Wenner to Sell Men's Journal to American Media Inc.
NY Times: "First, Wenner Media sold nearly half of its ownership of Rolling Stone. Then it sold its celebrity magazine Us Weekly. Now, on the eve of Rolling Stone’s 50th anniversary...American Media Inc., which...agreed to buy US Weekly from Wenner in March, plans to announce [today] that it will also buy Men’s Journal from Wenner. Wenner and [AMI] declined to disclose the terms. 'We weren’t proactively on the market with Men’s Journal, but the opportunity came up, and it kind of fits in with our plans and our desire to really continue to grow Rolling Stone,” said Gus Wenner, Wenner's head of digital operations and son of the company’s founder, Jann S. Wenner... 'It just made sense'... [MJ] will join [AMI's] men’s and fitness brands, [including] Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Flex, and Muscle & Fitness Hers. [AMI CEO] David Pecker said...that adding [MJ] would give the publisher an opportunity to attract more premium advertisers in print and online... Pecker said he intended to keep all of the roughly 25 Men’s Journal employees, [but] in the future, some of the men’s titles could be consolidated... Without [MJ] and Us Weekly, Wenner’s portfolio would include just 51% of Rolling Stone and Glixel, a gaming site that the company introduced last year... The [MJ sale] would further shift Wenner’s business away from print. [MJ, launched] in 1992, brought in only a small percentage of Wenner’s revenue, and its proposed sale does not come as a surprise..."
Rodale Explores Sale; Speculation Re Possible Bidders Already Afoot
Folio: "On Wednesday, Rodale, Inc., publisher of Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention and Runner’s World, among other titles, announced that it is considering “strategic alternatives” for the company, including a potential sale. The announcement didn’t disclose an asking price for the family-owned publisher, and also left the door open to other options, such as the sale of specific properties, groups of properties, or individual businesses. Rodale is retaining Allen & Company LLC to serve as a financial advisor during the strategic review process. The closely held company also doesn’t release revenue figures, but in 2015, it was rumored to be taking in between $300M and $350M per year, including its consumer magazine division, as well as a robust book publishing business... If Rodale doesn’t receive a suitable bid, the company is prepared to continue pursuit of its long-term business plan, which has included aggressive cost-cutting measures over the last few years, including closing Running Times, taking Prevention ad-free and raising the newsstand price, closing its Grow custom content studio, and number of layoffs. These have been accompanied by some big executive shifts, beginning with Maria Rodale’s return to manage day-to-day operations of the publisher in November 2015. Last September, the company appointed Beth Buehler its first COO; she previously served as SVP for digital. In March, Ronan Gardiner was promoted to become the company’s first chief advertising officer, Adam Campbell was named chief content officer, and Bill Strickland group editorial director..." NY Post: "...Last month, Rodale said it was getting out of the direct-mail book business that was once a cornerstone... Ahead of the announcement, Rodale cut 80 to 100 employees, sources said. Earlier this year, Rodale said it was selling the buildings it owns, in a bid to raise $4.6M... Maria Rodale’s pet project, Organic Life, had to go all digital in January. Despite its struggles, the company is expected to attract a host of suitors, including big publishers such as Hearst, Meredith, American Media and Condé Nast. One of the more intriguing potential buyers to emerge is David Zinczenko, the former editorial director of Men’s Health who was forced out by Maria Rodale nearly five years ago. Since then, he has formed his own company, Galvanized Media, and has deals with Penguin Random House and Meredith. He also regained rights to two previous Rodale titles, the 'Eat This, Not That!' book franchise and Best Life, now a men’s Web site. But he would need to affiliate with a deep-pocketed backer. Another name is Ziff Davis, now headed by former Time Inc. executive Vivek Shah with venture fund backing. Last October, it paid $465M to acquire Everyday Health." WWD: Rodale "said its board has not set a definitive schedule to complete its review process."
News Corp., Facebook in Advanced Discussions About Subscriptions
Bloomberg: "News Corp., publisher of the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London, is holding 'very advanced' discussions with Facebook Inc. about subscriptions to its content online, CEO Robert Thomson said. 'I’ve been talking with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, exchanging thoughts, on how important it is that the value of content should be recognized,' Thomson said in an interview at a media industry conference on Wednesday in Turin, Italy. 'We are in the middle of negotiations with Facebook on a subscription mechanic'... A deal to promote subscriptions via Facebook could be a boon to the newspaper and magazine industries. Publishers are relying more on getting readers to pay because they’ve struggled to sustain a digital advertising business as Facebook and Google vacuum up the lion’s share of online ad dollars. The agreement could include bundling subscription content, perhaps around specific topics like sports or business, Thomson said at a conference last week in London. Zuckerberg has recognized that premium sources of news and journalism have suffered over the last decade, Thomson said. Facebook’s solution is 'beneficial not just for us but is efficacious for smaller publishers as well,' Thomson said then. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in the outlook to how we value content and the value of content'...
Publishers Eye Video Licensing Revenue Opps
Digiday: "Digital video is a seller’s market. So, publishers are starting to think like networks. In June, science-focused publisher Inverse announced it had eight new shows in development, including 'Science and Chill' and 'Meme Hunters,' two of which it already sold to two platforms and two more that it expects to monetize through ads. While licensing isn’t a big source of revenue for most publishers yet, those with a head start see a lot of runway. Electus Digital, the parent company of CollegeHumor and Dorkly, has licensed its digital video series to over 10 different platforms since 2015..."
Bloomberg Launching Live Video Channel on Twitter
In a Q&A with Campaign, Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith discusses the company's plans to offer a live video channel on Twitter: "The vision is that Twitter is by many measures the largest news media in the world; Bloomberg is close to being the largest news gathering organization. So it’s a marriage of Twitter’s assets with Bloomberg’s assets. Twitter is winning the breaking news game right now, because content is being generated by users. The challenge with that content is it’s not always clear what is real and what is not real. So while it may be first, Twitter has not yet become the place for truly verified content. That’s where Bloomberg’s journalistic operation comes into play. If our journalists can rapidly verify breaking content on Twitter and create packages of content around that, we can marry the speed of Twitter with the accuracy of Bloomberg. We’re building the product now and are expecting to launch in Q4. We’ll start with a focus on the US but we’ll be looking at local language adaptations as well..."
Vice Media Launches Meal Kit Service With Chef'd
MediaPost: Following in the footsteps of other publishers, like The New York Times, Vice Media is partnering with an online meal kit company--in this case, Chef'd. "But Vice is offering a specific take on the meal kit business. Viewers can watch an episode from its food and culture vertical Munchies, click a buy button and have all the ingredients and recipes sent to their door. In effect, some of Munchies’ editorial content now comes with a buy button. Chef’d founder and CEO Kyle Ransford told Publishers Daily: 'You can order two meals in four clicks.' Munchies and Chef’d are starting with a line of a la carte meal kits with recipes created by colorful Canadian chef Matty Matheson. Matheson is the host of 'Dead Set on Life' on Viceland, the media company's cable TV network. Customers can also watch cooking tutorial videos on how to make the food, featuring Matheson, on the Munchies site. Munchies currently sells five different meals developed by Matheson... Each kit comes with all the necessary ingredients and recipe instructions, which Vice described in a blog post as 'easy-as-hell'... Ransford said he thinks this is the first cooking show that gives viewers the opportunity to order the food featured. The meals, available on Chef'd's site, [cost] about $20 for a two-person meal or up to $46 for a four-person meal. There is a $10 delivery charge per order, though meals over $40 get free delivery..."
Canadian News Orgs Hope For Government Subsidy Fund
MediaPost: Canadian newspaper publishers, "represented by industry organization News Media Canada are urging prime minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in Ottawa to set aside $350M, or around $264M in U.S. currency, to support a 'Canadian Journalism Fund.' It would help subsidize the salaries of journalists working in newspaper and online journalism, in order to relieve some of the financial pressure on the news industry... The proposal, which would probably elicit gales of laughter in the Hobbesian media landscape here, is receiving at least polite consideration in the more socially minded Great White North, where the government has traditionally taken a larger role in supporting journalism..."
Inside the New Martha Stewart Musical
WWD: "Martha Stewart's life story is coming to New York in the form of a musical. Part comedy with a side of tragedy and a lot of camp, the musical, called 'The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart,' comes from the mind of Ryan Raftery, a former Coach employee, who will play Stewart on stage at Joe’s Pub in August and September. The show will then likely have a run in Los Angeles. 'Martha' completes a sort of theatrical media trilogy, which included musicals about Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Bravo’s Andy Cohen. (Raftery wrote, directed and starred as the lead in both productions)"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Wal-Mart Stops Price Matching in Minnesota
Minn. Star-Tribune: "Walmart stores in Minnesota quit offering in-store price matches earlier this month. The move is an extension of a test that began last year as the country's largest retailer quit price-matching in about 800 of its 5,000 U.S. stores. "Retailers are learning that the most price-conscious customers cherry-pick where they buy, whether it's online or in stores," said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at the NPD Group. 'Retail-only consumers are not as price-conscious." The price-match policy was brought back by retailers like Walmart and Target in the recession to give consumers the impression of price sensitivity. Even if consumers don't ask for a price match, they feel a retailer is being fair by offering it. Walmart tried to simplify its price-match policy in 2011 by not requiring consumers to show proof of a competitor's ad. It also added a Savings Catcher app to automatically give the customer the lower price from a competitor. Still, only about 5% of consumers took advantage of matches..."
Sprouts Viewed as Likely Takeover Target
MNB cites a Seeking Alpha report about "speculation that Sprouts Farmers Market is a likely takeover target in a marketplace where Amazon has bid $13.7B to acquire its larger, higher priced rival, Whole Foods.The story notes that "Albertsons held preliminary talks to merge with Sprouts Farmers Market a couple of months ago. And Sprouts was at approximately $24 per share a couple of weeks ago when industry sources stated that privately-held Albertsons has been struggling in its quest to acquire a grocery store chain'"...
Albertsons' Perkins Retakes the Wheel at Acme
SN: " Jim Perkins, EVP of retail operations and special projects for Albertsons Cos., has taken on an additional role as president of Acme Markets, a spokeswoman told SN Wednesday. Perkins formerly served three years as Acme’s president but was promoted to COO of Albertsons Eastern Region in February 2015, and then to his current role. Dan Croce, who was promoted to succeed Perkins as Acme president in 2015, is continuing at Acme as SVP of retail operations. Albertsons spokeswoman Chris Wilcox said the change in leadership related to the transition of acquired stores onto Acme’s system, which Perkins was helping to oversee..."
CEO Departures Likely Reflect Lidl Entrance, 'Over-Stored' Southeast
PG: "The abrupt top-spot resignations at two Southeastern supermarket chains, occuring within days of one of the most significant developments in the supermarket sector--German deep-discounter Lid's long-awaited U.S. debut, with first stores opening in the region--shine a spotlight on an already highly competitive region that longtime industry observer Burt P Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, has referred to as 'the most overstored market in the country.' Indeed, Lidl's game-changing entry into the area as the staging ground for its U.S. 'invasion' was likely a 'tremendous factor' in the executives' respective decisions to move on, in the opinion of Flickinger, who doubts that either company is currently equipped to do battle with the formidable newcomer. While praising the abilities of both leaders--Southeastern Grocers' Ian McLeod and The Fresh Market's Rick Anicetti--Flickinger, in an interview with Progressive Grocer, pointed out that both of their private equity firm-owned companies are undercapitalized. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in competing not only against their established rivals in the region, but also against the oncoming juggernaut of Lidl, which, in the 27 other countries in which it operates, has engendered with high-quality products sold at dramatic discounts, and promises to do so here..."
Kroger to Lidl: Bring It On
SN: " Kroger Co.’s CFO on Wednesday said he was glad to see Lidl’s stores finally kick off so that the retailer can determine how effective its preparation for its arrival has been. Likening competition between them to a football game – specifically, the last Super Bowl – Mike Schlotman said if Kroger were leading at halftime, as the Atlanta Falcons were, “we have to make sure the Patriots don't adjust their game plan and win the game. And if we're the Patriots, hopefully, we'll be as successful as them if we have to change our game plan.” Schlotman made that analogy during remarks at the Oppenheimer Consumer Conference Wednesday morning in Boston. Lidl, a hard-discount concept from Germany’s Schwarz Group, made the first of what’s expected to be several hundred new-store openings in the U.S. late last week. “People have looked at me kind of funny when I've been saying this, but I'm glad their stores are now open, and we can stop talking about what we've been doing to get ready and see if what we've done to get ready [is adequate],” Schlotman said of Lidl. “We're going to work against them just like we would with any competitor that winds up opening. Even if it’s a new Safeway across the street, you do something to combat that competitive threat.” While acknowledging Lidl’s arrival is coming at a “pivot point” for the industry, Schlotman framed Kroger’s competitive readiness in having faced limited assortment discounters like Aldi, Save-A-Lot and dollar stores for decades..."
Amazon, Whole Foods Deal Bad for Target's Struggling Grocery Push
Bloomberg: Target Corp. "has been losing shoppers despite an expanded food offering that includes more fresh produce, gluten-free and organic products, and grab-and-go items. Now Target will likely face a reenergized Whole Foods that’s backed by Amazon, the deep-pocketed parent-to-be already challenging Target in apparel and beauty products. Amazon’s march into brick-and-mortar groceries comes just as Target embarks on a three-year, $7B turnaround plan that includes slashing prices, refurbishing more than 600 stores, and opening more than 100 smaller outlets in cities and on college campuses. Food is supposed to be an integral part of the stores’ redesign, which CEO Brian Cornell unveiled in February after the retailer’s worst holiday season in several years... Cornell’s handpicked grocery chief quit last year after 18 months on the job, and the CEO’s turnaround plan didn’t include any bold ideas for fixing its food business. Some analysts think Target should just outsource its grocery aisles to a supermarket specialist as it’s done with its pharmacy business, which since December 2015 has been operated by CVS Health Corp..."
NRF Projects Increase in Consumer July 4th Spending
Americans are expected to spend $7.1B on food for cookouts and picnics as they celebrate the Fourth of July this year, up from $6.8B in 2016, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation... 219M Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, or 88% of those surveyed. 162M (66% of those surveyed) plan to take part in a cookout or picnic, spending an average $73.42 per person, up from last year’s $71.34. Those numbers cover only food items, not other holiday-related spending..."
Study: Shoppers Want to 'Co-Create' Their Retail Experiences
MBR reports that "Daymon is out with a new study, entitled "From Shopper to Advocate: The Power of Participation," in which it argues that an increasingly less homogenous consumer population wants "to provide direct input to improve products and services," in order to help retailers craft a more relevant experience for them. Among the conclusions: It's not just generational — shoppers can no longer be thought of as homogenous groups; co-creation is the future of retail innovation--shoppers increasingly desire to provide direct input to improve products and services; fresh is the gateway to shopper loyalty, but it goes beyond a single department; conversational engagement must extend outside the store; and seamless integration with mobile is a must. Daymon says that these insights point to a requirement that retailers adopt 'a different way of thinking to ensure engagement among the Shopper turned Advocate. Retailers and brands must move beyond simple transactions and completely reimagine the shopping experience'"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: