Former NBA Player Said Close to Buying Sports Illustrated
Reuters: "Ulysses Lee “Junior” Bridgeman, a former U.S. basketball player who became a fast-food mogul, is in the lead to acquire Sports Illustrated magazine from U.S. media company Meredith Corp for about $150M, people familiar with the matter said on Friday... Bridgeman is in the final stages of negotiating a deal for Sports Illustrated after lining up acquisition financing, the sources added. If his effort is successful, a deal announcement could come by the end of the year, according to the sources... One aspect of the deal still being hashed out in the negotiations is the outsourcing agreements related to printing and paper costs of the magazine, one of the sources said. These discussions are common when a buyer who does not own a media company purchases a magazine, the source added... Bridgeman and Meredith declined to comment. Sports Illustrated did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Time Reveals Short List for Person of the Year
On this morning's 'Today' show, the short list for 2018's Person of the Year was revealed. It includes (in no particular order): Donald Trump, separated families, Vladimir Putin, Robert Mueller, Ryan Coogler, Christine Blasey Ford, Jama lKhashoggi, March for Our Lives activists, Moon Jae-in, and Meghan Markle. The actual pick will be revealed on tomorrow morning's Today show.
New Allure Podcast Explores Beauty, Identity
MediaPost: Allure launched its first podcast hosted by editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, on Dec. 6. "The podcast aims to go beyond product recommendations and beauty trends to touch on broader themes of representation, identity and beauty standards. Episodes will air weekly.The first episode featuring “Crazy Rich Asians” actress and rap artist Awkwafina. Lee and Awkwafina discuss Asian representations in Hollywood, unsuccessful beauty looks and Awkwafina's idol, Lucy Liu. Ulta Beauty is the launch partner of the podcast and sponsoring the first five episodes.Ulta Beauty and Allure have also worked together on "See Yourself, See Each Other," a new video and digital series exploring similar themes of representation, skin, gender identity, hair and body positivity.Each episode of the Allure podcast will feature a conversation with an influential voice in the beauty, fashion and entertainment industries. 'There’s no lack of amazing guests to have on,' Lee said"....
Weekly Standard May Get a Reprieve
Washington Post: "The Standard’s owner, Clarity Media Group--which is, in turn, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz--wants to expand its other Washington-based conservative publication, the Washington Examiner, a move that may leave no room for the money-losing Standard.Clarity has been opaque about its plans beyond a statement issue earlier this week reading, 'It is no secret that news organizations across the U.S. are dealing with an evolving business landscape. The Weekly Standard is dealing with these same issues. Clarity Media has been exploring a number of possibilities regarding the future of the Weekly Standard. At this time, Clarity does not have any news to share about the evaluation process.' However, the Standard’s founding editor, Bill Kristol, said Thursday that reports of the publication’s demise had elicited a 'gratifying outpouring of support and, actually, offers to buy or help buy' the magazine. 'So that’s nice,” he said. Kristol declined to name interested parties. He later amended his comment to say that there have been 'expressions of interest from serious people — not quite offers yet, but we’ll see.' In either case, any interest in the Standard would represent progress. Editor Stephen F. Hayes reportedly shopped the publication around earlier this year but did not appear to find a willing buyer. Staffers say they are unsure if Clarity wants to sell the magazine, fold it or somehow incorporate it into the Washington Examiner. The Examiner is revamping its own magazine and would benefit from the Weekly Standard’s subscription list. The Standard has about 48,000 print subscribers"...
Politics Have Taken Center Stage in Women's Magazines
FIPP: "Finding a voice in a changing era is marked by international female empowerment campaigns such as #MeToo and has become a priority. Mainstream fashion magazines though have quickly caught on to demand, and began publishing content that would engage readers in the same ways as their new digital competitors.Leading beauty magazine Elle, for example, has started publishing in-depth features, such as their year long report titled ‘The Warriors’ which tells the stories of Women around the globe fighting for their rights; this report also headlines the website. Meanwhile, in a recent issue of British Vogue, Gemma Arterton wrote about the year of female empowerment - centering on the Time’s Up movement. Drawing in thousands of readers because of their importance in contemporary society - and in turn increasing revenue for brands - it’s apparent these social issues are front cover worthy. In some ways, mainstream magazines have always talked about social issues. The difference is now they are beginning to give under-represented females across the world a platform to voice their stories and views... 'There is now a wealth of research out there to suggest that among the educated millennial audience we serve, feminism (and a wider interest in politics) is way more than just a superficial fad," says Natasha Bird, digital editor of Elle UK. 'In fact, it would be a laughable over-simplification to even call it a ‘trend.’ [Women] want to feel like magazines understand their struggle, represent their needs, will fight with them on the front line against the injustices which they are experiencing. They also want to feel like they aren’t being lied to, that you will be an authentic voice in a sea of people trying to take them for a ride'... Farrah Storr, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, believes the role of magazines has been and should always be to both represent and make sense of what is happening in modern culture. 'Feminism, the fight for free speech, social justice--these are the biggest debates we are having right now and so it’s vital that women’s magazines should cover them with solid, impartial reporting. Whether we like it or not, the cultural agenda is increasingly set by social media. And that can be dangerous. So, the role of any editor, whether the editor of a newspaper or a women’s magazine, is to sit back, analyse the debate, then report it back to our consumers with impartiality'"...
Report Offers Strategies for Turning Readers Into Subscribers
MediaPost: "As part of The Media Insight Project, the American Press Institute recently revealed the results of a survey intended to find out how readers become subscribers. Surveying more than 4,000 recent subscribers at 90 local newspapers across four circulation categories, the study found nine types of readers. It takes more than 70% of them over a month to decide to subscribe to a publication. Almost 50% of respondents reportedly took at least a year. The surveyors found the time it took varied across readers and was determined by their stage in life and interests. Types of readers included Topic Hunters, Locally Engaged, Social Media and Mobile Discoverers, Life Changers, Coupon Clippers, Print Fans, Friends and Family, Journalism Advocates, and Digital Paywall Converters. The in-depth report offers strategies to publishers looking to covert each type. For example, the report found that Digital Paywall Converters care most about unlimited access and were willing to subscribe after hitting their allotted number of stories. The suggestion for snagging a subscriber? Make the process as easy as possible across multiple devices and ways to pay. According to the report, these types of subscribers can also be Topic Hunters, are usually young and male, and are likely to subscribe to large metro newspapers.Coupon Clippers, who enjoy leafing through a publication and also hunting out discounts, were one of the smallest but most distinct groups uncovered. This group is best reached through bloggers and sites popular with coupon enthusiasts, skews female, suburban, Republican or Independent, and likely became a reader through a Sunday edition.In addition to reader profiles, the results offer resources across nonprofit organizations and newsrooms that further clarify the mystery around locking in subscribers. The study is just a first step in getting to know and understand a publication’s audience and turn them into loyal subscribers."
Google Launching Voice-Driven Version of News for Smart Speakers
NiemanLab: Google is experimenting with delivering more personalized audio news feeds through Google Assistant. "'We are combining Google News with the interactivity and voice experience of Google Assistant,” said Liz Gannes, a former reporter for Recode, Gigaom, and AllThingsD who is leading the initiative. The company has spent the past year working with around 130 publishers to build a prototype of a news radio station that customers can control — using voice to skip stories, go back, or stop and dive further into a given topic. It’s built using each story as an individual chunk, rather than a briefing of stories chunked together"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Dollar Stores Now Sell More Food Than Whole Foods
HuffPost: "dollar stores are feeding more people than one of the highest-profile supermarket chains in America. The finding, in a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, is a testament to dollar stores’ growing dominance of the American retail landscape. Grocery sales at the two biggest dollar brands, Dollar Tree and Dollar General, approached $24B this year, compared with roughly $15B at Whole Foods, according to private market data from the research firm Chain Store Guide. The ILSR is using the numbers to highlight the threat to independent businesses posed by low-end retail monopolies. 'In small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores are leading full-service grocery stores to close,' the ILSR’s Marie Donahue and Stacy Mitchell write in their report. 'And their strategy of saturating communities with multiple outlets is making it impossible for new grocers and other local businesses to take root and grow.' Those two dollar brands operate nearly 30,000 stores, most of them very small with food options including basics like milk, bread, frozen vegetables and canned soup (Whole Foods, by contrast, has about 450 stores, with a focus on fresh produce). The stores use their smallness as an advantage over supermarkets that may be located far away from their customers and a chore to navigate"...
United Supermarkets Accepting Customers’ FedEx Packages
PG: "United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos customers are now able to ship FedEx packages directly to a store for pickup, instead of to their homes. 'With the popularity of online shopping, and porch piracy on the rise, people are looking for a safe alternative to the front door for their valuable deliveries,' explained Chris James, COO for Lubbock, Texas-based United. 'As the holiday purchases begin to arrive, we want our new service to give United shoppers convenience and little peace of mind.' United worked with Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx on official delivery protocols to ensure package security and tracking. On a daily basis, a trained United associated will receive all FedEx packages and place them in a secure holding area behind the Guest Services Counter.To get their packages, customers must present their names and proper identification at Guest Services. The package is then scanned with an official FedEx handheld scanner, to update tracking information, and the customer signs to confirm receipt. Packages still unclaimed at the close of business will be scanned to remain in “inventory” for pickup at a future time.The service, which doesn’t include such other FedEx offerings as shipping or labels, is currently available at 15 Lubbock-area stores"...
SpartanNash Intros Mobile Self-Checkout in 2 Family Fares
PG: "SpartanNash has launched a mobile app that speeds up grocery shopping trips by allowing patrons to use their mobile devices for scanning, bagging and paying for groceries.Currently available at two Michigan Family Fare stores – one each in Hudsonville and Wyoming – the app will expand to additional retail stores in 2019. To use the app, store guests: Download it from either the iTunes or Google Play store, then log into it with their Yes loyalty account; connect to the store's Wi-Fi, scan barcodes on products as they shop (or visit electronic produce scales to add items) and bag the items; and check out at the Check Out Now kiosks. Since Check Out Now integrates with Yes accounts, store guests can access special Check Out Now-only deals throughout the store, as well as digital coupons, clubs, rewards and fuel savings at checkout... SpartanNash last summer introduced its Fast Lane service, which began as a click-and-collect program and has since added delivery service. The company has subsequently expanded both services and also added digital coupons to the grocery ecommerce program"...
Ingles Reports Year-End Gains
SN: "Ingles Markets Inc. posted increased sales for its 2018 fiscal year and got a lift at the bottom line from deferred tax benefits.For the 52 weeks ended Sept. 29, Ingles posted sales of $4.09B, up 2.3% from $4B for the 53-week 2017 fiscal year. Excluding the 53rd week in the previous year, the Asheville, N.C.-based grocer’s fiscal 2018 sales would have risen 4.2%. Leading the way were gains in nonfoods and perishables, while grocery sales were virtually flat.Same-store sales for the year rose 2% (excluding fuel) on a comparable 52-week basis, Ingles said. Transaction count edged up 0.3%, and the average transaction size grew 2.2%. Fiscal 2018 net earnings totaled in at $97.4M, vs. net income of $53.9 million a year earlier. Ingles noted that the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and a depreciation calculation method change generated nonrecurring tax benefits of $37.3 million. Pretax income for fiscal 2018 was $80.3 million versus $84.3 million in the prior year, with the decrease attributable mainly to the extra week in fiscal 2017, the company said.Basic and diluted earnings per share for Ingles Class A common stock were $4.94 and $4.81, respectively, in fiscal 2018, up from $2.74 and $2.66 per share in 2017.Gross profit for fiscal 2018 (52 weeks) rose 1.7% to $980.2M from $963.6M in fiscal 2017 (53 weeks). Ingles reported that gross profit was 24% of sales in 2018 vs. 24.1% in 2017. In the grocery segment, gross profit as a percentage of total sales (excluding fuel) gained 31 basis year over year primarily due to a favorable change in the mix of products sold, offset by a slightly lower dollar gross margin on gasoline sales, the company said... Ingles Markets Inc. posted increased sales for its 2018 fiscal year and got a lift at the bottom line from deferred tax benefits.For the 52 weeks ended Sept. 29, Ingles posted sales of $4.09B, up 2.3% from $4B for the 53-week 2017 fiscal year. Excluding the 53rd week in the previous year, the Asheville, N.C.-based grocer’s fiscal 2018 sales would have risen 4.2%. Leading the way were gains in nonfoods and perishables, while grocery sales were virtually flat.Same-store sales for the year rose 2% (excluding fuel) on a comparable 52-week basis, Ingles said. Transaction count edged up 0.3%, and the average transaction size grew 2.2%. Fiscal 2018 net earnings totaled in at $97.4M, vs. net income of $53.9M a year earlier. Ingles noted that the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and a depreciation calculation method change generated nonrecurring tax benefits of $37.3M. Pretax income for fiscal 2018 was $80.3M vs. $84.3M in the prior year, with the decrease attributable mainly to the extra week in fiscal 2017, the company said.Basic and diluted earnings per share for Ingles Class A common stock were $4.94 and $4.81, respectively, in fiscal 2018, up from $2.74 and $2.66 per share in 2017.Gross profit for fiscal 2018 (52 weeks) rose 1.7% to $980.2M from $963.6M in fiscal 2017 (53 weeks). Ingles reported that gross profit was 24% of sales in 2018 vs. 24.1% in 2017. In the grocery segment, gross profit as a percentage of total sales (excluding fuel) gained 31 basis year over year primarily due to a favorable change in the mix of products sold, offset by a slightly lower dollar gross margin on gasoline sales, the company said. “Our associates’ hard work and dedication contributed to our outstanding sales. We will continue to invest in our business for sustainable long-term growth,” Chairman Robert Ingle said in a statement.In Q4 2018, which had 13 weeks, sales totaled $1.06B, down nearly 2.8% from $1.09B in the 14-week 2017 quarter. Excluding the extra week, sales would have increased about 4.7%. Comp-store sales, adjusted for 52 weeks, grew 2.3% (excluding fuel) and reflect year-over-year gains in customer count and average transaction size, Ingles said.The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $18.4M, vs. $19.4 million in the year-ago period, which had an extra week of operations. Basic and diluted EPS for Ingles Class A common stock were 94 cents and 91 cents, respectively, in the 2018 quarter versus 99 cents and 96 cents a year earlier.Gross profit in Q4 was $256.4M, or 24.2% of sales, vs. $261.3M, or 24% of sales, in the 14-week 2017 quarter.During fiscal 2018, Ingles opened five new stores and closed four locations, some of which the company said were or are being rebuilt. Other store improvement projects focused on enhancements in merchandising, convenience and the range of products offered to customers, according to the company.As of Sept. 29, Ingles operated 190 supermarkets under Ingles banner and 10 under Sav-Mor banner in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama. The retailer also has 108 in-store pharmacies and 102 fuel stations."
Will Urban Millennials Take to Dollar General's DGX Format?
RetailWire: "A big dollar store chain that’s been described as “taking over rural America” is now upping its urban presence with a new store concept tailored specifically to the city.Dollar General is expanding its test of a small store concept under the banner, DGX, a Millennial-focused concept half the size of a traditional 9,000 square-foot Dollar General, according to Bloomberg. DGX features a familiar dollar store assortment with a low-price focus and free Wi-Fi. There are currently three DGX locations nationwide, the most recent one having recently opened in Philadelphia. Others may be coming soon as part of Dollar General’s rapid planned 13,000 store expansion, which will almost double its number of existing stores.City-dwelling Millennials continue to be a good demographic for dollar stores to court given the generation’s characteristic deal-mindedness. A recently released paper by the Federal Reserve confirms that Millennials earn less and are faced with higher costs than previous generations, as reported by CNBC. As it tries to woo the Millennial consumer, Dollar General has begun to pilot some additional store enhancements in its main-line locations that are unique in the world of dollar stores. For instance, it recently announced that it was piloting its DG Go! app, the first scan and go system in the dollar store space. In addition to speeding along the checkout process, the app automatically applies coupons and alerts customers to deals.As it moves into urban markets with DGX, Dollar General will find itself up against a chain it has some history with.In 2014, Family Dollar rejected a merger offer from Dollar General based on the perceived antitrust risk. But the following year, competitor chain Dollar Tree undertook a merger with Family Dollar.Now may be an advantageous time for Dollar General to enter the market against the chain it was once courting — especially with a better, more customer-focused and well-maintained store experience. All has not been well for the combined Dollar Tree/Family Dollar since the merger, however. The Wall Street Journal reported early in November that Family Dollar is dragging down Dollar Tree’s overall financials"...
Amazon's Crackdown on Seller Scams Includes Firing Employees
WSJ: Amazon "is fighting a barrage of seller scams on its website, including firing several employees suspected of having helped supply independent merchants with inside information, according to people familiar with the company’s effort.Amazon was investigating suspected data leaks and bribes of its employees, The Wall Street Journal reported in September. Since then, the company has dismissed several workers in the U.S. and India for allegedly inappropriately accessing internal data that was being misused by disreputable merchants, these people said.Amazon in recent weeks also has deleted thousands of suspect reviews, restricted sellers’ access to customer data on its website and stifled some techniques that trick the site into surfacing products higher in search results, according to the people"..
Opinion: Walgreens Among Donors Behind Wisconsin Power Grab
NY Times columnist David Leonhardt writes: "To protect a tax break, the company has allied itself with Wisconsin’s brutally partisan Republican Party. That party is now in the midst of a power grab, stripping authority from Wisconsin’s governor and attorney general solely because Republicans lost those offices last month. The power grab comes after years of extreme gerrymandering, which lets Republicans dominate the legislature despite Wisconsin being a closely divided state.Wisconsin’s Republicans really are trying to undo democracy. When I asked Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt — the political scientists who wrote the recent book “How Democracies Die” — about the situation, they agreed that the Wisconsin power grab was the sort of move their book describes. If it continues, it can lead to the breakdown of a political system. So you might think that an organization that claims to care about community values would speak up. But Walgreens has not. Neither have other corporate supporters of Wisconsin Republicans, like Microsoft, Dr Pepper Snapple, J.P. Morgan Chase or Humana. It’s yet another example — alongside soaring C.E.O. pay and stagnant worker wages — of corporations abdicating the leadership role they once played in America.The story of Walgreens and Wisconsin has its roots in a decade-old court case.In 2008, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of an aggressive tax strategy by the company, in a case known as Walgreens v. City of Madison. When calculating the property taxes it owed, Walgreens used an artificially low valuation of its stores. It did not pay taxes based on the actual value of those stores, as reflected by their purchase price and rent. Instead, it took into account the value of vacant stores nearby. The court ruling allowed this “dark-store” practice — by Walgreens and other retailers — costing cities and towns millions upon millions of tax dollars. The resulting budget shortfalls, local officials point out, have caused taxes on families and small businesses to rise more in Wisconsin than in neighboring Minnesota.The Walgreens loophole is deeply unpopular, based on the results of a nonbinding ballot initiative across Wisconsin. And last year, a bipartisan group of state legislators began a push to change the law. But then, somewhat mysteriously, the effort died. The legislature’s Republican leaders — including Robin Vos, the Assembly speaker, and Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate majority leader — appeared to play a crucial role in the demise of that measure.A few weeks later, Walgreens donated $1,000 to Vos. Over the summer, it donated another $6,000 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. A couple of weeks before Election Day, the company gave $1,000 to Fitzgerald. These donations weren’t simply a matter of spreading money around. Walgreens did not donate to state-level Democrats this year, as it has in the past"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: