The BizBeat – December 8, 2016

Each Thursday, MediaFile’s Business section publishes an overview of the past week’s news in media organizations and industry. Have a tip, see something we missed, or want to put something on our radar? E-mail Shiplett@Mediafiledc.com.

Making Headlines

  • An unfounded conspiracy theory prompted violence on Sunday, when a man walked into the Comet Ping Pong Pizza Shop in Washington, D.C. and opened fire. He reportedly took it upon himself to investigate a theory that the pizzeria served as an uncover hub for a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and top-ranking figures that were involved with her presidential campaign. The incident, which became known across social media as “Pizzagate,” resulted in no civilian casualties, but it highlighted the impact that fake news continues to have on influencing the general public. Among those furthering the theory were the son of National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn, who tweeted that “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll be a story.”

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  • This week, the New York Times reported on Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou, who was attempting to cover the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota when he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in October. Ou maintains he was held by the police for over six hours until he was ultimately denied entry into the U.S., and while no explanation was given for his denial, he was told his name was identical to that of “a person of interest.” The incident raised concerns over press freedom rights given to journalists, especially after his cell phone and personal journal containing information from sources were allegedly confiscated and copied.

Getting Down to Business

  • A new journalism website dedicated to covering the “broken” news media launched on Monday.  The Outline, according to founder Joshua Topolsky, was created to “tell the right stories for now…in a way that’s meaningful and modern.” The Outline says it will focus on three major divisions: power, culture, and the future. It has linked to articles from other publications, such as Bloomberg and People, in addition to providing original content.

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  • Ad-buying agency Magna Global projects that ad-spending will heavily decline in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports. After a year that saw a 6.9 percent increase in ad-spending largely due to the Olympics and presidential election, ad-spending is expected to decrease to 1.7 percent growth in the next year.  Magna says it would be the lowest rate in 15 years, excluding the 2008-09 economic recession. However, digitally speaking, social and search ad-spending are expected to be the “bright spots” of the decreased growth rate – in fact, Magna estimates that by 2021, mobile advertising will have grown to include 72 percent of total digital ad-spending budgets.
  • As part of the terms of Gawker.com’s settlement with Terry Bollea (also known as Hulk Hogan), the website’s founder Nick Denton would be required to receive the former wrestler’s permission to buy the website back. The settlement, which totals $31 million, states that Hogan “shall be provided with notice and consultation rights with respect to the sale process.” Nevertheless, the possibility exists that Denton could attempt to purchase Gawker.com back from the bankrupt Gawker Media estate once he rebounds from his personal bankruptcy.

On the Radar

  • The Oprah Winfrey Network announced on Monday that Oprah Winfrey will conduct Michelle Obama’s last interview while First Lady. The interview special will air on Dec. 19 at 8:00 p.m. on CBS (and on the Oprah Winfrey Network on Dec. 21 at 9:00 p.m.) and will be filmed in the White House private residence. While this is not the first time Winfrey has interviewed either of the Obamas, it is one of the first times she will be back on broadcast television since her syndicated daytime talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” ended its 25-year run in 2010.
  • Although revenues for many newspapers continue to decline, The New York Times has seen more than 200,000 new subscribers since the election, bringing its total subscriber count to around 1.3 million. Consequently, stocks for The New York Times closed three percent higher than where it started at market close on Monday. Given the paper’s international market presence, however, it is unlikely to expect most other newspapers in the United States to achieve the same results.
  • Senior executives at both AT&T and Time Warner expressed confidence that their $84.5 billion merger will not be impeded by President-elect Donald Trump. Although the two companies were initially concerned about the deal’s status after Trump’s election, Wall Street analysts now feel that Trump’s presidency may have a positive effect on the merger possibility. One analyst even estimated the odds of the merger at 70-30 in favor of completion.

Arrivals

  • Following the announcement of her resignation last week, former Politico National Editor Kristen Roberts has taken a job with McClatchy Newspapers to become its new executive editor. In her resignation statement, Roberts had said that she wanted “to be part of a newsroom that has the ability to speak to and serve a non-Washington audience.” It is likely that McClatchy will fulfill Roberts’ desire, as it created the executive editor position specifically for Roberts.
  •  It was reported this week that NBA Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson will be returning to ESPN as a basketball analyst. He will return to TV on Christmas Day, when five basketball games will be broadcast throughout the day on both ESPN and ABC. Following his debut, Johnson will broadcast on Saturday nights alongside Michael Wilbon and Sage Steele on a new weekly program. Before his brief hiatus from on-air analysis, Johnson was a part of ESPN’s NBA Countdown from 2008 through 2013.

  • CNN political commentator and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord has reportedly re-signed his contract with the network through 2017.  Previously a political director in the White House during the Reagan administration, Lord mostly comments from his home in Pennsylvania. He has come under fire in the past for supporting Trump in the wake of controversies such as former KKK wizard David Duke’s endorsement and likening Trump’s proposed Muslim ban to some of Franklin Roosevelt’s policies during World War II.

Departures

  • The Raleigh Agenda, a spin-off of fellow North Carolinian news site Charlotte Agenda, announced that it is shutting down after being online for less than a year. Founded by local media businessman Ted Williams, Raleigh Agenda’s Editor-in-Chief Grayson Haver Currin said in a statement that the closure was largely caused by their failure to “figure out a sustainable business model for this market.” Charlotte Agenda’s status will not be affected by the closing of its sister site.
  • According to the New York Post, CBS Radio will soon see the departure of a number of its longtime executives and reporters. CBS World News anchor Bill Whitney, along with Washington correspondent Barry Bagnato and Executive Producer Charlie Kaye, have all been with the organization for over 30 years, but are soon slated to be cut with even more dismissals expected in the near future. Each of the aforementioned employees, as well as others laid off, were offered buy-outs to fulfill the cuts ordered by CBS Radio’s distributor, Westwood One. More changes are on the way for CBS Radio, as it filed last month to break off from its parent company in January 2017.

In Other News

      • This past Monday was “Love My Newspaper Day”, and thousands across the country took a moment out of their day to share the newspapers they read and love with the hashtag #LoveMyNewspaper. The “holiday” was first started in 2015 by Kevin Cate, a PR employee at Fold Florida, a daily newsletter that sends out first pages of newspapers around the state. 

  • BuzzFeed published a graphic on Saturday that shows the outlets from which President-elect Donald Trump most often gets his news. It was based on article links he has tweeted, and revealed that white nationalist outlet Breitbart was overwhelmingly his leading news source. However, Trump’s favorite source for information, regardless of newsworthiness, is Twitter itself. The article also included the top 20 headlines Trump has tweeted about, and chief among them were headlines including the phrase “drain the swamp.” 

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