Sep 10, 2019

Axios Media Trends

Good morning from Long Beach, where media and marketing execs are gathered for the annual WORLDZ summit.

  • Axios editor-in-chief Nick Johnston and I will be hosting a talk on Smart Brevity today at 9:30 a.m. PST and I'll be interviewing BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti tomorrow at 11 a.m. Shout if you're here. 

Today's Media Trends is 1,875 words, a 7 minute read.

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1 big thing: Snapchat readies 2020 push


Snapchat is creating a dedicated news channel specifically for the 2020 debates, and working with candidates to increase their visibility on Snapchat through efforts with augmented reality and even merchandise sales.

Why it matters: The company is doing more to increase civic and political engagement on its platform as it readies a more aggressive push into news, sources tell Axios.

Details: The curated "Democratic Primary Debate Channel" will be live on September 12 during the debate, as well as the following morning, targeted to select users who are interested in news and political content.

  • The channel will live within Snapchat's content arm, Discover, and will feature updates from all of the top candidates that are on Snapchat, as well as primary coverage from vetted news providers and some vetted user content.
  • The channel will exist as a pop-up around each debate leading up to the election. The company began testing the idea during July's Democratic debates.

Be smart: Sources tell Axios that part of Snap's pitch for politicians to get more involved in the platform around debates is that the debate channel will increase their exposure to a key voting demographic, elevating their stories and content for youngsters who don't necessarily opt-in to receive political content.

  • About 80% of Snapchat users in the U.S. are 18 or older, the voting age, per Snapchat's Ads Manager application programming interface (API).

Snapchat is also investing more in political news programming. It recently moved its political news show "Good Luck America," hosted by Peter Hamby, from weekly to daily, upon seeing that political news consumption is becoming more of a daily habit of Snapchat users.

  • More efforts to increasing voter participation will also be part of Snapchat's 2020 strategy. Last cycle, the company coded a voter registration button to a key section of the app, which sources say it also plans to do for 2020.

Go deeper.

2. Newspaper execs turn to lobbying to save industry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Senior executives from 8 major newspaper publishing companies will head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to convince lawmakers to do something about the dominance of tech companies over content creators, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: This will be just the 2nd time that the newspaper industry has sent members to formally lobby members of Congress. It speaks to the major increase in lobbying efforts that the newspaper industry has used in recent years to combat the economic decline of its industry.

"Our challenge is that this industry has no history of publishers talking to members about their businesses because there weren’t really any federal issues for them to lobby for a long time."
— David Chavern, President and CEO News Media Alliance

Details: Leaders from The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, Tribune Publishing Company, News Corps, Star Tribune, Gannett, The Post and Courier in Charleston and Philadelphia Media Network will meet with lawmakers one-on-one to rally support for their anti-trust safe harbor bill and to educate them about the economic plight of the newspaper industry.

  • The focus will be on convincing lawmakers, especially those in the Senate, that the dominance of Google and Facebook is hindering newspapers' ability to build to build a sustainable digital future for journalism by talking about their personal economic woes at their own local papers.

See who they're meeting with.

BONUS: Why newspapers matter to local
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Data: Dewitt Wallace Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite economic hardships, newspapers are still the most frequent producers of original local stories, according to a new report from researchers at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy.

Why it matters: Newspapers are often relied on in local markets to help break local stories that are then elevated by local television and radio. Because local newspaper closures are outpacing their local broadcast and radio counterparts, one can expect less original reporting to flow through the entire local news ecosystem.

3. Scoop: NBC local TV group will no longer use ratings to sell ads

Beginning this week, all NBC and Telemundo-owned local TV stations will use impressions instead of traditional ratings points to measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness, according to an agency pitch document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Local TV and radio are the last forms of media to still rely on traditional ratings points to measure the effectiveness of an ad campaign. Nearly every other type of media uses the cost per impression (CPM) to measure an ad's effectiveness.

  • According to the document, NBC/Telemundo owned-stations' sales teams will begin to move to CPM measurement "starting immediately."
  • "Consumers no longer only watch TV in a traditional linear fashion – Rating points only measure linear television," the document says. "Local TV needs to measure video viewing across all platforms."

Be smart: Most local TV stations have websites and apps that distribute content on multiple platforms besides live, linear broadcast, but an antiquated ratings system has made it hard for them to sell against any kind of digital viewership.

How it works: Broadly, by switching from ratings to impression-based measurement, media buyers can target more people. That's because there are a number of areas that are too small to create a ratings point, so agencies couldn't target long-tail TV audiences in more remote communities.

The big picture: Most agencies don't transact on impressions at the local broadcast level, says Kathy Doyle, EVP of Local Investment at MAGNA Global. "We were the first ones, and as far as I know. The other media agencies I've spoken to were talking about putting it in place for 2020, last I heard."

What's next: Expect other local television groups to move to impressions quickly. Once agencies begin transacting at the local level for one group via impressions, the entire ecosystem will follow.

  • TV networks plan to include out-of-home (OOH) audiences in national ratings in 2020, Variety's Brian Steinberg reports. That would have major ramifications for networks like ESPN and CNBC, which are mostly viewed out-of-home.

The bottom line: "This is a game-changer for local," says Frank Comerford, the chief revenue officer and president of commercial operations for NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

  • "We need to do this and should’ve done it a long time ago but no one wanted to upset the Apple cart. But now, the risk isn’t upsetting marketplace, it’s missing the marketplace."
4. Everything's going live
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Data: Vivid Seats; Chart: Axios Visuals

In today's over-saturated media world, Hollywood executives and rising stars know they've made it big when they're able to sell out live events, not just create a hit TV show, podcast or video channel.

What's new: New data from Vivid Seats shows that the amount of live events based off TV dramas and characters has increased dramatically, allowing big media companies and stars to make loads of cash off the small screen.

The big picture: A similar event is happening across all mediums. As Axios noted last month, podcast events are making a killing from live events.

Some fun surprises from the data:

  • Food shows are especially appealing. VividSeats says Antoni Porowski's Kitchen book tour which started this week is getting tons of traffic. Live cooking shows for celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray and Ina Garten also tend to do well.
  • Adult programming is taking off. Ten years ago, almost all TV shows as live events were exclusively children's shows, but now adult shows have started jumping on the live event train, including Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, Bravo Con, and Bachelor Live.
  • Big TV personalities tend to bring in solid live audiences. Oprah Winfrey, Bill O'Reilly and Dr. Phil are all examples of TV heavyweights in the live show space.

Our thought bubble: Before the era of smartphones and TV everywhere, celebrities would know they made it big if they got picked up on television or radio. Now, they know they've made it big if they can sell out a live show.

5. AT&T under pressure over acquisitions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Activist investor Elliott Management disclosed a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T yesterday, setting up a battle to oust CEO Randall Stephenson, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

  • A source close to the situation say that Elliott wants someone with a Silicon Valley pedigree to take over.
  • AT&T recently promoted John Stankey to its No. 2 role and heir apparent to Stephenson, but Elliott apparently wants him out too, per NBC News.

Why it matters: Elliott believes that AT&T shares have underperformed for the past decade and pins much of the blame on its strategy of building a conglomerate in an age of vertical focus. This includes criticism of its deals for:

  • T-Mobile: "The most damaging deal was the one not done," because the record breakup fee gave T-Mobile the capital to become a viable competitor.
  • DirecTV, which Elliott believes is a business in secular decline.
  • Time Warner, which Elliott calls a "spectacular company" that AT&T hasn't given a "clear strategic rationale" for owning.

Almost immediately after the news broke, analysts began speculating whether a merger between DirecTV and Dish, the other largest U.S. satellite business, is possible, or if it was worth it for AT&T to spin out the business.

  • In a note to clients Monday, New Street Research wrote that "the odds are considerably better" for regulators to approve a merger between AT&T's DirecTV satellite business and Dish's. (The two company's tried and failed to merge the businesses in 2002. AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015.)
  • Some analysts have been signaling that AT&T's stock would rally if it spun out the business, although not all agree.
  • "DirecTV is a mess, but would it be worth more if it were spun out, or even merged with Dish Network? Probably not," wrote Craig Moffett Senior Analyst at MoffettNathanson in a note to clients Tuesday.

Be smart: This might be a decision AT&T already agrees with, as we've been hearing divestiture rumblings (perhaps reflected by AT&T switching the name of its skinny bundle from DirecTV Now to AT&T Now).

6. Tech floats legacy ad markets
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Data: eMarketer and Zenith Media; Chart: Axios Visuals

Big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as newer direct-to-consumer (DTC) tech upstarts like Away and Peloton, are driving advertising growth for legacy industries like traditional TV and out-of-home (billboard) companies.

Why it matters: The very industry that's upending legacy media companies is also the one keeping their ad businesses afloat.

  • Driving the news: Out-of-home (OOH) advertising grew by high-single digits for the third consecutive quarter during Q2 of this year, according to Vincent Letang, executive vice president and director of global forecasting for Magna Global, the media buying unit of global ad agency IPG.
  • TV networks are also seeing increases, thanks in large part to the commercial spending by tech rivals on linear channels. Both broadcast and cable networks saw their ad businesses grow and stabilize last quarter, due in part to the investments made by big tech companies.

Flashback: In the late '90s, spending by dotcom-era tech companies flooded print outlets, particularly magazines and newspapers, with cash. When that market collapsed at the turn of the millennium, print began a long decline that hasn't yet ended.

7. 1 fun thing: Netflix, the culture exporter

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Netflix continues to expand its presence around the globe, it is increasingly investing in the production and distribution of localized, foreign-language content designed to woo international audiences, Axios' Shane Savitsky writes.

Why it matters: Hollywood has long been seen as the global cultural force, shipping both American values and the English language worldwide.

  • Now, Netflix's household ubiquity and deep pockets are pushing back on that stranglehold, granting users easy access to foreign content that they may have never considered in the past.

Go deeper.