Nov 19, 2019

Axios Media Trends


Good morning from Los Angeles, where Day 2 of Recode's Code Media conference is taking place. Today's Media Trends is 1,986 words, < 8-minute read. Sign up here.

Situational awareness: President Trump’s re-election campaign is eyeing the purchase of an ad during February’s Super Bowl program, "marking what would be the first time in recent memory that a national election ad will be part of the big game's telecast," Sports Business Journal's John Ourand reports.

1 big thing: U.S. women consume more media than men
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Data: Nielsen, May 2019 poll on persons 18+; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new study provided exclusively to Axios from media measurement firm Nielsen finds that women in the U.S. spend more time with media than men, particularly on their smartphones and on live TV. In total, women spend about 72.8 hours a week consuming media, while men spend around 67.8 hours per week.

The big picture: Across all media options, TV is the favorite medium for women, accounting for 36% of their media consumption, per the study.

  • Women have out-consumed men in total TV consumption (live, time-shifted, etc.) for the past four years, per Nielsen. 
  • In total, adult women in the U.S. spend nearly four hours per day with live TV.

Why it matters: Women in the U.S. control the bulk of consumer spending, and are often responsible for the majority of purchasing decisions in U.S. households.

  • While TV ad spend is expected to decline by about 3% this year, it still represents a huge opportunity for advertisers to reach people, and particularly females with heavy purchasing power.

By the numbers, per Nielsen:

  • 93% of women in North America have shared or primary responsibility for daily shopping, household chores and food preparation.
  • 53% of women in the U.S. say they’re the head of the household, up from a 50-50 split in 2009. Women also outnumber men in the U.S. by 6 million.

Yes, but: Despite these realities, gender bias in marketing still persists.

  • Research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and the research and innovation group at J. Walter Thompson, one of the world's biggest advertising companies, found that the advertising industry struggled to proportionately represent women.
  • In 2017, it found that of 2,000 video ads analyzed, there were twice as many male characters in ads than female characters. While 25% of ads featured men only, only 5% of ads feature women only. Men's voices were also 6x more likely to be featured in ads than women's voices.

Be smart: According to Nielsen, women in the U.S. are more likely than men to consider TV advertising "as a source of meaningful and useful product and service information." This means that advertisers are more likely to strike a chord with receptive female audiences off the bat.

The bottom line: There's ample opportunity for marketers to reach receptive female audiences if they focus on closing the gender gap in advertising.

The data is based on Nielsen’s nationally representative panel for persons 18+ that compiles information from over 40,000 homes, representing more than 100,000 people, including the May 2019 measurement period for TV, digital and radio.

2. Local newspaper giants face cold winter
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Data: Yahoo; Chart: Axios Visuals

Some of the largest local newspaper chains have seen their stocks tumble over the past few weeks, making further consolidation and job losses in the local newspaper space seem inevitable.

Why it matters: The crisis surrounding the collapse of local news is not just being felt by family-owned local newspaper chains, of which there are many, but also major conglomerates and publicly traded newspaper companies.

Driving the news: McClatchy, now the second-largest newspaper chain in the country, saw its stock collapse Friday, dropping by over 60%, after it told investors that it likely won't be able to pay the IRS $124 million in pension funding due in 2020, per Poynter.

  • McClatchy also posted revenue declines during its third-quarter earnings released Friday, although it said that it increased its number of paid digital subscribers — a positive sign as advertising forecasts are expected to decline for local print media.
  • According to Bloomberg Law citing analysts, the company could file for bankruptcy within the next year. One analyst, citing McClatchy's finances, says it's unlikely it will have the free cash flow needed to pay back the IRS.

Meanwhile, shareholders approved a merger between Gannett, the newspaper chain that's parent to USA Today and other local papers, and New Media Investment Group, the parent company to newspaper giant GateHouse, on Thursday after months of back and forth financial negotiations.

  • The deal was announced in August for $1.4 billion, but shares have declined since then, devaluing the merger by nearly $300 million at close, per Poynter.
  • Heavy cost synergies, which will inevitably include layoffs, are expected as a result of the merger, which will close Tuesday.
3. A partisan divide over future of local news

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Speaking of turmoil in local news, a new study finds that while Americans mostly agree that something should be done to address the demise of local news in America, the population differs on how to address the problem based on their party identification.

Why it matters: The new data suggests that political disparities about the value of the media at the national level have carried through to the local level.

  • For example, a 2018 study from Pew Research Center found that that the split between Democrats and Republicans over the role that the national media should play having a "watchdog" role over politicians began to really deepen during the Trump-era.

Details: According to a new study from Gallup and the Knight Foundation, Democrats are more likely to want to help a failing local newspaper than Republicans.

  • Less than one-third of Democrats (27%) said that newspapers "should be allowed to fail," like other private businesses businesses, while more than three-fourths (76%) of Republicans said the same.
  • More than two-thirds of Democrats (72%) said that local newspapers are vital and should be preserved "even if they can't sustain themselves financially," while less than one-third (22%) of Republicans said the same.

Go deeper: Republicans, Democrats split over role of national media

4. NYT dropping most social media trackers

The New York Times will no longer use tracking pixels from Facebook and Twitter to track its users' browser history, executives tell Axios.

What's new: The company has created a marketing tool that will allow it to target potential subscribers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter without having to leverage its users' general browsing history.

  • The Times will still use trackers on a limited number of marketing pages, but it's hoping to eliminate nearly all marketing trackers in the future. It's working to make this tool work on other platforms, too.

Why it matters: "We're moving away from tracking analytics on people and towards tracking analytics on stories," says Chris Wiggins, chief data scientist at the New York Times. Wiggins says the transition will make the Times a more privacy-centric company.

"Most websites are giving up all of their users' browsing history to Facebook. The Times no longer does that."
— Chris Wiggins

How it works: The new tool, called TAFI (Twitter and Facebook Interface), uses machine learning to identify which promoted articles on social media are most likely to bring in new subscribers to the New York Times when targeted to the right people.

  • The tool uses machine learning to identify people's interests on tech platforms, like what articles they like on Facebook or accounts they follow on Twitter, and then targets certain articles to those people.
  • Eventually, the technology will optimize social posts across all platforms, but for now it can only optimize posts within the ecosystem of individual platforms, says Colin Russel, the lead data scientist behind the tool.

Between the lines: The tool will also help the Times save money by cutting off its reliance on paying social platforms and other third-party ad tech companies for their ad-tracking technology.

  • Wiggins says that the company has saved 6% of its total marketing spend by cutting out those third parties. "It's cut our CPOs [cost per order] in half when tested against manual campaigns. ... Our money going a lot further in garnering more subscriptions."

What's next: The team says it's currently building out the tool's functionality to work for other platforms, like Google search, Reddit and Snapchat.

Go deeper: You can log out, but you can't hide

5. Nathanson: Disney spends more on content than Netflix
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Data: MoffettNathanson presentation from Code Media Conference; Chart: Axios Visuals

Michael Nathanson, a well-respected media research analyst, said Monday at Recode's Code Media conference that he estimates that Disney spends the most on content annually, followed by Comcast and AT&T.

Why it matters: There's been a long-standing narrative that Netflix spends more money on content than its streaming rivals, but the MoffettNathanson estimates revealed at the conference dispute that notion.

Other insights: The data Nathanson presented (see above) shows the amount of money spent on content other than sports — but Nathanson argues that sports are a big outlier that could disrupt a streaming bundle.

  • "Half of the bundle price is due to sports," Nathanson said. "We've been waiting for one of the [Big Tech] platforms to really invest in streaming sports."
  • Nathanson argues that the power of sports, given live ratings, remains pretty stable. He says he's waiting for a Big Tech company to come in and really invest in live sports rights to truly disrupt the streaming landscape. "I don't understand why companies with massive checkbooks don't sign up for premium sports."

Yes, but: Nathanson does acknowledge that in order for streamers to be successful, they have to pick lanes. "You can't be all things to all people ... I think what we're seeing right now is this giant land grab."

The big picture: Nathanson says that the average American is willing to spend around $45 per month on subscription streaming services, which is similar to broadcast analytics company Magid's earlier estimate this year of $42 monthly.

  • He says that this means those services "really can't raise prices" much more on consumers if they want to stay competitive.

What's next: Nathanson also presented data showing that the spending surge on content isn't expected to slow down any time soon. He estimates that by 2023, Disney will spend about $24.3 billion on content, AT&T will spend $16.3 billion and Netflix will spend $15.7 billion.

6. Government scrapping old movie distribution rules

The Justice Department will seek a court's approval to get rid of decades-old rules restricting how movie studios can distribute films, DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said Monday, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: While the DOJ and FTC are investigating tech companies for anticompetitive behavior, Delrahim warned against hurting innovation by over-enforcing or putting in place strict rules that could outlive their usefulness.

How it works: The "Paramount Consent Decrees" from the late 1940s prohibited major movie studios from both distributing films and owning theaters without court approval, as well as banning practices such as setting minimum prices for movie tickets. Delrahim said the rules no longer make sense in the current media landscape.

7. Democrats' problem breaking through on impeachment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Opening day of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday generated middling viewer interest compared to other Trump-era political hearings.

  • Day 2 of the hearings on Friday also drew modest viewership, with about 1 million fewer people tuned into the hearings Friday than Wednesday, Axios' Neal Rothschild and I write.

Why it matters: Democrats are banking on the public spectacle of the hearings to shift more independents and Republicans in favor of impeaching President Trump — but new data about Wednesday's hearing shows the difficulty in capturing the attention of a nation that's developed a higher tolerance for permanent political drama under the current president.

Go deeper: The factors that may be working to suppress viewer interest

8. 1 fun thing: Time's Person of the Year poll goes viral

Time has received over 19.4 million votes for its annual "Person of the Year" poll since it launched the poll Friday, according to two sources familiar with the numbers.

Details: All of the traffic around the poll's participation has been organic, the sources said. Time put out links to the poll on its social channels and it went viral from there.

  • The poll is also tied to a "Person of the Year" newsletter that the company's launching. By Sunday evening, over 530,000 unique emails had registered. 

Why it matters: Everyone loves a good popularity contest. But seriously, it shows that news companies can find success in launching new products off of successful, older franchises.

Yes, but: The poll has been gamed in the past. Most notably, in 2009 members of the fringe-right website community 4chan gamed the poll to put the company's founder in the top position.

  • I asked sources whether this is something Time has considered when looking at this year's viral engagement and they said it was.
  • In order to combat poll abuse, Time has made it so that a single person is only allowed to vote on 3 randomly selected individuals and everyone gets a different three. It also requires people to sign up for the poll by clicking on a link sent to them so that they can verify all user email address.

What's next: Time will eventually disclose the winner of this poll but, ultimately, the decision is selected by Time's editors and will be revealed on Dec. 11.