Axios Media Trends

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July 02, 2019

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Situational awareness: The business fallout from journalism continues to rock newsroom across the country.

  • The local newspaper for Youngstown, Ohio, said over the weekend it will close after 150 years.
  • Dozens of journalists at the 182-year-old New Orleans Times-Picayune were laid off in response to the paper being absorbed Sunday by the New Orleans Advocate.
  • Overall, Bloomberg's Gerry Smith writes that journalism layoffs are at the highest level since the recession.

1 big thing: Trump's 1st Amendment legacy

Illustration: Axios/Sarah Grillo

President Trump’s consistent attacks on free press and access to information, mostly through social media, have forced judges to re-evaluate the rules of political communications in the digital era.

Why it matters: Some of these actions have led to historic legal cases or set new precedents that could create stronger protections in the long term.

Blocking people on Twitter

Heading into the summer, First Amendment advocates are waiting for a ruling that will end a two-year-long debate over whether Trump, and other public officials, can block constituents on social media.

  • In May, a court of appeals ruled in trial court that the president's practice of blocking Twitter users was unconstitutional.
  • The principle from the expected ruling can be applied to like-minded cases throughout the country.
  • This means that any elected official — from a local mayor to the president — who blocks a constituent on Twitter could be found guilty of violating a person's First Amendment rights.
Deleting tweets

Shortly after Trump was elected, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) confirmed that tweets posted by Trump using his @realDonaldTrump handle are considered presidential records.

  • That makes the White House legally responsible for saving deleted or altered tweets and submitting them to Archivist of the United States upon leaving office.
  • This provides more clarity for future presidents over whether their tweets must preserved as historical record.
Press Credentials

Last year, a federal judge found that the White House’s stripping of the security pass of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta was unconstitutional.

  • The ruling establishes a principle that future administrations and other elected officials must provide a meaningful process and establish a real justification, such as a security threat or operational burden created by reporters' actions, in order to revoke a press pass.

Be smart: In many of these cases, courts have had to figure out ways to apply decades- long principles to new mediums.

  • "It's been very good to have clarity around which rules apply when government officials use a social media account," says Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute.

Yes, but: Trump's rhetoric about the media being "the enemy of the people" and "fake news" is dangerous — and it provides cover for authoritarian regimes to threaten journalists around the world, free speech advocates tell Axios.

The bottom line: "Trump's relentless attacks on the free press and on government transparency have yielded strong pushback from ... the media itself, entities like NARA charged with preserving key records, and the federal courts," says Joshua Geltzer, Executive Director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law Center.

2. Netflix tightens its purse strings

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told several senior executives last month that spending on film and TV projects, particularly big budget movies, needed to be more cost-effective, The Information reports.

  • Sarandos reportedly said that big-budget projects need to bring in lots of viewers, not just drive buzz.

Why it matters: Netflix's heavy spending has set the bar for all of the other streamers looking to challenge it.

The big picture: In the past, Netflix used "a ratio of their cost to a measure of viewership that gives more weight to new subscribers and those viewed at risk of canceling," The Information's Jessica Toonkel, Tom Dotan and Beejoli Shahwrite write.

Be smart: Matthew Ball, former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, argues that this is not a sign of trouble for Netflix, but rather a sign of maturation.

  • He says Netflix for a long time needed to focus on creating enough scale to add as many users as possible. Now that it's achieved that, Ball argues it can be pickier.

What's next: There's been a lot of talk about whether companies that make content and own streaming services would eventually pull their titles in favor of their own platforms.

  • NBC said last week that 'The Office' would leave Netflix in 2020 to stream exclusively on NBCUniversal's forthcoming streaming service.
  • Yes, but: Over the weekend, news broke that DC Entertainment, which is owned by AT&T's Warner Bros., would license its new series for its hit comic Sandman to Netflix for a pretty price, proving that theory wrong.

3. Scoop: Mayor Pete filming campaign doc

Photo: Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Scoop with Axios' Alexi McCammond: Story Syndicate, a new production company founded by veteran filmmakers Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan, is creating a documentary on Mayor Pete Buttigieg, according to sources with knowledge of the film.

Why it matters: Buttigieg becomes the latest millennial politician — after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — to turn to docs to define his legacy as an unlikely political challenger.

Details: The documentary details Buttigieg's rise to national attention, chronicling his stops on the campaign trail.

  • Crews have already begun filming, and attended the first Democratic debate in Miami to gather footage.
  • The film at this point has not landed at any one streaming or entertainment company. Sources say its future is contingent on the outcome of Buttigieg's campaign.
  • The film is being independently backed.

Be smart: For younger politicians looking to challenge incumbents, documentaries create an easy way to establish their narratives, before an incumbent does it for them.

  • It also allows them to cement their story within the library of a streaming service, where most young voters are spending increasingly large portions of their media diets.

Go deeper: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in talks to do Green New Deal doc

4. Music's messy moment

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

On Sunday morning, the news about Scooter Bruan buying out Big Machine Label Group was an interesting music industry deal, furthering the power and influence of a private equity-backed holding company that most music-lovers have never heard of.

But as of Monday morning, it was a massive PR debacle, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

  • Why it matters: Private equity now owns Taylor Swift's back catalog — and she isn't happy about it. But in music management, relationships are everything, so don't be surprised to eventually see an amicable resolution.
  • The web of people that have gotten involved in this saga has exploded overnight, as artists and music executives race to either defend or dismantle Swift's argument denouncing the sale. (BuzzFeed News has a good breakdown of who's on which side.)

The big picture: The music industry is changing a lot, but in some cases, experts worry that the economics around ways artists and music publishers are paid is outdated. This is especially true given the plethora of ways music discoverability has changed in the digital era.

  • Case-in-point: The Ringer has a great piece about how artists are turning to TikTok to make their songs go viral through memes, with the hopes of catching the attention of records labels. Meanwhile, Spotify says it's no longer letting artists upload their music directly to its platform.

5. Genres by generation

Reproduced from Nielsen; Note: Genres may not total 100% due to rounding; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Nielsen; Note: Genres may not total 100% due to rounding; Chart: Axios Visuals

New-age musical genres — like R&B and rap, Latin, and electronic/dance —continue to push music consumption towards digital channels, while genres that often cater to older audiences — like Christian/Gospel, Jazz, Rock and Classical — tend to still be consumed via physical albums, according to Nielsen's Music's Mid-Year 2019 report.

The big takeaway: Overall, streaming (both in audio and music video) is way up, and the total number of people actually paying to own albums is way down.

Other key takeaways:

  • Rap and R&B dominates charts when it comes to the overall consumption of music. 7 of the top 10 artists so far this year are rappers or hip-hop artists.
  • Consumption of music from artists facing scandals actually increased a lot. Michael Jackson's music saw an uptick in consumption following the release of HBO's damning "Finding Neverland" documentary. R. Kelly, who's been accused by multiple woman of rape, also saw a lift.
  • Vinyl continues its comeback: Vinyl record sales continue to climb this year, making vinyl the only type of physical album that's still growing in sales.

6. Bernie's social power

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Bernie Sanders captured more online conversation than any other candidate last week following his proposal to wipe out $1.6 trillion in student debt, according to data NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

Why it matters: It shows that the topics that got outsized media attention weren't the ones that animated people the most, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes.

  • By the numbers: Articles about Sanders generated 5.7 million interactions on Facebook and Twitter over the last week, 64% more than those about Biden, the candidate with the second-most interactions.
  • Reality check: Kamala Harris generated more interactions on debate day and the day after than any other candidate — but those numbers were 16% shy of what Sanders racked up for his college debt policy release.

Go deeper: See the interactive

BONUS: Dominating debates

Data: Matroid, provided by GenderAvenger, CNN (first night, second night); Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: Matroid, provided by GenderAvenger, CNN (first night, second night); Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

7. How much revenue Instagram makes per user

Data: eMarketer; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: eMarketer; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Facebook hasn't yet said whether it makes more from users on Instagram versus users on its core service, but a new report suggests that Instagram isn't providing the company with more revenue per person, at least not in the U.S., according to data from eMarketer.

Why it matters: The data shows that despite reports of slowed Facebook app usage and in the U.S., Facebook’s flagship app still monetizes users better than Instagram.

Driving the news: Instagram announced last week that it would begin placing ads over the next few months within its "Explore" tab, or the section of its app that includes tailored recommendations of posts for users to browse, watch or shop.

  • The "Explore" tab was on of the last places on the app that was not commercialized.
  • Facebook says that more than 50% of Instagrams 1 billion+ users use the Explore tab monthly.

The big picture: Instagram's push to increase ad revenue comes amid warnings from executives of slowed ad revenue growth on the main Facebook app News Feed, due to privacy issues, user saturation and less user engagement.

  • This data suggests that Facebook is continuing to grow its revenue per user in other ways, like via video ads on Watch or ads in Facebook's Marketplace section.

What's next: Facebook quietly elevated its top advertising executive David Fischer to chief revenue officer, giving him more oversight into growing revenue across all of its properties, Business Insider's Lauren Johnson reports.

For transparency: eMarketer's methodology ... "Estimates are based on the analysis of various elements related to the ad spending market, including macro-level economic conditions; historical trends of the advertising market; historical trends of each medium in relation to other media; reported revenues from major ad publishers; estimates from other research firms; data from benchmark sources; consumer media consumption trends; consumer device usage trends; and eMarketer interviews with executives at ad agencies, brands, media publishers and other industry leaders."

8. 1 fun thing: Average size of social circles

A new study conducted by Protein Agency and Snap Inc. found that in several countries around the world, people’s average social circle consists of:

  • 4.3 best friends
  • 7.2 good friends
  • 20.4 acquaintances