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November 24, 2021

Publishing News

Note to Readers: MBR is taking a Thanksgiving holiday break from Nov. 25 through Monday, Nov. 29, back Tues., Nov. 30. Best holiday wishes to you all.

Platforms Increase Domination of Digital Ad Revenue, Retailer Networks Grow Exponentially
SpinyTrends: "Publishers may be celebrating the recovery in the advertising market, but they won’t be the biggest winners. Digital ad revenue earned by what has become known as The Triopoly – Google, Facebook and Amazon – will make up 64% of all US digital ad spending this year, about the same share as 2020 and slightly up on 2019. Total US digital ad revenue this year is projected by eMarketer to be worth $211B, up 38.3% on 2020’s total. These current projections from the advertising and marketing information site are $20B higher than forecasts made earlier in the year. The uptick is due to stronger-than-expected performance from major digital ad companies and ‘significant growth’ in ad prices. Looking ahead to 2023, Google is expected to lose share of the digital ad market, from 28.6% in 2021 to 26.4% in 2022. Facebook’s share is forecast to stay fairly steady, around 24%. Although smaller, Amazon’s share of the market is growing steadily, from 7.8% in 2019 to 14.6% in 2023. The share of the U.S. digital ad market held by non-triopoly companies seems to have settled at about 35%. Looking to 2025, eMarketer believes display will pick up share of the overall ad market. Search’s share, which is currently flat from 2020 to 2021, before falling slightly through the remainder of eMarketer’s forecast period. The forecast is for total U.S. digital ad to pass $300B in 2025. Amazon is at the forefront of a significant area for growth in digital ad revenue: brand advertising associated with online retail operations and service companies. The biggest retail media network by far is Amazon, but others, from Walmart to food delivery service GoPuff, are also staking their claim. Ad Age reports that every two or three months a new retail ad network is launched. Online merchants, who saw enormous growth during the pandemic, are leveraging the data they hold on shoppers to deliver targeted ad placement for the brands they host in their ecommerce stores... Despite the rise of the retail media networks, Big Tech has an iron grip on the digital advertising market. Tech companies, from Yahoo to AOL, have long dominated the digital ad space, but where previous generations controlled the audiences, the Triopoly controls audiences, content distribution, ad sales and ad serving. With the platforms controlling so much of the market -- 64% of U.S. revenue and 80% in the U.K. -- calls to challenge their dominance are getting stronger... However, detailed proposals on exactly how that would be done are rare. And... Google, Facebook and, increasingly, Amazon, are dictating the terms of the discussion.""

Vogue Business Contest Offers Internship
Vogue Business is running a talent contest that aims "to amplify new voices in the world of fashion and beauty business journalism... We are looking for aspiring U.S.-based writers of all ages who are curious and excited about the mechanics of the fashion and beauty industries. Whether it's a report on the tech innovations shaping the luxury industry, a deep dive into circular fashion solutions or unpacking a new consumer trend — Vogue Business wants to hear from you." The brand is "strongly encouraging" entries from individuals from BIPOC, LGBTQIA and other "under-represented communities." Entrants should not have been published in a national U.S. newspaper or magazine. The winner's article will be published on the Vogue Business site, and the winner will get a paid, one-month remote internship at Vogue Business, plus one year of "mentorship" from a member of the editorial team. Two runners-up will receive a year of mentorship from a member of the Vogue Business team.

Supreme Court Asked to Rein In Government Pre-Publication Reviews
PW: "The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court this week to take on a case that would challenge the current system of government pre-publication review. The writ of certiorari was filed on behalf of five former government employees, who claim their First Amendment rights are being unreasonably stifled by a non-transparent government review process. The case, Edgar v. Haines, was first filed in 2019, and argues that the current review system "invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement by censors," with virtually no recourse or accountability. In April 2020, a district court in Maryland dismissed the case, claiming the plaintiffs’ pre-publication agreements were not inconsistent with the First Amendment. And on June 23, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, citing a 41-year-old Supreme Court decision in Snepp v. United States, which held that “reasonable” pre-publication review agreements are constitutional"...

What Alden's Acquisition of Lee Enterprises Would Mean for 20+ Midwestern Newspapers
Poynter: "A multi-million dollar proposal could land more than two dozen of the Midwest’s local newspapers in the hands of a New York-based hedge fund known for slashing its papers “to the bone.” Alden Global Capital revealed a proposal Monday to purchase Lee Enterprise Inc. and its newspapers at $24 a share, casting alarm through the many newsrooms owned by Lee. Lee counts the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Omaha World-Herald and the Sioux City Journal among its holdings in the Midwest. Alden is a hedge fund that has become one of the largest owners of newspapers across the U.S., including The Denver Post and The Mercury News in San Jose, California. Alden has developed a reputation for cost-cutting and downsizing the staff of newspapers it owns. Alden earlier this year bought Tribune Publishing, whose flagship newspapers include the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun... In earlier published accounts of Alden’s business, managing director Heath Freeman has said his hedge fund is among the very few outfits still willing to buy newspapers when others would have left them for dead. But Alden’s reputation in the newspaper industry, which has broadly faced headwinds in the last 20 years, is less glowing. For Omaha World-Herald News Guild president Todd Cooper, the news of Alden’s offer was devastating. “They (Alden) hide in the shadows but they’re the worst of newspaper owners,” he said. “They care about nothing but the bottom line and pounce on this notion that newspapers are dead or a dead medium — and that's just not true""...


Retail News

Weekly Jobless Claims Drop to Lowest Level in More Than 50 Years
Washington Post: "Americans were greeted Wednesday to a spate of positive economic news, a preholiday lift signaling that many of the wrinkles to the nation’s recovery continue to be smoothing out. Chief among them were the surprisingly strong marks for the labor market. The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims tumbled to 199,000 — the lowest level since November 1969 — the Labor Department reported. Separately, the Commerce Department said that consumer spending increased by 1.3 percent in October, its fastest pace since March, in a sign that Americans are continuing to spend despite rising prices. Meanwhile, the trade deficit in goods narrowed 14.6 percent in October according to a Commerce Department estimate, to $82.9 billion from $97 billion in September. That’s its lowest level since October 2020, according to PNC Bank economist Bill Adams. “The recovery is picking up in the fourth quarter after head winds from the Delta wave and supply chain turmoil,” Adams said. “These releases vindicate the argument that the problems that held back the economy in the third quarter were temporary.” Of particular note were unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, which fell more than 71,000 the week ending Nov. 20, compared with the week before. It represented the eighth straight week of declines and a pivotal shift, as claims are now well below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, average weekly jobless claims hovered around 220,000. Some economists, however, cautioned that the numbers were likely a product of seasonal adjustments. Still, the drop marks a stark contrast with this time last year, when roughly 700,000 claims were filed. It’s also a reflection of the tight labor market, which has companies scrambling to retain and expand their workforces. “It is fair to say we didn’t see that coming,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said Wednesday in emailed comments to The Post. “Getting new claims below the 200,000 level for the first time since the pandemic began is truly significant, portraying further improvement"... The trade deficit data was hailed as a positive sign about the potential easing of supply chain disruptions"...

Amazon Workers Plan Global Black Friday Strike; Expose Details Company's Campaign Against Privacy Protections
USA Today: "Amazon employees worldwide are planning to strike on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. BMake Amazon Pay, a coalition of workers and activists, is organizing Black Friday protests to demand the retail giant raise wages, pay more taxes and reduce its carbon footprint, according to its website. The strikes are set to take place at factories, warehouses, data centers, corporate offices and oil refineries across the world, including sites in Minnesota, California, Boston and New York City. Make Amazon Pay published a list of 25 demands on its website that include raising wages and extending paid sick leave, offering unions access to Amazon worksites, committing to zero emissions by 2030 and paying taxes in full by “ending tax abuse through profit shifting, loopholes and the use of tax havens, and providing full tax transparency." Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said that while the company is "not perfect in any area," it takes its role and impact "very seriously." Nantel pointed to the company's pledge to hit net zero carbon by 2040; its "competitive wages and great benefits" with average starting wages at more than $18 per hour, depending on location; and the company's $1.7B federal income tax expense reported in 2020. The spokesperson added that Amazon is "inventing new ways" to keep employees safe and healthy. Nantel did not say how the protests would affect holiday shoppers"... Separately, a Reuters expose based on Amazon internal documents details the company's successful efforts to kill or undermine privacy protections in more than three dozen bills across 25 states, "as the ecommerce giant amassed a lucrative trove of personal data on millions of American consumers."

Ingles Sees 8.2% Full-Year Sales Gain
SN: "Aided by a double-digit sales increase in the fourth quarter, Ingles Markets finished near the $5B mark for fiscal 2021 in building on last year’s COVID-fueled growth. For Q4 ended Sept. 25, net sales totaled $1.34B, up 11.6% from $1.2B in the fiscal 2020 quarter, when sales climbed 11.3%... The Asheville, N.C.-based regional didn’t report comparable-store sales for the period, and the company’s 10-K filing with the SEC wasn’t immediately available"...


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