Early into Thanksgiving week, there were a few gems in media news (see NYT on Facebook misinfo fueling border crisis in Belarus) and then quiet. So I waited and published an OpEd on current UK Media Innovation (with envy, stateside).
Then, what to my dazzling eyes did appear at the dawn of December? Dorsey quit, 94% of investors asked for their money back over a SPAC for Buzzfeed, Alden Global bid to buy Lee Enterprises – this would make Alden and Gannett the biggest juggernauts in local newspapers. Reuters broke a story on how Gateway Pundit’s content, a Pro-Trump site, resulted in 25 election workers targeted by more than 100 violent threats or hostile messages and controversy over Meta/Facebook’s guy in Canada is cracking open a much-needed light on who funds media and academic studies on misinformation, free speech, and digital media and the unruly influence of tech money (both corporate and cashed-out founders) in academia, policymaking and journalism. Good news…Trust in science is up, reports NYT.
BuzzFeed Suffers Wave of SPAC Investor Withdrawals - WSJ
Digital-media outlet is raising about $16 million in its public listing; it is also raising $150 million in convertible debt. Investors want their money back. Won’t support a Buzzfeed SPAC.
Alden Global makes a play to buy Lee Enterprises - Axios
Lawmakers, local reporters and journalism advocates are sounding the alarm over a takeover attempt of local newspaper group Lee Enterprises by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund known for cutting journalists at local papers to maximize profits.
Why it matters: Roughly half of America’s daily newspapers are already controlled by investment groups. Alden's takeover would make it a clear majority.
The big picture: Alden already owns hundreds of papers through its majority ownership of MNG Enterprises, known commonly as Digital First Media.
Lee says NO - Poynter
Lee says no to Alden Global Capital’s attempt to nominate directors
It’s one more signal that Lee, publisher of 77 dailies, is digging in for a protracted fight against the hedge fund’s hostile takeover attempt.
Think Facebook’s bad news? Meta’s man in Ottawa – Financial Post
Kevin Chan is asserting Facebook's influence in government, media and academia. Despite its small population, Canada is an important market for the company, its data showing Canadians as among the most engaged Facebook users in the world.
Michael Ignatieff prodigy and HKS alumni, Chan has led a purge of Canadian conspiracy theorists from Facebook, negotiated deals to fund many of the country’s news media publishers, been nominated to various university public-policy advisory boards, and spearheaded weighty public discussions about misinformation , election integrity and the future of the internet —three subjects, coincidentally or not, in which his company has a vested interest.
Pro-Trump news site targets election workers, inspiring menace - Reuters
The Gateway Pundit, which started as a tiny opinion blog, saw readership surge to nearly 50 million views a month as it amplified Donald Trump’s false stolen-election claims. Reuters documented the impact: 25 election workers targeted by more than 100 violent threats or hostile messages citing the Pundit.
The Aspen Commission Information Disorder final report - Aspen Institute
Assessing the prevalence and implications of unfettered falsehoods and also offering 15 recommendations to combat it. The move was welcomed by The Washington Post Editorial Board as a “cure” for what ails us. CNN, Bloomberg, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and other outlets also cited the report’s findings and proposals. Within the Institute, the Aspen Tech Policy Hub recently launched a prize competition to fund innovative projects that combat information disorder.
Why Tucker Carlson Is Defending Alex Jones - The Atlantic
There was a time when someone like Jones would have been too toxic to embrace.
Time to Pull the Plug on Cable News – OpEd Politico Jack Shafer
Cable News reaches a tiny fraction of the country, so why does the rest of the media care so much about the stupid things it says? can we agree that cable news has devolved over time from a useful headline service (Ted Turner’s original vision at CNN) to a day-to-night eldercare operation? It’s one thing to tolerate cable news. It does, after all, keep people employed.
Trust in Science and Scientists Increased Globally, Poll Finds - NYT
An international survey found that the pandemic had enhanced public faith in researchers and science, up from 2018.
Facebook reveals broad takedown of global disinfo networks - WashPost
The takedown included some tied to anti-vaccine groups and state actors. The takedowns described in the company’s latest threat report demonstrate how the cat-and-mouse game between Facebook and bad actors is escalating.
Twitter's next act - Axios
Why it matters: The person who controls Twitter controls the de facto public square — with implications for politics, media and free speech.
The big picture: Twitter is in the midst of its biggest transformation yet — shifting from an ad-based social network focused on text to a subscription-based platform centered on smaller communities and multimedia.
In recent months, Twitter has launched a slew of products catered to long-form content, including live audio and newsletters. Twitter said earlier this year that it plans to increase its monetizable daily active user base (mDAUs) from 211 million at the end of last quarter to 315 million by Q4 2023. It plans to more than double its global annual revenue to over $7.5 billion by Q4 2023.
Twitter’s new CEO announces major reorganization - WashPost
New CEO Parag Agrawal said he made the changes in the name of “operational rigor” and “faster execution.”
What Happens to Democracy When Local Journalism Dries Up? WashPost
Margaret Sullivan for WashPost: The end result is disastrous.
The UK has become hotbed of news innovation - My OpEd in Press Gazette
There is a sort of frisson to it all compared to the platform woes over here. We also see veteran British news players buying large newspaper chains and investing in the newsrooms for a first-party data ad strategy, something not happening stateside.
Last year, David Montgomery acquired the Scotsman and dozens of other regional and local papers in the former Johnston Press stable for £10.2m to rebuild local news in a digital era. Even niche titles are frothy. Future Media recently agreed to buy Dennis Publishing, owner of The Week magazine, for £300m and has been on a five-year acquisition run with over 160 titles now under its tent.
Tell the British we’re coming – Substack Founder post
The U.K. is the second largest market for both Substack writers and readers, and we’ve long thought we ought to be doing a lot more on those shores. Today, we’re starting a concerted push to bring more U.K.-based writers to Substack, helped by our new head of writer partnerships for the region, Farrah Storr.
The Athletic Searches for New Subscribers as It Seeks a Sale - Bloomberg
Since its debut in 2016, The Athletic has been heralded as a model for how sports journalism can survive on subscription revenue alone. Its founders now realize that only goes so far. The sports-media startup has laid off staff, scrapped a documentary unit, and canceled some podcasts while seeking new avenues of growth.
The Athletic, which currently has 1.2 million subscribers, is looking for new ways to keep growing in a rapidly evolving sports media landscape. Following the legalization of sports betting in the U.S., a number of aggressive sports gambling companies are pumping advertising dollars into the industry while also building media operations of their own. At the same time, the hunt for paying digital subscribers has grown even more fierce online, with everyone from newsletter upstarts like Substack Inc. to established incumbents like The Washington Post to newcomers like Defector Media, a sport and culture outlet started by former Deadspin employees, constantly beseeching readers to pay up for access to their content.
“When everything is paywalled, you’re limiting the audience you can reach every single day,” co-founder Alex Mather said in an interview last week. “For us to reach 5 million or 10 million subscribers, we’re going to have to reach more sports fans, give them a taste of our product, find ways to bring them into our universe and engage them and hopefully get them to become a paid subscriber.”
The San Francisco-based company, which is unprofitable and under growing pressure from investors to deliver a return, is currently exploring a sale, seeking a price of $600 million to $800 million, according to two people familiar with the matter. The New York Times did not reach a deal with the startup recently after crunching the numbers and assessing the value of The Athletic at less than $500 million, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
In a surprise tweet, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down - WashPost
Dorsey was early to admit that social media algorithms were causing societal harm. Dorsey became one of the first CEOs in Silicon Valley to publicly criticize the design of social media services, with their instant feedback and viral algorithms, and to admit that they have unintended consequences in the form of unhealthy social behavior and pressure. He said in 2018 that he would be willing to hit the pause button or rethink key features like the like button or disable automatic retweeting, which the company did for a time during the election period last year. The company also created an initiative called Healthy Conversations, investing significant resources in cracking down on bullying, fake accounts and other abuses. He has opened the company’s algorithms and research to scrutiny by outsiders and developed tools for dealing with problematic accounts, such as warning labels, that other companies have followed.
Like Dorsey, Agrawal is a big believer in “decentralization” — the idea that the next generation of Internet technologies should not be controlled by one company. Agrawal has championed and pushed for Twitter to fund a technology project called Bluesky, an attempt to build that future by developing an open-source and independent networking protocols for social media that different companies can use.
Inside the ‘Misinformation’ Wars (focus on Shorenstein Center) – NYT
Journalists and academics are developing a new language for truth. The results are not always clearer.
Five things you need to know about Europe’s political ad rules - Politico
Everything you need to know on Brussels’ plans for political ads on social media.
How Fake News on Facebook Helped Fuel a Border Crisis in Europe - NYT
Social media worsened a migrant crisis on the border of Belarus and Poland and helped smugglers profit off desperate people trying to reach Europe.
Stat wants to be the Politico of health - The Rebooting Show
COO Angus Macaulay discusses how six-year-old Stat has grown to 70 people and over 10,000 paid subscribers.
The rise and fall of Clubhouse - Insider
Inside the rise and fall of Clubhouse, a pandemic poster child of VC-backed hype now hobbled by 'drama rooms,' unhappy creators, dwindling users, and dubious advertisers
How Disney’s Streaming Pipeline Got Clogged - TheInformation
The Disney+ streaming service is hurting for new shows. Disney executives publicly blame the pandemic for disrupting production schedules. But an organizational shakeup at the company has also led to confusion and delays of shows for the service.
The not-so-invisible primary for 2024 – The media rush to cover it. - CJR
The political media’s recent 2024 speculation has not been limited to Harris and Buttigieg. High-ranking politicians can scarcely set foot in Iowa or New Hampshire without setting it off. The names of several other Democrats who ran in 2019—Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren—have been mentioned, as have the names of several who didn’t. Why does the media do this?
Why Every Science Story Needs The Right Kind of Caveats - Nieman Lab
To keep the public trust, reporters should convey the complexity — and uncertainty — of scientific results.