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June 4, 2020

Publishing News

For Inc., It’s Not About Platform or Product, It’s About Purpose
Excerpts from a Folio: Q&A with Scott Omelianuk, the new editor-in-chief of Inc. magazine, who was there only two months before the Inc. staff "realized our first big events like SXSW weren’t going to happen, and that was a big revenue hit. I also actually got sick before testing, and others here got sick, so we shut down the office. That was interesting timing because we had to close our “Best Work Places” issue, which was my first issue, and it was done from our own work places [at home]… We had to figure out how to pivot that conversation from things like who provided the best amenities and other perks to things that really mattered. We realized the best places all had something in common besides a Ping-Pong table and a nice reception area. And that’s that they were people-first organizations. For me it was a moment of clarity of who our audience really was and what mattered. The best workplaces aren’t physical, but places in our minds made up of people. It made me excited to work on the issue even though we had to reinvent it at the last moment... We started to think about how to replace the things we lost with other opportunities. The first thing we did, almost overnight, was recreate our digital publishing operation to become a 24/7 news outlet. We were publishing every day around the clock, and not just in support of businesses but also providing them the information they needed to stay afloat.We created a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and launched a series of weekly town halls that we did for two months. We would average 10,000-12,500 registrants per event, and by the end of the weekend we’d see another half-million.The town halls were sort of the meat and potatoes of PPP, the Cares Act, financing and all that stuff. But we were also looking to give an emotional boost. So we launched a weekly webinar called “Real Talk.” It’s people who have had success and are willing to give back to entrepreneurs and the small business community and answer questions for an hour.We also orchestrated a million-dollar advertising giveaway on our website for small businesses. We structured it in a way so that a certain number of businesses could take advantage of it, and basically in the span of the first 20 minutes we were fully booked. That was something we were happy to do... It’s not about clicks for us... It’s about being of service. The hope is that in being there in an informative, sober and helpful way, and when things get better they’ll remember that hand we extended and we’ll benefit that way... We have plans for more significant activity around communities of small business owners and entrepreneurs and putting people together who benefit from conversations together. We have some curriculums we’re working on.I have a background in television and I think there are a couple of opportunities there—whatever television means these days. Whether it’s linear or OTT, I think there’s opportunity there.I think there’s opportunity in helping small business owners get the technical resources they need to succeed... I definitely think there’s a need for replicating the town hall for the Hispanic entrepreneurial community... all the plans I have seen include a print magazine. I had Daymond John say something really interesting about Inc. and the magazine. One of the core things we do is provide recognition to those who have been successful. He was talking about promoting his book and I said he could get it on the website on the [book’s] publication date. But his publicist said, “No, no, no, that’s not what we want. We want to be in the magazine.” I asked why and Daymond said that anyone can have a website, but not anyone can have a printing press. That means something more. I think that’s an interesting thought. While there’s no question that we don’t break stories in print anymore, print has become a very different thing and will continue to evolve. It’s one of our assets. I love all of my children equally, whether they’re events or digital, or podcast or anything that comes in the future. They are all individual tools that help us connect with the consumer. So what I am most mindful of is how they want to connect... [But] We don’t exist to print a magazine. We exist to give our community the information it needs. Our purpose isn’t to put ink on paper. Our purpose is to provide inspiration and information"...

Can Publishers Be Liable For Others' Facebook Posts?
MediaPost's Rob Williams writes: "Publishers that post articles on Facebook have a new worry. An Australian court ruled this week they are liable for defamatory comments that other people make about those posts.While it's unlikely the ruling will affect most U.S. publishers, media companies with operations in Australia need to be more mindful of the court's ill-considered decision.Because media companies urge Facebook users to make comments seen by others, they should be considered responsible for the contents of those comments, the highest court in the Australian state of New South Wales ruled on Monday... Australia has been more activist about targeting U.S. digital media companies, like Facebook and Google, possibly out of resentment against Silicon Valley giants that dominate the global media landscape. After a Facebook user posted a live shooting spree at a New Zealand mosque last year, Australia passed a law to fine social media companies that don't remove violent posts quickly. If Australia's ruling on Facebook comments withstands legal challenges, publishers in the country may request that Facebook permanently disable user comments. That would be a shame, since social-media commentary can help publishers gain insights into their audiences, much as letters to the editor have done for years."

ANA Advises Wait-And-See On Trump Social Media Order
MediaPost: "President Trump's recent order regarding social media violates the First Amendment, but reacting to that order now would be premature, according to the Association of National Advertisers' general counsel Doug Wood. In a statement issued Wednesday, Wood criticized Trump for “using his bully pulpit to issue threats” aimed at dictating how web companies treat content on their platforms. At the same time, he is recommending that advertisers take a wait-and-see approach to the order. “We are advising restraint for the time being,” he says in an email to MediaPost. “It’s best to let this play out and monitor what will impact brands.” Wood's comments come almost one week after Trump signed an executive order directing regulators to consider crafting rules that could tie web companies' protection from lawsuits to content moderation policies. That order directs the Commerce Department to petition the FCC for regulations that could deprive online platforms of their immunity from civil suits based on material posted by users. Trump issued the directive after Twitter alerted users to dubious claims in two of his tweets. The order also contains sweeping language accusing Twitter and other platforms of “censorship,” because they sometimes remove or restrict users' content. But Wood says Trump is the one violating the First Amendment, by attempting to compel private companies to carry speech. “The First Amendment protects us from having the government suppress or compel our speech except in very limited circumstances,” Wood states. “If speech is political in nature, it's perfectly fine to lie. That's what politicians often do. But that does not mean publishers or media companies have to perpetuate lies if they deem that unacceptable"... Wood says the ANA does not currently plan to join in that lawsuit. “That does not diminish our concerns. We will speak and defend the rights of marketers if they are threatened. As of now, it’s a lot of hyperbole that may or may not prove to be effective.” He adds that regulators will seek comments from affected parties before taking action. “It is at that point when the ANA will speak,” he says."


Retail News

Another 1.9 Million File for Unemployment
USA Today: "About 1.9M Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, underscoring that even as all 50 states begin reopening their economies, the damage from the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount. Over the past 11 weeks, 42.6M workers have sought jobless benefits as states shut down nonessential businesses to curtail the spread of the virus, Labor Department data shows. The figure provides the best measure of layoffs across the U.S."...

Costco's Sales Up 7.5% in May
SN: "Costco Wholesale posted strong sales gains in May as the warehouse club saw ongoing growth in purchases of food, groceries and essentials and began reopening some services closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. For the four weeks ended May 31, net sales totaled $12.55B, up 7.5% from a year earlier. Overall comp sales rose 5.4% YoY, and were up 9.7% excluding the impact of changes in fuel prices and foreign exchange rates. U.S. comps grew 5.5% (9.2% excluding fuel and forex), while Canada had a 0.9% decrease (+4.9% excluding fuel and forex). International comp sales advanced 12% and were up 17.9% backing out fuel and foreign exchange... Costco’s customer traffic in May declined 4.8% year over year in the U.S. and 7.9% worldwide. The average transaction, however, grew 14.4% overall, reflecting negative impacts from foreign exchange and fuel price deflation"...

Amazon Sued Over Warehouse Safety, After Worker-Related Death
Reuters: " Inc has been sued for allegedly fostering the spread of the coronavirus by mandating unsafe working conditions, causing at least one employee to contract COVID-19, bring it home, and see her cousin die. The complaint was filed on Wednesday in the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, by three employees of the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, and by family members.One employee, Barbara Chandler, said she tested positive for COVID-19 in March and later saw several household members become sick, including a cousin who died on April 7... The lawsuit said Amazon has made JFK8, which employs about 5,000, a “place of danger” by impeding efforts to stop the coronavirus spreading, boosting productivity at the expense of safety... Amazon did not comment on the lawsuit, but said it has always followed guidance from health authorities and its workplace safety experts since the coronavirus pandemic began."

Walmart Removes Guns from Some Stores During Protests
Fast Company: "As protests around the country over the killing of Gorge Floyd at the hands of police officers enter their second week, brick-and-mortar retailing giant Walmart has confirmed that it has removed firearms and ammunition from some of its stores across the country. The move comes after some retailers, including Walmart competitor Target, have been looted during the overwhelmingly peaceful protests. As of result of that looting, however, Walmart decided to take precautionary measures. The retailer confirmed the move in a statement to CNN Business:As a responsible seller of hunting and sporting firearms, we have temporarily removed firearms and ammunition from the sales floor in some stores out of an abundance of caution. As noted by CNN Business, some Walmart stores in areas that have experienced looting already do not sell guns or ammunition. And in areas where no looting has been reported, Walmart stores that do sell guns and ammo will continue to do so."


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