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January 22, 2018

Publishing News

Conde Further Expands Spire Ad Capabilities
MediaPost: "In 2015, Condé Nast launched Spire, a platform that targets potential customers for advertisers through the company’s readership, in an effort to create a more productive experience for its partners. 2017 saw several expansions of the platform. They include a partnership that connects Condé Nast's customer data to the Nielsen Catalina API, and the acquisition of CitizenNet, a social-media-first marketing partner that allows the media company to connect advertisers with potential customers across platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Last week, Condé Nast announced some of the results of using Spire’s capabilities along its advertising platform, in addition to expansions to platform. The results span multiple industries. One beauty company saw top-of-the-mind awareness grow by 33% after using Spire to market new luxury skin-care products. A travel partner using the platform to drive favorability and visit intent saw increases of 9% and 45%, respectively. Finally, a retail client on the hunt for new consumers and a boost in incremental sales saw results in three areas. Brand awareness increased by 44%, household purchasing went up by 46% and the partner saw a $1.86 return on ad spend. To continue to build up its ad revenue with the use of Spire, Condé Nast announced further expansion of Spire's capabilities, enabling the company to connect advertisers with consumers even more efficiently, using the combined attributes of Nielsen data and CitizenNet. “Spire gives us the ability to follow consumers through every stage of the purchase journey, and we can directly connect advertisers with the consumers they’re most interested in, at the earliest point of their purchasing decisions—when they’re discovering what they want to buy through our content," stated Condé CRO/CMO Pamela Drucker Mann.

Source: Newsweek Probe Focused on Alleged Money Laundering
NY Post: "The Manhattan district attorney’s Newsweek probe is focusing on alleged money laundering, The Post has learned. The probe, run out of the DA’s cyber-crimes unit, is looking into a possible “money trail” linking San Francisco’s Olivet University and former executives at Newsweek Media Group, the magazine’s parent, according to a source close to the company. Olivet was founded by followers of a controversial Christian fundamentalist church headed by Korean-American pastor David Jang, who has long been rumored to have helped finance IBT Media--now known as Newsweek Media Group. IBT Media co-founders Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis, the company’s ex-CEO and ex-chief content officer, respectively, have consistently denied any financing link.Uzac and Davis no longer have operational responsibilities at the company but remain part owners, a company spokesman said..."

Meredith Announces Pricing Of Senior Notes And Allocation Of Senior Credit Facilities
From a release on Friday, Jan. 19: Meredith Corp. announced that "it has priced at 6.875% its offering of $1.4B senior unsecured notes due 2026... Meredith also announced that it has allocated $2.15B of secured credit facilities, which are expected to be comprised of a 7-year $1.8B term loan at an interest rate of LIBOR + 3% and a $350M 5-year revolving credit facility at an initial interest rate of LIBOR + 3%. Meredith expects the notes offering and the senior credit facilities to close on or about Jan. 31, 2018, subject to customary closing conditions that include, among other things, the consummation of Meredith's proposed acquisition of Time Inc. Meredith intends to use the net proceeds of the notes offering and the senior credit facilities to fund a portion of its proposed acquisition of Time Inc.; to repay existing Meredith and Time Inc. indebtedness and credit facilities; and to pay other fees and expenses related to Meredith's acquisition of Time Inc. and the related refinancing of Meredith's and Time Inc.'s existing debt..."

Facebook to Let Users Rank Credibility of News
NY Times: "Facebook said on Friday that it planned to prioritize high-quality news on the social network by allowing its users to rank news sources that they see as the most credible and trustworthy.The initiative, which follows an overhaul that Facebook announced last week to emphasize posts, videos and photos shared by friends and family, will not increase the amount of news on the social network. But the move has implications for what news will be consumed on Facebook, potentially favoring the most familiar names in media that are seen as the most credible, while tilting away from lesser-known and less-trusted outlets without solving the issue of whether news could still be distorted.“There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wrote in a post on Friday. “We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective'... The move is also the most recent by Facebook to counter charges that not enough was being done to stamp out fake news and disinformation on its platform. The company was dogged by criticism in late 2016 after the presidential election that too many false stories attacking Hillary Clinton had spread on its site, that way affecting the election’s outcome. Last year, Facebook also acknowledged that Russian agents had used the site to spread divisive and polarizing ads and posts. The same criticism has also engulfed other social media companies such as Twitter, which on Friday said it was emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States that they had interacted with Russian propaganda accounts around the time of the 2016 election.For publishers, Facebook’s new ranking system raised immediate concerns, including whether crowdsourcing users’ opinions on trustworthiness might be open to manipulation.“It is absolutely a positive move to start to try to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of reputation and use brands as proxies for trust,” said Jason Kint, the chief executive of Digital Content Next, a trade group that represents entertainment and news organizations, including The New York Times. “But the devil’s in the details on how they’re going to actually execute on that. How does that get hacked or gamed? How do we trust the ranking system? There’s a slew of questions at this point.' The new system could also potentially favor publishers who are partisan. Facebook users, asked to rank which news they most trust, could choose sites that speak most clearly to their personal beliefs, in effect reducing the prominence of publishers who try to maintain an objective tone..."
NY Times (rate news credibility)

Boing Boing Wants Judge To Dismiss Playboy's Copyright Suit
Boing Boing is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that the company infringed Playboy's copyright by linking to an outside site that displayed photos of centerfolds. 'This lawsuit is frankly mystifying,' the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the online publisher, argues in papers filed Thursday with U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Olguin in the Central District of California. 'Playboy’s theory of liability seems to be that it is illegal to link to material posted by others on the web--an act performed daily by hundreds of millions of users of Facebook and Twitter, and by journalists like the ones in Playboy’s crosshairs here.' The suit, filed last year, stems from a February 2016 Boing Boing post, "Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever." 'Some wonderful person uploaded scans of every Playboy Playmate centerfold to imgur," the post reads... Below was a link to imgur, and a link to a YouTube video featuring the photos. The images on imgur and the YouTube clip are no longer available. Playboy alleged that Boing Boing infringed copyright by posing the links. The complaint specifically said that Boing Boing (and other unknown defendants) 'generate revenue through the advertising on the website pages bearing the subject works, as well as through any referral links to external websites on those pages.' But Boing Boing counters that it has a fair use right to link to outside content and offer commentary..."

Opinion: 3 Hard Truths Publishers Must Face in 2018
In PE, Keith Sibson, VP at product and marketing at PostUp, an email, mobile and social media marketing platform provider, argues that, to direct their strategies going forward, publishers must confront three truths: Facebook is not their friend; ad revenue won't be enough to sustain quality publishers; and publishers must choose between pursuing quality and chasing scale. Column elaborates on each point.


Retail News

Amazon Opens Its Cashierless Convenience Store
Seattle Times: The first Amazon Go cashierless convenience store "will open its doors to the public Monday, [after] a nearly 14-month trial run open only to employees. The store requires customers to scan their smartphone on the way in, tracks them with cameras and other sensors as they browse, and, when they take an item off the shelf, adds it to a virtual cart. Groceries are charged to the customer’s Amazon account when they leave with their goods. Beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, the store is open to anyone with the Amazon Go smartphone app and a linked Amazon account... The concept, which Amazon has termed 'Just Walk Out' shopping, sparked speculation that Amazon could use its high-tech concept as a beachhead to expand into convenience stores or perhaps other categories of physical retail. It was also criticized by grocery-store workers’ unions, which feared an effort to automate the work done by cashiers... Amazon has said the goal isn’t to make retail employees redundant, but to offer convenience you can’t get from a sometimes-crowded deli or corner store.... The store, occupying a corner of the ground floor of Amazon’s Day One skyscraper...offered a demonstration shortly before the lunchtime rush of Amazon employees. A few workers stocked shelves; others milled about, ready to help customers with questions... In a kitchen in the back, a half-dozen staff members were at work slicing vegetables for the sandwiches, salads and other take-away lunch options... The range of items available lands somewhere between that of a small gas-station convenience store and a mainline grocer. Gianna Puerini, the Amazon VP who oversees Go, said in an interview that the aim is for the store’s prices to be competitive with other markets... The company’s internal projections, according to someone familiar with the early stages of Amazon’s plans, determined that a store needed thousands of office workers within a few-block radius to make the investment worthwhile... Dozens of brick-shaped black devices...are suspended just below the ceiling... These use 'a combination of sensor inputs,' Puerini cameras backed by technology built to analyze images, and laser arrays... Puerini [said that] 'the system is highly accurate'... If there is an error...customers can swipe on an item on their receipt within the Amazon Go app to remove a charge for something they didn’t take." NY Times takes readers on a tour of the new store. MediaPost rounds up more coverage; MNB offers in-depth report based on an in-person, pre-opening tour.

Amazon Raises Monthly Prime Sub $2, to $12.99
MediaPost: Amazon is increasing the price of a monthly Prime subscription from $10.99 to 12.99, though for now keeping annual subscriptions at $99, the company said.  The price hike comes amid significant investment in original content -- which comes with its Prime service -- and the continued expansion of its Prime shipping benefits.

Lidl Opening Fewer, Smaller U.S. Stores: Report
PG: "As reported by German business publication Handelsblatt and picked up by Reuters, projected Lidl stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia have been put on hold or cancelled altogether." Reports say Lidl "is having difficulty winning over U.S. shoppers, and is s opening fewer stores than it originally planned and shifting to smaller formats in a bid to capture share... In response to the report, Lidl, which opened its first U.S. stores last June and initially planned to grow to 100 locations by the end of that year, said only that it was “constantly examining and working on [its] property portfolio.” Present in 30 countries, the retailer currently has nearly 50 U.S. stores, but it’s now unclear how many more will be built."

Online Could Threaten the Warehouse Club Model
MNB cites a Washington Post report "asking whether the biggest problem for Costco long-term will be millennials--who rather than traveling to membership warehouse clubs to buy bulk products, will go online and shop on sites such as Amazon and Boxed. 'Warehouse clubs such as Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club have for decades been an American staple: a place where families can stock up on bulk items, try free samples and spend the better part of a weekend morning meandering through aisles filled with 26-packs of canned salmon and king-size mattresses,' the Post writes. 'But as more of Americans’ buying shifts online, some retail analysts say warehouse clubs may largely be left behind.' There are signs, the story says, 'that the sector is falling behind: Warehouse clubs and supercenters cut an average of 2,500 jobs each month in 2017, reversing a longtime trend of steady growth, according to a Post analysis of Labor Dept. data. Between 2009 and 2016, warehouse stores had added an average of 3,000 workers each month. 'The sector received more bad news this month, when Walmart announced it would close 63 Sam’s Club stores, affecting an estimated 10,000 workers. In a tweet, the company said the closures would help ‘better align’ its physical locations with its strategy. (Ten of those locations are being converted to e-commerce distribution centers.) The Post writes, 'Warehouse clubs tend to target middle- and high-income households, which means there is significant overlap between membership at Sam’s Club and Costco (where annual fees are $55 and $65, respectively) and Amazon Prime, which charges $99 per year and stocks a growing supply of essentials in bulk. Nearly two-thirds of American households have Prime, according to data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. As a result, analysts say, more families may be inclined to rethink paying for additional memberships at wholesale clubs.”

Amazon Ranks #2 in Fortune's Most-Admired Companies
Apple ranks #1 in Fortune's 2017 Most-Admired Companies ranking, followed by Amazon. Others in the top 50 include Starbucks (#5), Costco (#13), Coca-Cola (#18), Home Depot (#22), Walmart (#26), Nordstrom (#28), McDonald's (#37), Target (#38) and CVS (#39), PepsiCo (#41) and Nestle (#47).

‘Micro-Grocer’ Fights Hunger with AI-Powered Platform
PG: "AI-powered “micro-grocer” Farmstead, which seeks to reinvent the supermarket model with its new technology, has added a new technology platform to fight hunger and reduce food waste in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a quarter of residents struggle with food insecurity.Buy One, Give One seamlessly connects food vendors, donors and customers who want to contribute to programs that serve hungry children, and helps charities quickly sign up to receive food donations. Customers can simply purchase an eligible product through Farmstead, which will be donated to a local charity within days..."


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