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October 21, 2020

Publishing News

Is Bloomberg Exploring Going Public?
NY Post: "Michael Bloomberg has been in talks to take his media empire public through an entity controlled by billionaire Bill Ackman, The Post has learned. The former mayor of New York City and failed presidential hopeful recently entertained an offer to sell a minority stake in Bloomberg LP — the news agency behind Bloomberg Businessweek magazine and Bloomberg TV — to Ackman’s $5B blank-check company, multiple sources said. If the men reach a deal, Bloomberg’s stock would trade on the NYSE in place of Ackman’s Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, a blank-check company that’s raised $5B to buy or merge with another company that would then take its stock listing. It’s unclear whether Bloomberg will move forward with a partial sale, but the billionaire — worth an estimated $55B, according to Forbes — has spoken about the plan directly with Ackman, sources said. Sources say the deal on the table calls for the three-term ex-NYC mayor — who rose to national prominence this year when he sought the Democrat nomination for president — to sell a small personal stake so he can cash out without giving up control of news agency he founded in 1981, of which he owns 88 percent. A Bloomberg LP spokesman told The Post that the company is not for sale in any form and denied that a deal is being explored"...

Fast Company Increases YoY Revenue With Virtual Innovation Event
MediaPost: Like most publishers during COVID, Fast Company was forced to pivot to a virtual version of its annual Innovation Festivall event. But FC says it managed to more tha double the number of sponsors vs. last year’s event, and even topped previous sponsorship revenue. October 2020 media revenue for parent company Mansueto Ventures, which also owns sister publication Inc., will surpass October 2019 revenue. FC reinvented the event as a week-long, fully virtual event, held Oct. 5-9. The entire company, every aspect of every department, touched this thing,” John Donnelly, CRO of Mansueto, told Publishers Daily. “Every single person has been involved in pulling this together"... The event typically draws several thousand paid attendees. Tickets for the 2020 event ranged from $149 to $599, but this year, keynote sessions were free to access online. FC told marketers they would hit 25,000 registrations for the Innovation Festival, but hit 30,000 — five-times the number of registrations in 2019, according to Donnelly. The event had more than 13,000 unique views, and 43,000 total log-ins, which is “significantly higher than anything we’ve had live,” he said. Twelve out of 13 sponsors were new this year"...

Vanity Fair U.S. and Italia Partner on Election Issue
WWD: "Vanity Fair Italia has joined forces with the publication’s American edition to develop a special issue focusing on the U.S. presidential elections. Dubbed “America Anno Zero” — or “America Year Zero,” in English — the issue will feature Jane Fonda as the cover star and include contents curated by the Vanity Fair U.S. editorial team. “For the first time in the magazine’s history, together with Radhika Jones and the American editorial team, we have put together an extremely clear picture of the United States at the present moment. A country that is dealing with historical changes and transformations that are challenging the foundations of its history, its democracy and even its dream — the American Dream,” said VF Italia’s editor in chief Simone Marchetti... “When Simone [Marchetti] asked me and the Vanity Fair U.S. team to help edit an issue about America in 2020, we jumped at the chance,” said Jones, editor in chief of Vanity Fair U.S. “We report on the politics, celebrities, entertainment and technology that drive our culture every day. But collaborating with Vanity Fair Italia, which has been doing such powerful and moving work this year, has helped us crystallize our own thoughts about what America represents and where it is headed,” she added"...

Opinion: Antitrust Suit Against Google ls Disappointing For Publishers
MediaPost's Rob Williams writes that the DoJ's lawsuit, "which will likely will take years to resolve, is more focused on Google's agreements with Apple, telecommunications companies and electronics makers to make its search engine the default for mobile devices. The Justice Department argues that these arrangements give Google an unfair advantage over rivals and limit choices for consumers. The department is still investigating Google's dominance in the online advertising market, and it's not clear if it will file a separate lawsuit against the company. However, such a suit would be more consequential for publishers... The department is still investigating Google's dominance in the online advertising market, and it's not clear if it will file a separate lawsuit against the company. However, such a suit would be more consequential for publishers. Google is an unavoidable presence in the digital ad market, with a market share in the software that publishers use to serve ads that's greater than 90%, according to a study by U.K. competition authorities. Their research also determined that Google controls 40% to 60% of the market for supply-side platforms that publishers use to sell ads in online auctions. The market dynamics of buying and selling digital ad space in those auctions should make the process ruthlessly efficient, but there are signs the system is broken. A study this year found that when an advertiser spends $1 on a digital ad placement, only 51 cents eventually reaches the publisher. The rest of that dollar is either captured by various digital middlemen or disappears somewhere in the supply chain. While it's unfair to blame the inefficiencies of the programmatic ad marketplace entirely on Google, publishers must continue to demand greater transparency from the company, at least until the Justice Department files its next lawsuit."

More Editorial Shuffling at Variety
MediaPost: "ariety has shaken up its top editors — again. Editor-in-Chief Claudia Eller returns Oct. 26 after taking nearly five months off, due to criticism of her management style. In early June, Eller sent a memo of apology to staff, acknowledging her style could be perceived as "autocratic." Cynthia Littleton stepped in as interim EIC. Variety now reports Eller will remain through the summer of 2022, when her contract expires. Littleton has been promoted to Co-Editor-in-Chief. She will report to Eller and CRO Michelle Sobrino-Stern. Joining Littleton will be Ramin Setoodeh, now executive editor. Setoodeh previously held the title of New York bureau chief. The pair will handle daily ops, but are charged with upping Variety’s video content and finding new edit franchises. Brent Lang will replace Setoodeh. Once Eller is officially gone, Littleton will succeed her, and another co-EIC will be named. In September, named William Earl editor, reporting to Littleton. His hire came as the magazine expanded into video and podcasts."

Hearst UK Ups Slater to Editor of British Harper's Bazaar
WWD: "Hearst U.K. has promoted Lydia Slater to editor in chief of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar and charged her with overseeing its print, digital and “experiential offering.” Slater was named acting editor in chief after Justine Picardie left the title in September of 2019.Before taking up the role of acting editor in chief, Slater had served as deputy editor of the title. According to the company, she expanded the Bazaar at Work program and launched the Bazaar Summit, an annual conference focused on women and their careers, getting female leaders from around the world involved"...

New Bill Takes Aim At 'Harmful' Online Content
MediaPost: "Two House Democrats have proposed stripping large tech companies of their immunity from lawsuits over users' "harmful" or "radicalizing" speech, if the companies use algorithms to recommend the material. Specifically, the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, unveiled Tuesday by Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (NJ) would deprive some web platforms of the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, if the platforms algorithmically amplify or recommend what the lawmakers describe as “harmful, radicalizing content that leads to offline violence.” The bill would only apply to companies with at least 50M unique monthly users. Section 230 generally shields web publishers from liability for users' posts, including so-called “hate speech” as well as posts that allegedly facilitate terrorism." Conservative Republicans are pushing their own bills designed to force social platforms to stop reigning in right-wing speech"...


Retail News

Deloitte: Consumers Plan to Cut Holiday Spend by 7%
Forbes: "By this time each year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) would be out with its holiday retail forecast. But 2020 has been a year like no other, so NRF begged off making their prediction until November. Comparing the forecasting process to completing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing, NRF’s chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement: “We are waiting for new data and are still assembling puzzle pieces for the 2020 holiday season. The test is whether consumer spending will be sustained amid wildcard puzzle pieces including policy surprises, the election and a resurgent virus.” While many macroeconomic factors, like unemployment, wage growth and savings rates, go into economists’ models, consumer sentiment is the north star for revealing how retail will fare this holiday season. And that doesn’t look promising. Consumers expect to keep a tight rein on their spending, as their financial worries mount, according to the latest holiday survey by Deloitte among 4,000 American consumers. Holiday spending is expected to decline 7% from comparable levels in 2019.Without a doubt, what people say they are going to do in surveys like this and what they actually do often differs, but with so much uncertainty about things that matter most to people – their health and financial wellbeing – it’s certain that holiday 2020 spending will be restrained"...

1 in 4 Have Already Done Their Holiday Shopping
USA Today: "Over 25% of consumers have already completed their holiday shopping for the year, according to a LendingTree survey. The survey by the online lending service shows that 1 in 4 Americans finished their holiday shopping by the first week of October. Some speculate that some of the early shopping could be driven by federal aid provided as millions of Americans continue to be unemployed. Among the consumers buying ahead of time, over 44% of them were parents with children under 18. Nearly half of the consumers also have household incomes of $100,000 or more. Over 31% of consumers expect to go into holiday shopping debt over the coming months. Among those who were laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic, 47% expect to go into holiday shopping debt. More than half of consumers with a household income of $100,000 or more expect to go into holiday shopping debt compared to 26% of those with a household income of $50,000-$74,999"...

Whole Foods Launching One-Hour Pickup Nationwide
SN: "Whole Foods Market has started offering free one-hour grocery pickup from any of its U.S. stores for members of Amazon’s Prime customer benefits program. Parent company Amazon said Wednesday that Whole Foods pickup service carries no charge for Prime customers placing orders of $35 or more, including fresh produce, meat and seafood plus everyday grocery and household staples, locally sourced products and holiday favorites. The Austin, Texas-based specialty grocer operates 487 U.S. stores. Whole Foods Market has started offering free one-hour grocery pickup from any of its U.S. stores for members of Amazon’s Prime customer benefits program. Parent company Amazon said Wednesday that Whole Foods pickup service carries no charge for Prime customers placing orders of $35 or more, including fresh produce, meat and seafood plus everyday grocery and household staples, locally sourced products and holiday favorites. The Austin, Texas-based specialty grocer operates 487 U.S. stores. To place Whole Foods orders for free pickup, Prime members open the Amazon mobile app or go online to, click the Whole Foods Market tab, choose a pickup store and start shopping. When ready to checkout, they select a one-hour pickup window and then complete their order. In the designated time frame, customers head to the store and check in via the Amazon app to let the store know they’re on their way. Most customers who check in using the Amazon app before arriving at the store wait just one minute to receive their orders after arriving, the company said. Grocery pickup in an hour is free for Amazon Prime members on orders of at least $35 but carries a $4.99 fee for orders to be ready in 30 minutes. Amazon has accelerated the rollout of curbside pickup at Whole Foods only recently, driven by customer demand amid the pandemic"...

Southeastern Grocers Formalizes Plans to Go Public
Grocery Dive: "Southeastern Grocers has filed plans with the SEC for an initial public offering, the latest step in its financial transformation since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-2018.The grocery chain is looking to go public as it slims down its store fleet and tightens its focus on its Winn-Dixie banner, which will eventually account for 87% of Southeastern’s locations, according to the filing.Southeastern is preparing for an IPO at a time when grocery stores are riding a wave of customer interest during the pandemic. The grocer said it recorded net income of $205.7M and $5.3B in sales during the 28-week period that ended July 28, compared with a net loss of $116.2M and sales of $8.3B in fiscal 2019"...

Amazon Paying for Consumer Data on Non-Amazon Purchases
TechCrunch: "Amazon has launched a new program that directly pays consumers for information about what they’re purchasing outside of and for responding to short surveys. The program, Amazon Shopper Panel, asks users to send in 10 receipts per month for any purchases made at non-Amazon retailers, including grocery stores, department stores, drug stores and entertainment outlets (if open), like movie theaters, theme parks and restaurants. Amazon’s own stores, like Whole Foods, Amazon Go, Amazon Four Star and Amazon Books do not qualify. Program participants will take advantage of the newly launched Amazon Shopper Panel mobile app on iOS and Android to take pictures of paper receipts that qualify or they can opt to forward emailed receipts to to earn a $10 reward that can then be applied to their Amazon Balance or used as a charitable donation"...

Report: Satisfaction With Grocers Has Declined In Pandemic
Grocery Dive: "Consumer satisfaction with grocery stores has taken a hit during the pandemic, according to the latest results from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which factors in surveys from more than 500,000 consumers collected between April and September. No grocers improved their score from last year, and the industry overall saw its satisfaction score dip 3.8%. Trader Joe’s and Wegmans led the way with satisfaction scores of 84, followed by Costco and Publix at 83. All four grocers posted the same score last year. H-E-B, which tied for first place in 2019, saw its satisfaction score fall 2% while Albertsons recorded the largest drop, down 8% to a score of 69. Although grocers have reaped an economic windfall during the pandemic, the ACSI results underscore the challenges they’ve faced, indicating they have work ahead of them to build consumer loyalty"...

Amazon Extends Work-at-Home Option Till June
Reuters: "on Tuesday told employees whose work can be done from home that they can do so until June, extending the timeline on a return to office due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until June 30, 2021”, an Amazon spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Tuesday, adding the guidance is applicable globally. Amazon had earlier allowed that option until January"...


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