive's fourth acquisition in the last year and a half.
- "We've built a platform that allows us to acquire publications to enter new markets or build audiences in our existing ones," Griffey told Axios.
Why it matters: The company, which is expected to finish 2021 with more than $80 million in revenue, is pursuing a similar strategy to several other media companies that are trying to remain independent: acquire small brands to get bigger incrementally.
Details: PharmaVOICE is a hyper-niche publication read by roughly 60,000 pharmaceutical executives. The company, which also produces events and podcasts, will remain a standalone brand under Industry Dive.
By the numbers: Industry Dive, which launched in 2012, currently employs more than 300 people, about a third of which are journalists. It expects profit margins to approach 30% this year, a feat considering that many media companies struggle to remain profitable while growing.
- The company has newsletter products that span 23 industries, including Retail Dive, Utility Dive, Food Dive, Supply Chain Dive and more.
6. Universal IPO a bellwether for music industry
Universal Music Group finally went public Tuesday at a whopping $39 billion valuation.
Why it matters: "How UMG's shares fare will say a lot about the value of other music companies," says Hannah Karp, editorial director at Billboard. "It will mean a lot to the music industry overall.
- Shares for Universal surged 38% Tuesday morning after the company first began trading on the European stock exchange, pushing its valuation close to $46 billion, per Variety.
The big picture: The rise of subscription streaming has revived the business models of music labels, pushing several to explore IPOs.
- "Now that streaming is ggrowing so fast, its a much more attractive asset for investors because the returns are really reliable," Karp says.
- "People are paying monthly subscription fees instead of sort of randomly buying physical albums, which was much less predictable business."
7. Emmys bounce back (slightly)
Nearly 8 million people watched the Emmy Awards on CBS on Sunday, an increase of 16% compared to last year's all-time low viewership numbers, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen.
Why it matters: Award shows have struggled to maintain their live TV audiences amid the pandemic shift to streaming. Ratings for the Emmys have been declining since 2013.
Streamers lapped traditional TV companies with wins.
- Netflix for the first time beat HBO in overall awards. It took home all seven drama-series awards for its hit show "The Crown."
- Apple TV+ gained major recognition for its hit show "Ted Lasso," winning the Emmy for best comedy series.
The big picture: No people of color won awards in major acting categories despite record numbers of nominations, per Variety.
What to watch: As the amount of TV content becomes overwhelming, Emmy voters are increasingly turning to a very small handful of familiar favorites, The Wrap reports.