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October 27, 2021

Publishing News

Note to Readers: A power outage due to the Northeaster kept us from bringing you Tuesday's edition of MBR News.

80+ Print Magazines Launched Year-to-Date
MrMagazine: "Black Cannabis magazine and 46 other new titles arrived on newsstands Between April and September 2021. The new arrivals join 34 titles launched in Q1 2021, bringing the total to 81 titles so far... From Bauer’s Drew magazine to AIM’s Finding Home, there is no shortage of new ideas to reach customers searching for curated and edited content. From Kindling to Mother Tongue, from InPickleball to PawPrint, and from the $95 a copy (and worth every penny) Curious magazine from the newly established Curious Society, to the latest addition in bicycling magazines, BETA… you name the subject and rest assured you are going to find a title or two (well make that three or four) that addresses that subject matter in a very engaging, entertaining and authentic way like no other mass medium can ever do"...

Advertisers Drawn to Climate-Related Content
Digiday: "As publishers invest in more climate coverage this year, the question remains whether or not this content category is also drawing interest from advertisers.For BBC, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Group Nine Media and The Economist, the answer is yes — with most saying advertisers are sending out more requests for publishers to pitch campaign or sponsorship opportunities around their solutions-based journalism, showing a growing interest this year in publishers’ coverage of climate and sustainability"...
Digiday (paywall)

Unredacted Google Lawsuit Validates Publisher Complaints
MediaPost's Rob Williams writes: "Google’s dominance in the online advertising market is evident in its ability to collect 22% of 42% of media spending handled by its systems, according to a lawsuit by state attorneys general that was unredacted last week. Those previously blacked-out sections have more details that should validate publisher complaints about the search giant. The commission that Google collects from its AdX marketplace for digital ads is about two to four times as much as fees for other exchanges, the suit claims. “If Google’s exchange sells $100,000 worth of a publisher’s inventory, Google will extract at least $19,000,” according to a previously redacted section of the suit. The complaint also cites a Google employee as saying, “an exchange shouldn’t be an immensely profitable business” like Google’s AdX, but should instead be “like a public good used to facilitate buyers and sellers.” The unredacted version of the lawsuit filed by Texas and 11 other states in December argues that Google has abused its dominance in online auctions for advertising. News organizations including the Associated Press, Dow Jones, Reuters, Advance Publications and The New York Times had asked the court to uncover the redacted parts of the complaint. Citing internal company documents, the suit says Google’s publisher ad server, Google Ad Manager, served 75% of all display ad impressions in the U.S. in third quarter of 2018. In addition, the company’s ad-buying tools, such as Google Ads and DV360, win more than 80% of the auctions in its exchange. The suit also claims that Google deceived publishers about its Dynamic Allocation process of handling auctions of ad inventory, and knew that it didn’t maximize the yield for publishers. “Google internally discussed how publishers could make more money selling their inventory if exchanges really competed,” according to a previously redacted part of the complaint, which in an earlier version said competition would boost the clearing prices for publishers by an average of 40%. The unredacted complaint also has more details about Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, the Google-hosted versions of web pages that load more quickly on smartphones. However, publishers saw 40% less revenue from AMP pages, according to Google’s internal documents. Facing a threat from header bidding, Google employees discussed playing a “jedi mind trick” by “getting publishers to come up with the idea to remove exchanges…on their own” by stoking worries about straining publishers’ websites, the unredacted complaint says. The allegations should worry publishers that depend on Google’s technology to sell digital ads. The company has refuted the claims as inaccurate, but more transparency is needed to alleviate the concerns of media buyers and publishers."

Conde Nast Entertainment's Secret to Faster Content Adaptations
Digiday: "Formed in 2011, Condé Nast Entertainment has had a hand in adapting Condé Nast’s content into shows and movies, including an article by GQ that was made into Netflix documentary series “Last Chance U” and a short story from The New Yorker into Robert Redford-starring film “The Old Man and the Gun.” But now CNE is looking to play an even bigger role in Hollywood. “What we’re doing in film and television is a real, deliberate and intentional lean into our brands in a way that we haven’t done before,” said Agnes Chu, the former Disney+ executive who became CNE president in September 2020. Under Chu, CNE has hired a roster of experienced Hollywood heads to help raise the magazine publisher’s profile in Tinseltown. That includes Helen Estabrook, an Oscar-nominated producer who joined CNE in March 2021 as global head of film and TV and joined Chu on the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast. Estabrook’s charge has been to have Condé Nast’s entertainment arm working more closely with its publications to identify articles, short stories as well as podcasts that can be developed and adapted into film and TV projects. “We’re creating new systems of working so that we can work with them in the ways that they have all individual systems for how they work, for how they find stories or how they tell those stories,” said Estabrook. “It is one great production company, but in some ways, it’s several different production companies because it’s GQ Studios and The New Yorker Studios and Vanity Fair Studios.” From the Q&A: Chu: "With the partnership and the collaboration that we’re building with our editors and the publications, we're aligning our timelines so that we’re very early on in identifying great IP that could be made into a great film or a great television show.... Estabrook: With our “Hillsong” project.. [and] “A People’s History of Black Twitter” out of Wired, we’re actually announcing the adaptation on the same day that the article is being published... Chu: There’s no [more] surefire way to delay a project or take the air out of a project [than] endless negotiations and year-long deal-making processes. What the business affairs team has done for film and television — I think we did more deals this past year than we did in the last two years alone"...
Digiday (paywall)

B&N, Target Delist Holocaust Denial Books
The Jerusalem Post: "Target and the bookstore Barnes and Noble announced on Tuesday they are no longer selling four books that promote Holocaust denial. The removal comes in response to letters of protest from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish group said. “We assume these large online booksellers do not mass-market books promoting terrorism or pedophilia,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC associate dean and global social action director. “At a time of surging anti-semitic hate crimes here in the U.S., it is beyond the pale that a book would be marketed by someone who insults the memory of six million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide""...

Former Cosmo Editor to Publish Wintour Biography
Fashion Week Daily: "Former The Cut and Cosmo editor Amy Odell revealed today on Instagram her latest project is a biography on Anna Wintour. Odell writes: “I am beyond excited to share what I’ve been working on: I wrote a biography of Anna Wintour. It is the product of interviews with more than 250 people. I can’t wait to share more about the book and reporting process as publication date nears.” Odell’s Instagram account also reveals an initial review from author Sheila Weller who says, “Extraordinarily sweeping, astute and unputdownable.” Odell encouraged her followers to pre-order the book. A link to Simon & Schuster has the book listed as $28.00 with a May 3, 2022 release date. There’s also more details on the book’s content: “Based on extensive interviews with Anna Wintour’s closest friends and collaborators, including some of the biggest names in fashion, journalist Amy Odell has crafted the most revealing portrait of Wintour ever published. Weaving Anna’s personal story within a larger narrative about the hierarchical dynamics of the fashion industry and the complex world of Condé Nast, Anna charts the relentless ambition of the woman who would become an icon.”


Retail News

Food Inflation Hitting the Poor Hard
NY Times: "With food prices surging, many Americans have found their household budgets upended, forcing difficult choices at the supermarket and putting new demands on programs intended to help. Food banks and pantries, too, are struggling with the increase in costs, substituting or pulling the most expensive products, like beef, from offerings. What’s more, donations of food are down, even as the number of people seeking help remains elevated...While overall consumer prices in September were up 5.4% from a year ago, the cost of meat is up slightly more than that. Prices of staples like dairy products, fruits, grains and oils are also rising. Prices of meat, poultry, fish and eggs in U.S. cities are up 15 percent since the start of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The run-up in costs at the supermarket comes even as gasoline prices have risen and natural gas and heating oil prices are predicted to be higher this winter, putting further pressure on those with low incomes... The forces behind higher food prices have been building for some time and aren’t going away anytime soon, said Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo. “People are shocked, but this is a slow-motion train wreck,” he said. “The scary thing is that food companies haven’t passed along all of their costs yet""...
NY Times (paywall)

Walmart Recalls BH&G-Branded Aromatherapy Spray Linked to Two Deaths
People: "The mysterious deaths of two people from a rare bacterial infection are potentially linked to a home aromatherapy spray sold at Walmart, federal officials say. After four people in four different states — including one child — were infected with a rare tropical disease called melioidosis, a Centers for Disease Control investigation found that the cases are potentially linked to Better Homes & Gardens' Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones. Testing showed that a bottle of the spray, found at the home of one of the patients, contained the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. The cases initially baffled CDC investigators, as the bacteria is most commonly found in tropical climates like South Asia and the people infected had not left the country. People infected with melioidosis can develop swelling, fever, weight loss, nervous system infections and seizures, among other symptoms, and it can quickly turn fatal. Of the four cases found in Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Minnesota, half of those infected died. Walmart said Friday that they are recalling the approximately 3,900 bottles of the BH&G-branded Gem Room Sprays sold in the U.S. in six different scents and have pulled the product from their shelves. The CDC has also instructed anyone with the product to stop using it "immediately," and to double-bag it in zip-top bags before returning it to a Walmart store. "We are deeply concerned that there may be a connection between this product and this rare bacteria," Walmart said in a statement. "Our sympathies and concerns are with the four families that have been impacted." In a statement, BH&G said that they are "deeply concerned" to learn that the product contained a "dangerous bacteria": "We take issues of consumer safety extremely seriously and urge anyone who may have purchased these products to contact Walmart immediately and follow the CDC guidelines contained in the recall notice. Our focus now is on assisting Walmart as much as possible with their recall efforts to ensure these products are returned safely."

Ports to Fine Shippers Over Failure to Retrieve Containers
AP: "In an effort to ease congestion at the nation’s busiest port complex, officials said Monday that they will start fining shipping companies whose cargo containers linger for too long at marine terminals. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach said in a statement that arriving containers scheduled to be moved by trucks will be allowed to stay for nine days before fines start accruing. Containers set to move by rail can stay at the ports for three days. After that, ocean carriers will be charged $100 per container, increasing in $100 increments per container per day, the statement said. The new rules will go into effect Nov. 1"...

Walmart Adds New Payment Service
PG: "Walmart is partnering with payment tech company InComm Payments to make it easier for cash-centric customers to pay their bills. The retailer is adding the new capability to its already-robust financial services offerings as part of its commitment to serving un-banked and under-banked shoppers. Using a platform called VanillaDirect, shoppers can pay their bills in-store at the service desk or at the Walmart money center by scanning a barcode tied to their account and completing their payment with cash. Funds are transferred electronically through a single consolidated settlement. In addition to paying their bills, shoppers can also use the service to fund prepaid accounts. The new form of payment will be available all Walmart locations in the U.S."..

Independent Grocers' Sales Up 17% in 2020
SN: "High consumer demand triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic fueled a 17% average comparable sales gain among independent supermarket operators last year, the National Grocers Association (NGA) reported. Adjusted for elevated levels of inflation, independent grocery industry comp sales still rose 13.5% for the 2020 fiscal year ended March 31, 2021, according to the 2021 Independent Grocers Financial Survey, a joint study released Wednesday by NGA and and financial consulting partner FMS Solutions. That easily surpassed the sector’s 2.5% comp sales growth in 2019. Driving the upsurge were a boost in transaction size to an average of $31 and a “big upswing” in online orders, NGA said. Customer stockpiling at the onset of the coronavirus crisis set the tone of shoppers making fewer trips to stores but spending more per visit, with independents ringing up 13.3% higher sales in the first half of 2020 alone...Center-store grocery, dairy, frozen and meat were the leading sales contributors by product category, the study said. Because of the escalated demand, inventory turns advanced to an average of 19.2 times per year, while shrinkage declined to 2.5% in 2020 from 2.9% in 2019. The robust sales growth helped independents improve their margins across departments to 28.4% last year from 28% in 2019, with the largest gains seen in dry grocery; dairy; general merchandise and health and beauty aids; and beer, wine and liquor. The combination of high sales and better margins resulted in record net profits before taxes, at 5.02%, up from 1.05% in 2019... Net profit before taxes also was well over the 0.63% mark recorded in 2018"...

Target Optimizes Pickup, Delivery for Holidays
PG: "Target Corp. is continuing to invest in its same-day delivery services. With the addition of flexible features available through Drive Up and Order Pickup, plus the latest in same-day delivery with Shipt, Target is allowing guests to customize their shopping experience this hectic holiday season. The retailer's newest enhancements include: More Assigned Drive Up Spots: More than 18,000 assigned spaces have been added for curbside pickup in parking lots. Shopping Partner: In case plans change, the new Shopping Partner feature allows guests to send someone else, such as a friend or family member, to pick up their Drive Up or Order Pickup order through the Target app or on Forgot Something: Guests can easily order more items after a Drive Up or Order Pickup order has been placed in the Target app and pick everything up at once. Backup Items: Guests can designate a secondary backup item option for food and beverage pickup on or in the Target app, excluding adult beverage items. Expanded Assortment and Personalized Store Selection for Same-Day Delivery with Shipt: Target has made even more items available for delivery, including apparel and accessories, premium Ulta Beauty products, electronics, toys, and — new this year — adult beverage items. Plus, with even more Target stores in the Shipt network and the ability to select what store their shopper shops at, guests have more options to personalize their delivery"...


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