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Media Briefing: Media company matchmakers, September 2022 edition

In this weeks Media Briefing, I cast some predictions concerning which media companies will merge next and just why or you will want to these pairings seem sensible in the grand scheme of the media M&A landscape.

The main element hits:

  • BDG and Vice Media are searching for a fresh buyer, however the best solution may be to become listed on forces.
  • Billionaire Jeff Bezos will make for an excellent new owner to Forbes.
  • Time isnt finished with the crypto craze at this time.

Several acquisitions came in only beneath the wire in the ultimate days of summer, with Cox Enterprises buying Axios for $525 million and Time buying software licensor Brandcast for an undisclosed amount. Following the M&A land grab that happened in 2021, it got me thinking: What various other media companies could combine prior to the year has gone out?

Below, I play media company matchmaker hoping of predicting another M&A news before it breaks.

1. BDG Vice Media

Both BDG and Vice Media teased going public with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) this past year but if they were dissuaded by BuzzFeeds blunderous SPAC experience or just couldnt scrounge up enough investment to help make the deals worth doing, both companies ended those talks. It could arrived at no ones surprise, though, if these publishers were still searching for opportunities to become listed on forces with other media companies or simply be bought outright altogether. You will want to merge both?

From an audience perspective, this demographics and content categories generally align. Vice Medias acquisition of Refinery29 indicated it wanted a far more female-first audience and BDGs lifestyle group would create a nice landing place for that brand. Meanwhile, Vices i-D and BDGs W Mag will be complementary forces in BDGs efforts to follow more luxury advertisers because it acquired W in 2020.

BDGs culture and innovation portfolio currently contain Gawker, Mic, Inverse and Input, but Vice (and its own sub-brands Munchies and Motherboard) could easily end up being the marquee title within that group, if given the chance. Even though breaking news isnt an ongoing focus for BDG, Vice News could serve because the entrance into this category, in addition to a key player in building out social strategy and video content.

Refinerys 29 Rooms traveling experience is a key section of Vice Medias events business so when BDG searches for methods to earn live event revenue, getting the ticket revenue from 29 Rooms could possibly be beneficial considering BDG mainly relied on sponsorships to monetize that business so far.

In some recoverable format, I possibly could see these brands aligning well with one another, in addition to bringing additional revenue streams that another is lacking Vice Media video IP licensing and BDGs parenting category as examples but will both of these publishers that share a need to be acquired be OK with combining forces versus getting a new parent?

2. The Washington Post Forbes

The Washington Post was famously bought by billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2013 but has since hit some rough waters during the past year, in accordance with a written report by THE BRAND NEW York Times. But to balance out the decreases in digital ad revenue (down 15% from the initial 1 / 2 of 2021 to the initial 1 / 2 of 2022) and falling amount of paid digital subscriptions (now sub 3 million total), perhaps Bezos can purchase the Post a sibling to lean on when times are tough think THE CHANGING TIMES purchasing the Athletic in order to avoid taking hits to advertising whenever the news headlines ebbs and flows.

THE DAYS report this week actually said people acquainted with The Posts business heard that leadership entertained acquiring The Associated Press, The Economist and The Guardian during the past, but I believe the paper will be better suited moving beyond your realm of news.

Again THE CHANGING TIMES reported earlier this month that Forbes wanted a buyer after it, too, abandoned its SPAC plans. The high cost for the publication reaches least $630 million and in 2021 it earned a lot more than $200 million in revenue and much more than $40 million in profit.

JUST LIKE THE Athletic is (hopefully) doing for THE DAYS, Forbes may help stabilize digital advertising revenues for the news-dependent publisher, meaning when there is an especially difficult news cycle triggering plenty of blocked keywords on media buyers lists, the more feature-focused and magazine coverage appearing out of Forbes may help win advertising dollars, versus losing out altogether.

And when nothing else, Forbes reports on everything money and wealth and who doesnt celebrate their billionaire status and endless piles of money a lot more than Bezos?

3. Time will pursue its blockchain interests

Time announced its first acquisition this week a software licensing company Brandcast since coming beneath the ownership of Marc and Lynne Benioff in 2018. Renamed to Time Sites, the platform thats used to create custom websites, had been a pseudo-sibling to Time Marc Benioff was an early on investor, that is the way the Time execs were introduced to Brandcast, reported Axios. So that it begs the question, which other of Benioffs investments could possibly be Times next purchase?

Because of its next acquisition, I could see Time buying its crypto interests, because the company has been quite bullish on blockchain experimentation and NFT projects in the last year despite not being truly a crypto-endemic publisher. The business has earned over $10 million in profit from its NFT projects and recently built a virtual land called TIME Square with metaverse tech platform The Sandbox.

Unfortunately for Time, the valuations of several blockchain tech companies could be out of cover a legacy publisher and also for the Benioffs themselves. The Sandbox, for instance, was seeking to raise $400 million at a $4 billion valuation earlier this season, per Bloomberg. But because the crypto market remains in its slump, there may be several smaller blockchain start-ups on the auction block that may be of interest, either for the technology or the talent. Benioff has been an investor in the blockchain during the past, along with his investment firm Time Ventures as an early supporter of crypto exchange MoonPay.

And its own not unusual a media company would expand its business with a technology-based revenue stream. Many publishers, like Axios, The Washington Post and Vox Media, have created software-as-a-service businesses as a way of generating another recurring revenue beyond subscriptions and membership by means of annual licenses.

Maybe Time will go the technology route again, making certain the companys primary editorial interests remain within enough time brand, but I believe that the business will pursue the crypto bro audience it doesnt currently reach with the acquisition of CoinDesk, Blockworks or Decrypt all independent crypto finance publications who reach that exact demographic.

What weve heard

After Labor Day [is] whenever we strat to get into that fall planning season, seated with your client leads and our clients aswell to listen to what their plans are and making certain we’ve a roadmap, where applicable, that people have these [diverse-owned] partners included going forth in 2023. Because with most of the pledges and commitments which have been done during the last two years, that is really concerning the year of results.

Mark Prince, svp and head of economic empowerment at Dentsu Media, on the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast

What happened to swag?

With the return of several industry and consumer-facing events placed on by media companies come early july, I noticed a thing that didnt appear to return in full-force: free stuff.

Pre-pandemic, the doors to events (especially the people targeted at marketers, just like the NewFronts in-may) were often lined with tables loaded with a variety of branded merch, or swag, shared from either sponsors or the event-hosting media company. Ive seen from Google Home devices to Hydro Flask thermoses.

But come early july, many events I attended didnt even hand out a branded pen. Most NewFront events appeared to prioritize live performances or guest appearances, and just a few passed out logo-emblazoned items (though BuzzFeed notably gave out Hot Ones hot sauce). Reporting by Fortune and The Wall Street Journal found company execs are cracking down on swag spending because they find areas to spend less amid the economic depression.

I reached out to media companies (BuzzFeed, Dotdash Meredith, Vice Media Group, Vox Media, Time and Essence) to ask what the role of merch is within their go back to in-person events especially as, from my memory, a few of these publishers used to provide out impressive swag pre-pandemic. However the companies stayed mum on this issue, or didnt react to requests for comment by publishing time.

Very little merch to be enjoyed at events come early july, messaged Evan DeSimone, who works in tech marketing as head of content and communications at People Data Labs (and once was on the Custom team at Digiday). Chris Harihar, partner at PR firm Crenshaw Communications, also saw less swag at the few events he attended this season. And the merch Harihar did see was less memorable or creative, he said, that will be because its more challenging to justify shelling out for swag, particularly unique, pricey merch, once the market is indeed uncertain and soft.

Nowadays, swag appears to be mailed to people in a far more deliberate delivery fashion, instead of passed out to the masses. Christel van der Boom, head of communications at content aggregation platform Flipboard, said within an email that the business sends out something with this logo onto it in an effort to thank [or] acknowledge fans of these product. It lets them know we appreciate the ways they use Flipboard.

In lots of ways, it feels more meaningful to utilize swag in this manner rather than handing it out at a conference. In a period when people (still) dont meet personally all that often, merch is really a solution to create connection, van der Boom added.

I considered media Twitter with a call-out of these merch-less times, and asked: Whats the very best or your preferred swag item youve seen provided at a meeting?

Many people answered phone chargers and power banks, and also personalized bags. Stuff with an objective. Joni Deutsch, vp at podcast network The Podglomerate, was at the annual Podcast Movement industry event the other day and left with quite the haul, including a Spotify-branded mixology set.

Free smartphones and tablets are really memorable for obvious reasons, but simply directly bribery, tweeted Michael Davis, vp of brand partnerships at basketball publisher Slam.

Some merch gets plenty of use, even years later. DeSimone said he still runs on the french press from the Discovery Inc. holiday party five years later. David Clinch, head of global partnerships at digital consulting firm Mather Economics, includes a well-used backpack from the YouTube summit years back thats a little battered. Harihar includes a fidget toy from the 2017 Digital Trends event he thought will be scrapped per day but Ive used it every workday for [five] years. Sara Guaglione

Numbers to learn

45%: The percentage of 58 publishers in a recently available Digiday+ Study who cited direct-sold advertising because the largest part of their revenue in summer 2022.

1200+: The amount of Snaps a lot more than 6,400 total employees, approximately 20%, that the business plans to lay off following its stock price dipped 80% this season.

What weve covered

Podcasters test offering more bonus content and extra features to cultivate subscriptions:

  • After launching subscription podcast services this past year, QCode, Tenderfoot TV, NPR and Acast are buying their offerings with the addition of more shows and tinkering with just how bonus content can increase recurring revenue.
  • The amount of podcasters supplying a paid product keeps growing as may be the number ready to subscribe.

Find out more about just how publishers are adding value with their podcast businesses here.

Digiday+ Research deep dive: Publishers turn to capitalize as people return to events:

  • More publishers are receiving a large part of their revenue from events than these were half a year ago.
  • Meanwhile, the percentage of publishers who said none of these revenue originates from events fell from 37% to 29% on the same period.

Read more about publishers events businesses here.

Action Network CEO says sportsbooks remain spending big on ads, but with a conservative mindset:

  • Sports betting is one advertising category thats still spending strong regardless of the economic depression.
  • Patrick Keane, CEO of Action Network, said that conversations with sportsbooks have already been primarily centered on locating the highest value sports bettor who’s ready to play along a whole season.

Find out more about how Action Network keeps growing sports betting ad revenue here.

Digiday+ Research: Publishers turn to diversify revenue streams before possible recession:

  • Digiday+ Research surveyed 58 publisher professionals come early july to discover where their revenue is via, how their revenue streams equate to half a year ago and where theyll be focusing their business on the next half a year.
  • As it happens most publishers are receiving their revenue from direct-sold ads.

Find out more about publishers revenue streams here.

Tastemade teams up with Blavity to generate video vertical devoted to Black food culture:

  • Tastemade and Blavity Inc. are teaming around develop a video vertical covering food from the young, Black perspective.
  • Content will concentrate on Black restaurants, chefs and food creators and can lean on Tastemades expertise with food content and Blavitys predominantly young, BIPOC audience.

Find out more about the brand new vertical, called Sauce, here.

What were reading

Growth stalls at The Washington Post and layoffs:

The Washington Posts digital ad revenue fell by 15% from the initial 1 / 2 of 2021 to the initial 1 / 2 of 2022 and its own final number of paid digital subscribers is currently below 3 million, based on the NY Times. Consequently, there is the chance that the paper will cut 100 jobs be it through hiring freezes or perhaps layoffs.

Netflix taps former Snap execs since it expands into ads:

Snaps chief business officer Jeremi Gorman and vp of sales Peter Naylor are leaving the social platform to head up Netflixs new advertising business, based on the Hollywood Reporter.

Time makes its first acquisition beneath the Benioffs:

Time has purchased software licensing company Brandcast for an undisclosed amount, in accordance with Axios. Now called Time Sites, the division targets creating easy-to-build marketing websites. It marks the initial acquisition after Salesforce chief Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, purchased Amount of time in 2018.

The Washington Post finally takes Hollywood by storm:

The Post has made a splash with several blockbusters during the past, nonetheless it hasnt participated in the intellectual property gold rush, in accordance with Vanity Fair, as yet. The Washington, D.C.-based newspaper announced partnerships with Imagine Entertainment and Creative Artists Agency to generate scripted and non-scripted film and television projects predicated on its archives, reporting and ongoing investigations.

Gannetts latest layoffs leave an uncertain future for local newspapers:

Kristi Garabrandt was the only real full-time news reporter at the Daily Jeffersonian until parent company Gannett issued a round of layoffs earlier this month, based on the Washington Post. Now, the paper is left with one sports reporter and freelance contributors to helm the ship.

Substack is reigning in perks for writers:

Once well-known for offering writers six-figure payday loans and healthcare perks to recruit writers, Substack is currently less frequently offering those upfront payments and contains slice the healthcare subsidy it previously wanted to some writers, based on the Information.

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