Axios Media Trends

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June 22, 2021

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1 big thing: Quartz, NYT vets launch media company about work

Photo credit: Emma Howells for Charter

Quartz co-founders Kevin Delaney and Jay Lauf, as well as New York Times veteran Erin Grau, are launching a new media and services company called "Charter" that is centered around the future of work, the founders tell Axios.

Details: The self-funded company will have three main revenue streams: sponsorships, subscriptions, services, Delaney and Grau tell Axios.

  • Until this point, Charter has been slowly launching products under the moniker "Reset Work," named after Delaney's newsletter, which he started late last year.
  • The free newsletter, which currently has 20,000 subscribers, tracks trends and provides analysis on workplace issues pegged to the pandemic and its recovery.
  • The team has already sold sponsorships around the newsletter over the past few months to companies like Goldman Sachs and Citrix.

On Tuesday, the company will officially announce its new name and mission at its inaugural summit about the return to work, sponsored by McKinsey & Company, TIME and EgonZehnder.

  • The company has already started building out some of the services it plans to offer companies to help them navigate the future of work, including a new online course and digital certificate on hybrid work management that it's co-created with Nomadic, a B2B training company.

What to watch: The company plans to introduce a subscription service later this summer.

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2. Scoop: The Hill ramps up sale talks

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Hill, a Beltway-based publication that receives significant national traffic to its digital website, is being more aggressively shopped by its owner Jimmy Finkelstein, sources tell Axios.

  • It's held recent talks with broadcasting giant Nexstar Media Group, a source tells Axios.

Why it matters: Finkelstein has held talks for years about offloading the publication, but sources who have been recently pitched on the sale say those talks have gotten more serious amid a ripe deals market and as Finkelstein looks to capitalize on the outlet's success during the Trump-era boom.

  • Sources say The Hill brings in over $20 million in annual revenue. Most of that revenue comes from digital advertising and branded content. It makes a few million annually from events.
  • Two sources say revenues and profits right now are historically high for the outlet. One source notes that there's been an aggressive focus on revenue for the past year as sale talks have become more serious.

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3. Bloomberg leans into personality journalism with new newsletters

Illustration of a fist holding a news microphone.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Bloomberg is launching newsletters centered around two of its top reporters, Axios has learned. The idea is to launch new franchises around talent that will help it lure subscribers.

  • Mark Gurman will write a weekly newsletter about Apple and consumer technology called "Power On." The email is free but there will be a subscriber-only version online that subscribers will receive first and get their questions answered by Gurman weekly.
  • Jason Schreier will write a weekly email that serves as guide to gaming and the gaming entertainment industry called "Game On."

Between the lines: Bloomberg has been using some of its more popular personalities to anchor products around niche beats.

  • It hopes free sampling of those products to their talent's audiences will help push more users to subscribe to Bloomberg's consumer paywall, which costs around $35 per month or about $420 per year.
  • The company in February launched a suite of subscription products around its popular Odd Lots podcast, hosted by Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal,
  • The company reached 300,000 subscribers in April.

The big picture: Newsrooms are experimenting with more personality-driven content as a way to drive subscribers and part of our subscriber acquisition strategy.

  • "I see the brand benefits as very mutual between the publication and the writer," says Jessica Lessin, founder of The Information. "We absolutely want our journalists to be known as their own brands. It's been a core part of our approach since many of us left WSJ."
  • The Information launched a suite of personality-driven newsletters earlier this year, and plans to add more.

Yes, but: For some brands, the line between balancing individual brands versus the company's brand can be tricky.

  • While the New York Times has invested heavily in promoting big names with their own products, like Kara Swisher and Ezra Klein, it's also begun to lay out clearer guidelines for the external opportunities that journalists can participate in.

4. Climate coverage pales compared to weather

Monthly seconds spent covering weather and climate
Data: Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Climate-focused news initiatives are pushing media outlets to devote more coverage to the way climate change impacts extreme weather events, Axios' Andrew Freedman and I write.

Why it matters: Meteorologists and weather journalists, who worry the topic is under-covered and over-politicized, are leading these newsroom efforts in many instances.

Driving the news: On Monday, the nonprofit science research group Climate Central launched a new initiative designed to detect unusual weather or climate events around the country and trigger real-time e-mail alerts to newsrooms with information on the underlying climate change context.

By the numbers: Data from the Stanford cable TV analyzer shows that cable news networks tend to overwhelmingly cover extreme weather events more than climate.

  • Some network newscasts still lead their nightly broadcasts with reports of major weather disasters, without ever mentioning climate change's role.

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5. NEW: Another big Google probe

Data: Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed and Dani Alberti/Axios
Data: Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed and Dani Alberti/Axios

The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation on Tuesday into whether Google has abused its market position by favoring its own online display advertising technology.

Why it matters: The probe will target parts of Google's massive $147 billion annual ads business that have never been investigated formally by regulators, including ways its advertising practices may have shaped its dominance on its video platform YouTube.

  • As Axios' Scott Rosenberg notes, for tech giants, profits far outweigh fines.

The big picture: This is the fourth major investigation into Google's dominance by the European Commission in less than five years.

What to watch: Regulators in the U.S. have been simultaneously probing Google for its dominance in ad tech.

6. Scoop: Two big newsroom shakeups

Rich Lowry is stepping down as editor of National Review's print magazine, he tells Axios.

  • The longtime editor of the conservative opinion magazine will focus on more strategic long-term initiatives as the company's editor-in-chief.
  • Ramesh Ponnuru, a longtime editor with the outlet, will lead the magazine. Ponnuru says he wants to focus on making the magazine "more visually pleasing and intellectually compelling."
  • National Review has roughly 110,000 subscribers, about half for digital. It's increased digital subscriptions about 30% over the last year.

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Steve Scully, the longtime C-SPAN Political Editor and host, is leaving for the Bipartisan Policy Center as senior vice president for communications, Axios has learned.

  • Scully has been with C-SPAN since 1990 and covered eight presidential elections for the network.
  • He has interviewed every president since Gerald Ford, including Ronald Reagan, who he interviewed as a reporter for WSEE-TV in his hometown in Erie, Pa.
  • Last year, C-SPAN placed Scully on administrative leave after he lied about his Twitter account being hacked. Scully was set to moderate the second presidential debate before it was canceled.

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7. New subscription streaming for multicultural audiences

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Exclusive: Fuse Media, an English-language media company that serves mostly Latino and multicultural audiences, is launching a subscription video service later this year, executives tell Axios.

  • The service, which launches this week in beta, will cost around $1.99 monthly, or $19.99 annually, says Fuse Media CEO Mike Roggero.
  • It will include 500 hours of content at launch, and will add more on an ongoing basis, The service will also include a limited number of connected TV ads.
  • "We're in the high 8-figure revenue level," Roggero says. "We've been consistently profitable, which is why we can continue to invest in growth opportunities."

NEW: Univision plans to launch a unified streaming service next year that will include a premium subscription tier, the company said Monday.

  • The expanded service comes on the heels of an announcement this year that Univision will merge with Grupo Televisa S.A.B ("Televisa"), one of the largest media companies in Latin America.
  • The new service will have full access to Televisa’s content library and intellectual property following the close of the deal, making it the largest Spanish-language streaming service globally.
  • The service will pull content from Univision's existing ad-supported streaming service, PrendeTV, as well as its VIX and Univision NOW streaming services.

8. 1 fun thing: Creator wars heat up

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Tech giants like Facebook, Spotify and Twitter are racing to build and acquire new tools that will help them compete with smaller upstarts for the attention of individual creators.

  • Driving the news: Facebook on Monday rolled out long-awaited audio features, including a live audio product and a new tool that allows users to listen to their favorite podcasts while browsing its app.

The big picture: A slew of new upstarts gained traction over the past few years, like Clubhouse for live audio, Discord for groups chats, TikTok for short video, Substack for newsletters and Patreon for tipping and payments.

Go deeper: Full list of efforts by tech companies to launch creator tools.