Is Verizon the Mystery Company Eyeing Time Inc.?
NY Post: "Verizon is rumored to be the public company that is hanging around the hoop on the Time Inc. sales process--waiting to see if it can top any deal for the publisher of People, Time, Sports Illustrated and InStyle. And as the sales process drags on, the specter of a proxy fight also hangs over the company. Activist shareholders have until Friday to put forth a slate of board candidates. The annual meeting is in June. Meredith and a joint venture of Pamplona Capital/Najafi Cos. are the two entities that have been most prominently mentioned as suitors for Time Inc.--but sources close to the situation have been saying all along there is one other undisclosed public company in the mix. Several stockholders say they believe that company is Verizon, which already owns AOL and is putting the finishing touches on a $4.4B purchase of Yahoo--expected to close in late June. Time Inc. and Verizon both declined to comment. If a Verizon bid comes to pass, there will be more than a little irony. AOL and Time were together when Time Warner merged with AOL in 2000 in what is widely seen as one of the most disastrous mergers of all time... Meredith, still regarded as the No. 1 Time Inc. suitor, is believed to be trying to keep a price below $20 a share. “I hope [Time executive chairman] Joe Ripp is not going to walk away from a transformative deal because of a $100M difference in the ask and bid,” one Time shareholder said."
Condé Nast Owners Scale Back Venture Company Plans
NY Post: "The Newhouse family, which owns Condé Nast, is no longer looking for outside investors to join its venture company, Advance Vixeid Partners. In fact, the investment arm has been brought back in-house and even changed its name to Advance Venture Partners. Despite limited success in the past as it tried to diversify from its old print base, the billionaire family, headed by octogenarian Donald Newhouse, says it can do the investment thing all alone. They had filed with the SEC to seek outside funding back in 2015--a plan that has now been scrapped... This year, [the venture company] made only one investment: $10M for a minority stake in Lorne Michaels’ Above Average, which produces comedy videos. Sources close to the family say they are only looking to take minority stakes in early- to mid-stage investments."
Forbes and Wibbitz Produce AI-Inspired Video
MediaPost: " Forbes has partnered with Wibbitz, an artificial intelligence video creation company, to ramp up its digital video production. Forbes uses a contributor model on its site, with a network of writers and reporters who publish directly to Forbes.com. Now those contributors — who may have little experience with video — can supplement their online content with video created by Wibbitz’s automated platform. Wibbitz analyzes text, summarizes it and pulls video from public media and licensed images to create video clips around an article in a few minutes, cutting down on the time and money it usually costs to produce original video. Wibbitz then takes a share of the video ad revenue publishers make on their sites from the videos... The partnership means Forbes can produce videos across more verticals on its site and improve user engagement. Forbes has already launched several mini video series using the technology, such as #IFIONLYKNEW, which focuses on career advice and entrepreneurship. Wibbitz's video creation platform is automatically formatted for mobile, which accounts for more than 70% of Forbes’ traffic...."
Nat Geo Touts Big-Name TV Partnerships, With Mag Tie-Ins
MediaPost: "National Geographic’s upfront presentation Wednesday night emphasized its partnerships with A-list content creators and promoted the synergies the company has built between its TV networks and world-famous magazine. A case in point: National Geographic magazine’s current issue boasts an image of Albert Einstein on the cover, with the headline “What is Genius?” The magazine coincides with the premiere next week of the 10-part 'Genius' scripted miniseries starring Geoffrey Rush as Einstein on NatGeo’s cable network. The premiere episode of 'Genius' was directed by Ron Howard, who produced it along with Brian Grazer, his partner in Imagine Entertainment. They were both in the audience at NatGeo’s upfront presentation in New York, along with other Hollywood powerhouses, such as producer Harvey Weinstein, Mike Medavoy and Morgan Freeman. All three announced new NatGeo programming initiatives. Weinstein will be producing a multipart, global documentary series on race, current working title of “Race,” in association with rapper Jay Z. Medavoy is producing NatGeo’s second scripted series (after “Genius”)--an Iraq War drama now filming in Texas. Titled “The Long Road Home,” the series is based on a book by ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz, who presented a clip of the show alongside Medavoy. Freeman and his producing partner, Lori McCreary, announced their second documentary series for NatGeo, following their first, “The Story of God,” a high-rated six-parter that aired last year..."
Bloomberg, Postlight Team to Annotate the World's News
Poynter: "Just how rich is Jeff Bezos? If you’re at your keyboard, the answer is just a Google search away: $75.6B. But if you’re swiping through an article that doesn’t include the info (or has an out-of-date figure) on your phone, you have to spend an extra minute or three tapping out the question to come up with an answer. Bloomberg—with its ever-present emphasis on speed—has teamed up with Postlight, the digital studio co-founded by journalist and programmer Paul Ford, to create a tool that aims to solve that problem... Bloomberg, with its terminal business, has tons of data. Postlight has Mercury, a web parser that scans and reformats text. Together, they could create an application that scans news articles for newsmakers (people, companies, institutions) and serves up financial data around them. Now, users who download the Bloomberg Lens chrome extension (or Bloomberg's iOS app for consumers) can scan any news story on any website and get additional context on the publicly traded companies and individuals that are mentioned in the article. This is particularly useful, they said, for in-depth magazine articles that are years old and may be lacking the latest financial information.
Taste of Home Launches National Event Series
MediaPost: "Taste of Home, a Trusted Media Brands Inc. cooking magazine, is launching a experiential event series called “Taste of Home Live.” The interactive live show will include a national cooking tour to kick off in Milwaukee on April 18 and hit Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Jersey City, Minneapolis and Philadelphia, among others. The series is sponsored by Eggland’s Best, Jones Dairy Farm, The National Honey Board and LT Foods’ Royal Rice. Taste of Home Live has planned over 40 events for 2017 and over 80 in 2018. Tickets are on sale for $25 for general admission or $100 for VIP. The events include a pre-show cocktail hour and an after-party. During the show, attendees will be invited on stage to learn food styling and decorating tricks using products from the sponsors and featuring recipes from Taste of Home and the local community..."
Publishers Fear Fallout of Google Chrome Ad Blocker
Digiday: In response to a Wall St. Journal report that Google plans to launch an ad blocker on Chrome, publishers (mostly not for attribution) are expressing fears about the potential impacts, and calling Google hypocritical to boot. A monopoly which is already not affected by ad blocking in general because of paid whitelisting having more power is scary,' said Meagan Lopez, global digital business director for The New York Times. 'Owning every aspect of the advertising world from tech to search to exchanges to measurement to servers to ad blocking within the browser just means less control again for everyone else.' Google is yet to make an official announcement, but the Journal reported that Google’s criteria for what ads should be blocked stem from the industry committee-led Coalition for Better Ads, of which Google is a founding member. That means pop-ups and autoplaying video ads with sound, and 'prestitial' ads with countdown timers, formats which the Coalition has previously deemed unacceptable, could be blocked. Most wouldn’t object to these particular ads, but these type of things tend to snowball... One scenario Google is considering is to block all advertising that appear on sites with offending ads, instead of just the offending ads themselves, per the Journal... 'We’re all waiting to see if any ads we have would be considered noncompliant,' said another publisher, speaking anonymously..."
LALA, LA Arts Magazine Debuts In May
MediaPost: "Sarah Harrelson, cofounder of Miami-based Whitehaus Media Group and editorial director of art and design magazine Cultured, is launching a new quarterly arts and culture magazine for Los Angeles called “LALA” this May. LALAwill cover art, design, entertainment, fashion, lifestyle and travel. 'With LALA, we plan to capture the zeitgeist and share the stories of the people who have helped make Los Angeles one of the most exciting cities in the U.S. right now,' said Harrelson. LALA is the fourth magazine under Whitehaus Media Group, which also publishes Bal Harbour and Fort Lauderdale-based Venice magazines. LALA will be edited by Amanda Friedman Eberstein, a longtime LA resident and former editor of Angeleno... The magazine will launch with a circulation of 30,000 to select Southern California communities--Beverly Hills to Malibu. It will also be distributed via newsstands, luxury hotels and private clubs, such as Neuehouse and Soho House.
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Women, Mean Now Equally Share Grocery Shopping; 20% of Shoppers Skip Center Store
PG: " Although tradition has led many to assume women grocery shop more than men, the reality is that both genders are pretty much equal in the practice, according to the latest Grocery Shopper Impact MegaStudy from VideoMining, a provider of in-store behavior analytics solutions. Among grocery shoppers, women account for 51%, narrowing the gender gap. But even though more men are shopping, they're still not spending as much as women: On average, female grocery shoppers spend $2.73 more per trip. The study also found that more people are avoiding center store and shopping just the perimeter. While data from 2012 showed 12% of shoppers limiting themselves to perimeter departments, now the number is 20%, or one in five shoppers. Also, 68% of trips are made for 10 items or fewer, meaning that products have limited opportunity to make it into the basket on any given trip. These trends plus changing demographics mean that brands must now be increasingly precise in targeting marketing message and merchandising solutions to reach and convert harder-to-reach shoppers..."
Wal-Mart Discloses McMillon, Lore Compensation
Arkansas Online: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. revealed the compensation packages for its top executives Wednesday. CEO Doug McMillon earned $23.4M in total compensation for fiscal 2017, according to proxy materials filed with the SEC. That was up 19% vs. last year's $19.6M. " The compensation included a base salary of $1.28M, a slight increase from a year ago. McMillon also received about $22M in other compensation, including $15.2M in stock awards and $4.85M in nonequity incentive plan payment. McMillon's total compensation wasn't the largest... U.S. ecommerce chief Marc Lore received $243.9M in total compensation...much of it in stock awards connected to W-M's 2016 $3.3B acquisition of Jet.com, which Lore founded. Lore received 3.5M shares of restricted stock as part of the acquisition. If not for those, Lore's compensation package would've been about $7.6M. According to the proxy, W-M is obligated to pay Lore about $397M over a five-year period..."
Fresh Market Closes Five Stores, Expands New Look in S.C.
SN: "The Fresh Market is closing five stores in the coming weeks while continuing its effort to reposition as a more mainstream grocer with the rollout of its new format to additional locations. Stores are closing in Livingston, N.J.; Woodbury, N.Y.; Ashburn, Va.; Altamonte Springs, Fla.; and Kildeer, Ill. “This move will allow the company to focus on the success, service and growth of its existing portfolio of stores,” The Fresh Market, based in Greensboro, N.C., said in a statement. “The decision to close these locations was made after careful consideration of the overall growth strategy and long-term performance of the company.” The company said no additional closures were planned at this time. Meanwhile The Fresh Market is planning to open a store this Wednesday, April 26, in Columbia, S.C., that features an updated look and more everyday grocery items alongside the usual assortment of fresh and specialty offerings. The company, which had long positioned itself as an upscale destination for foodies, debuted its revamped positioning in three markets in its home state of North Carolina last year and opened a store with the new approach earlier this year in Boca Raton, Fla..."
CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart Among Those Sued Over Opioids
Washington Post: "Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation opened a new line of attack against the pharmaceutical industry Thursday, filing a lawsuit in tribal court that accuses the nation’s six top drug distributors and pharmacies of flooding communities in Oklahoma with hundreds of millions of highly addictive pain pills. The suit alleges that the companies violated sovereign Cherokee laws by failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market, profiting from the growing opioid epidemic and decimating communities across the nation’s 14 counties in the state... The suit names the three largest drug distributors in the United States: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, which together control roughly 85 percent of prescription drug distribution in the country. Also named in the suit are some of the biggest names in the retail drug business: CVS, Walgreens and Walmart..."
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OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: