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The Query: featuring news and analysis on the media by Claire Atkinson

The NBC News Media Blog is here to keep you current on the media business. Check here every day for fresh news on the latest corporate battles, media mergers, the growth of paid content and big ad-revenue shifts.

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The Query

ABC News alums slam Trump in an open letter

A group of former ABC News employees, including former correspondents and executives, have added their names to an open letter denouncing President Donald Trump’s “sustained attack on the free press.”

“We denounce Donald Trump's behavior as unconstitutional, un-American and utterly unlawful and unseemly for the President of the United States and leader of the free world,” reads the letter, which had nearly 100 signatures on Facebook as of Tuesday afternoon.

The organizer, Meredith Wheeler, a former writer and producer who worked with several ABC News anchors, asked for members of an ABC News alumni Facebook group to share the letter with current employees and friends at other media outlets. She even suggested the possibility of crowdfunding to take out a full page article in The New York Times or The Washington Post.

The letter comes in response to the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s recent praise of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., who assaulted Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, last year after Jacobs asked a question about healthcare.

Several current ABC News employees contacted by NBC News expressed caution about putting their names on an open letter denouncing Trump, at least while they work in the news division.

But one insider said they would be willing to put their name on the letter, “depending on how it was presented within the organization.”

The current version of the letter, posted in the ABC News alumni Facebook group, reads:

"On the heels of the recent brutal murder of a The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump chose to celebrate the assault of The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by an American congressman—an attack that occurred while the journalist was simply doing his job, posing questions to a politician.

Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte (R) body-slammed Jacobs, knocking him to the ground and beating him severely enough to send him to the hospital. Although Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault and was fined, the President of the United States praised this violent behavior at a Trump rally in Missoula, Montana, on October 18.

Trump’s condoning of political violence is part of a sustained pattern of attack on a free press—which includes labeling any

reportage he doesn’t like as “fake news” and barring reporters and news organizations whom he wishes to punish from press briefings and events.

One of the pillars of a free and open democracy is a vibrant free press.

At his inauguration the President of the United States swears to protect the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment.

This President is utterly failing to do so and actively working not simply to undermine the press, but to incite violence against it as well.

In a lawsuit filed by PEN, the writer’s organization, against Donald Trump, they charge him with violating the First Amendment. We, the undersigned, past and present members of the Fourth Estate, support this action.

We denounce Donald Trump's behavior as unconstitutional, un-American and utterly unlawful and unseemly for the President of the United States and leader of the free world."

Katzenberg reveals name of short-form video project

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have revealed the name of their highly anticipated new short-form premium video platform: “Quibi.”

The name, a contraction of “Quick Bites,” hints at what Katzenberg and Whitman are trying to do: create high-quality, HBO-caliber content that people watch on their mobile devices in minute-long snippets.

Every major Hollywood studio has invested in the project, but there’s still a great deal of skepticism among Hollywood and Silicon Valley insiders over the viability of their effort. There is also little available evidence that consumers want to watch “quick bites” of shows like "Game of Thrones" or "Stranger Things” that have traditionally run for an hour.

In an appearance Wednesday at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills, both Katzenberg and Whitman sounded bullish about the demand for premium short-form.

“You’re looking at two old dogs,” Katzenberg said. “We got a new trick.”

Condé Nast loses another top executive in digital re-org

Fred Santarpia, Condé Nast's chief digital officer, is leaving the company, the executive said in a post on Instagram.

"From launching Conde Nast Entertainment's digital video business to leading the acquisitions of Pitchfork and Citizen Net, I’m proud of the lasting contributions we've made to one of the most iconic companies in all of media," Santarpia wrote on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, there’s never a good time to say goodbye, but with the company’s digital foundation set, this is the right time for me to say farewell."

Santarpia, who had been with the company for seven years, is the latest executive from the luxury magazine house to depart in recent months after a round of reviews by outside consultants focused on cost cutting and re-organizing the company.

Other executives who have departed in recent months include Dawn Ostroff, the president of entertainment at Condé Nast, who joined Spotify as chief content officer. Her departure was announced in June.

Phillip Bacardi, the much-vaunted chief content officer of Teen Vogue left in August to join Out magazine as editor-in-chief.

Josh Stinchcomb, the former chief experience officer at Condé Nast also stepped down in August to join Dow Jones as chief revenue officer.

Condé Nast said it would sell Brides, Golf Digest and W magazine earlier this year. The company had been working with Boston Consulting Group, and had lost about $120 million in 2017, according to The New York Times.

Read the memo from Condé Nast chief executive Bob Sauerberg:

Team -

As Jonathan and I continue to align our core areas and functions of our business we are realizing how much this collaboration is benefiting both organizations.

Underpinning this success has been the collaboration between Co/lab and Condé Nast International’s product and technology teams. This has been 18 months in the making and has enabled the roll-out of Copilot as part of Condé Nast InternationaI’s platform Compass, which launched in Germany, France and in the coming weeks Italy.

This effort represents months of hard work by our people both here and around the world and signals the start of a new era, where our digital and technology innovation can have global impact. In the coming months, Condé Nast International will be lighting up 59 additional sites across the world on our single, global proprietary platform. And this is just the beginning.

We want to build on this success by formally mobilizing our product and technology organizations to work towards a set of common goals for both Condé Nast and Condé Nast International. By deepening our collaboration through the joint platform development, product and technology support, global supplier negotiations and the continued development of our Fashion Show products; we can unlock unlimited opportunities to scale our expertise and drive significant growth.

To that end, today we are announcing the joint leadership of our Product and Technology teams led by Ed Cudahy (Condé Nast) and Lee Wilkinson (Condé Nast International) who will report to Wolfgang Blau and me. They will lead their respective teams with the goal of closer collaboration of our technology function. This move presents a huge opportunity to create a Global Product and Technology team that will enable both companies to grow and thrive in the coming years. I want to congratulate our teams led by Ed and Lee on what they have achieved so far and what we will accomplish together in the future.

I also want to share with you that Fred Santarpia will be leaving us on November 2. Fred has been a great digital leader shepherding our nascent business through the continued development and iteration of Copilot and Spire and laying the cultural foundation from which we evolved. Through dramatic upgrades to our digital products and performance, the ability to scale and monetize our audience and the development of critical digital partnerships, he successfully helped pave the way for a cohesive global effort and we will build on that foundation. Before Fred leaves, we will be working with his leadership team to ensure a seamless transition and their continued impact on our business. Please join me in thanking Fred for his contributions and wishing him well.

I look forward to our continued collaboration with Wolfgang and the team at Condé Nast International as our collective expertise and capabilities are unmatched.

Bob

Showtime's David Nevins describes his own 'beach week'

CBS interim CEO Joe Ianniello is making sure he's showing support for his senior executives. 

Ianniello, who was chief operating officer at CBS before taking over after the departure of Leslie Moonves, attended the annual Center for Communications lunch in honor of Showtime Network's CEO David Nevins on Thursday.

He was also out earlier this week attending an event honoring colleague Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer. 

Nevins, who has overseen hit shows such as "Homeland," "Billions" and "Ray Donovan," has been floated as a potential CEO candidate at CBS alongside Ianniello, according to Variety.

But if there was any competition between the two men, it wasn't evident at the lunch. The two shared several laughs sitting together at the same table, as "Homeland" actress Claire Danes said at the luncheon that she'd broken away from breastfeeding her newborn to speak to the audience. "Ray Donovan" star Liev Schreiber also joked that he'd soon be going back to filming in the rain in Yonkers.

The lunch wasn't as well attended as in previous years, with some media executives glued to the Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The hearings kept CBS News President David Rhodes from attending the lunch.

Nevins said he was also from Bethesda, Maryland like Kavanaugh but went to public school. He referenced Kavanaugh's calendars joking that, "beach week" for him, meant "one night on my own in a car." Nevins also urged attendees to lend a hand to those less privileged and help them get their start in the entertainment business.

"TV is the last bastion of oral culture," he said, adding that millions of dollars get invested on the basis of a pitch. 

Just a few hours later, CBS submitted SEC filings revealing that Gil Schwartz, CBS chief communications officer under Moonves, is retiring from the company with an exit package worth $7.3 million. Schwartz is also an author and wrote a long-running column for Fortune under the name "Stanley Bing."

Fox News fires contributor after 'reprehensible' comments about Kavanaugh accusers

Fox News on Thursday fired contributor Kevin Jackson after he called Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women "lying skanks" for accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

Jackson, who has 67,000 followers on Twitter, posted a string of highly offensive tweets over a period of hours as the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Dr. Blasey Ford and then Brett Kavanaugh.

The conservative pundit and author, who as of Thursday night still identified himself in his Twitter bio as a Fox News contributor, tweeted: "Dang girl, stop opening your legs and OPEN A BOOK!”

He also tweeted: "Holy Cow, a woman suffering from PTSD hosts STUDENTS from Google. FBI please investigate SEX PARTIES at #ChristineBlaseyFord house."

He capped it off by saying that "Leftist women are skanky for the most part."

In a statement, Fox News said late Thursday: "Kevin Jackson has been terminated as a contributor. His comments on today's hearings were reprehensible and do not reflect the values of Fox News."

The firing comes just days after Fox News' Martha McCallum conducted an exclusive interview with Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 24.

The topic of sexual assault is a delicate one for Fox News, part of 21st Century Fox, since its late CEO Roger Ailes and former anchor, Bill O'Reilly, exited the network after accusations against them. Both men denied the allegations.

But Fox News' executive suite is now dominated by women. Fox News CEO is Suzanne Scott, and the chief finance officerad sales and public relations chiefs are also all women.

Another Fox News personality, anchor Tucker Carlson, also questioned sex assault victims this week, saying in an segment with liberal radio host Ethan Bearman: "Sex offenders tend to commit serial sex crimes. Doesn't she have an obligation to tell someone to stop him from doing it if he is a fact a sex criminal? Where's her obligation here? What about the rest of us?"

That drew howls of protest from pressure group Media Matters which suggested an advertiser boycott.

HBO pivots away from live boxing

AT&T-owned HBO said on Thursday it would no longer program live boxing, at least in the short term.

The network said in a statement: "Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO," adding that it could still look at events in the future.

"We're a storytelling platform. The future will see unscripted series, long-form documentary films, reality programming, sports journalism and event specials and more unique standout content from HBO Sports."

HBO featured its first boxing match in 1973, in which George Foreman won a stunning upset over Joe Frazier. Since then, boxing had reigned as HBO's premium live sports offering.

The news, first reported in The New York Times, suggested that live boxing wasn't a big reason that people subscribed to the premium TV service.

AT&T has said it will spend more money on programming, but also told Wall Street that it would find $1.5 billion in annual cost synergies within three years of the deal's close. 

It also comes as other players are doubling down on combat sports with ESPN buying UFC rights in order to bring it to a more mainstream audience, and Fox Sports and Comcast sharing rights to WWE. Comcast owns NBC Universal, which is the parent company of NBC News.

Another service, DAZN, is also looking to spend serious money to compete in the sports world. The service, backed by billionaire Len Blavatnik and run by former ESPN president John Skipper, just offered a boxing match as part of a $9.99 monthly subscription — far cheaper than the typical pay-per-view price.

Fox sells its stake in Sky to Comcast

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox said on Wednesday it would sell its shares in the U.K.-based pay-TV platform Sky to Comcast, removing any shadow of a doubt about the satellite broadcaster’s future ownership.

Comcast emerged as the winner of a recent auction for Sky, bidding around $40 billion for the satellite broadcaster, which has 23 million subscribers in Europe. Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of NBC News.

The winning bid left open a question as to whether Fox would opt to take the Comcast offer or remain a shareholder. Fox owned about 39 percent of Sky. 

Fox’s decision-making process was run in conjunction with Disney, since Fox had pledged to sell its Sky stake as part of a separate deal to sell assets to  Disney.  

Confirmation of Murdoch’s decision to give up the stake ends an era for the global media entrepreneur, now aged 87. Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox, had a hand in creating Sky when satellite TV was in its infancy.

Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch issued a statement saying: “Nearly 30 years ago Rupert Murdoch took a risk to launch Sky and in the process changed the way we watch television forever.”

Darroch added: “Our aim is to make the next 30 years as exciting for customers, colleagues and all our stakeholders.”

Sky owns sports rights including, Italy's Serie A soccer league, and England's Premiere League and the European Champions League. Sky also has new partnerships with Netflix, Spotify and Italian media company Mediaset.

In a statement, Fox said it had accepted roughly $15 billion for its shares after obtaining Disney’s consent. Comcast had secured 37 percent of Sky's shares as of Wednesday morning, according to a company spokesman.

The Fox stake gives Comcast more than 50 percent of Sky's shares. Sky shareholders have until Oct. 11 to accept the offering.

Fox confirmed the news of its stake sale and in said a statement: “We bet -- and almost lost -- the farm on launching a business that many didn’t think was such a good idea. Today, Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company and a world-class example of a customer-driven enterprise.”

Just eight years ago, Fox (then known as News Corporation) made an $11.6 billion bid to control Sky. That was scuttled by a phone hacking scandal and scrutiny from the British government.

Comcast, meanwhile, becomes the biggest pay-TV provider in the world with 52 million homes. The acquisition also has the potential to create a global presence in news. Comcast will take control of Sky News and already owns Euronews, based in France, and NBC News and CNBC in the U.S.

Former managing director of Sky Ventures, James Ackerman, told NBC NEWS: “21st Century Fox transformed the media landscape in Britain in a way no other organization has since the creation of the BBC. This is a tremendous opportunity for Comcast (as a platform company) to diversify overseas and unlock further growth for their content divisions. And anyway, it’s about time [Murdoch] cashed out on something.”

                                                               

 

 

AT&T believes in ad targeting and privacy: can the two coexist?

Is AT&T looking to establish a new national ad platform for the TV industry?

The company renamed its advanced advertising business on Tuesday with a promise to offer Madison Avenue something new — targeted advertising at scale. The new unit is called Xandr, after Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone and established The Bell Telephone Company and the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

AT&T acquired Time Warner’s content business for $85.4 with a stated intention of getting TV and online viewing data and marrying it with ad targeting capabilities — a combo the company says will allow it to charge more for its ad inventory.

Here’s how AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson explained it to Recode’s Peter Kafka.

In a statement about the new branding, the telecom giant noted that it has signed deals with regional cable companies Altice USA and Frontier Communications to aggregate and sell their national addressable TV advertising inventory.

Addressable advertising means ads that are targeted to identifiable consumers. TV and telecom firms have struggled to compete with internet companies simply because online players are much less regulated in what data they can share. “Xandr’s unique differentiator is its commitment to personalization," the company said in its statement.

Still, the departure of Oath CEO Tim Armstrong doesn’t bode well for that kind of data mash-up in the current political climate. Oath is part of Verizon.

In the press release, AT&T said: “This initial step starts to create the foundation of a national TV marketplace for advertisers and premium content publishers.”

With TV measurement firm Nielsen exploring a sale, it appears AT&T is making a bold effort to reshape video ad buying with its extensive data and distribution capabilities.

Speaking at the Relevance Conference, Stephenson criticized media industry innovation, according to a tweet from Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw that was confirmed by the company.

“I have not been exposed to many industries as reluctant to change as the media industry in terms of business models and changing how you deliver the product," Stephenson said. "It is an industry that has about as much inertia as any industry I’ve been part of.”

While the phone company wants to have a closer relationship with their customers and viewers, it’s not clear consumers — or politicians — feel the same way. Privacy remains a huge topic of public concern and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has a hearing Wednesday about that very topic. The Los Angeles Times lays out who’s attending the high profile event: AT&T, Amazon, Google, Apple, Twitter and Charter Communications, but no consumer advocates.

Stevenson is arguing for the government to step in to regulate privacy, largely to avoid the states doing it themselves.

Craig Newmark backs news site to take on big tech

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark confirmed on Monday he is spending $20 million to back The Markup, a journalism project led by reporter Julia Angwin aimed at pointing out the serious deficiencies in tech platforms and their impact on society.

Angwin, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, most recently worked at ProPublica, where she looked at how Facebook ads could be used to exclude racial groups from housing, which is against the law. Here’s the story.

“The effects of foreign bad actors on our election, that’s been the most shocking to me,” Newmark said when asked about the most surprising negative effects of technology on society.

But rather than criticize the tech platforms, Newmark is choosing to play diplomat. He wants tech giants and the news media to play nice in order to fend off Russian interference in future elections.

“I can say first hand, a great deal of good is coming from all three major tech platforms," Newmark said. "I’m engaged in quiet diplomacy, getting together a platform of people with constructive critics of the platforms. I've been doing it for some years without much traction, but as I get a little louder, I’m becoming more effective.”

Newmark added: “I have a great deal of confidence in what Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing.”

Some might see some irony in journalism funding coming from Newmark, who also gave a $20 million gift to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. After all, Craigslist's free online bulletin board drew classified ads away from newspapers, helping kickstart a difficult run for print media that continues.

Newmark pushes back against that narrative, pointing to research that shows the newspaper industry has been in decline for decades

John Skipper's DAZN looking to punch its way into OTT

Some people might know billionaire Len Blavatnik as the owner of Warner Music and France’s streaming music service Deezer, but he’s also behind a company attempting to upend the direct-to-consumer sports business.

Blavatnik, together with former ESPN president John Skipper, operate a company called Perform Group, which runs DAZN (pronounced "Da Zone"). The streaming service is getting its a big test this weekend, streaming its first major sports event — a boxing match between Anthony Joshua  and Alexander Povetkin.

The service is $9.99 per month (first month is free) and offers live and on-demand streaming of boxing matches and mixed martial arts as well as other library programming. Joseph Markowski, head of DAZN North America, told The Query the company is aiming to compete with the pay-per-view boxing matches that typically cost $70 to $100. The streamer is advertising this weekend's match via digital media to win sign-ups.

“We’re not just competing with ESPN+, we’re competing with ESPN,” Markowski said.

He said the firm’s exclusive focus on streaming gives it a leg up versus other broadcasters who have to worry about cannibalizing their TV distribution revenue.

DAZN aims to be in the ring when it comes to negotiating for big sports rights when they are available, though Markowski declined to name any. He said DAZN has plans to grow well beyond its origins in the fighting realm, and we should expect to hear a lot more about their sports offering in the coming months.

Can it challenge a plethora of sports streamers already in the market both from the leagues and their TV partners as well as a possible move by a Facebook, Google or Amazon? Blavatnik’s pockets are pretty deep.

The Hollywood Reporter's power list is changing, thanks to #MeToo

The #MeToo movement and the broader push for diversity in the entertainment industry are starting to have an effect on power dynamics in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter's annual 100 list released on Thursday is missing a host of influential names felled by the #MeToo movement. No longer on the list are former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, Pixar's former chief John Lasseter, producer Brett Ratner and Amazon's former studio head Roy Price.

Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter editorial director, said that the list includes 35 women and people of color, a big change from prior years. He said the list was less a reflection of the magazine's desire for inclusion and more about who's got "juice" in the entertainment industry. 

"Women and people of color are having big success. Ryan Coogler (director) and Michael B. Jordan (actor) from 'Black Panther,' that's a reflection of the massive success of that film. They are two names that constantly come up," Belloni said. "Tiffany Haddish and Lin-Manuel Miranda are the same. Roy Price is off the list, and that allowed Jennifer Salke to go up." Salke is the head of Amazon Studios.

The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, who has arguably had a bigger effect on who's up and down in Hollywood than any other force in the past 12 months, joined the magazine's top 100 for the first time, after Moonves was taken off the list at the last minute after he left CBS

Disney CEO Bob Iger tops the list for the third time in a row.  

Belloni said he has spent the day fielding angry emails and complaints about the list.

"Some in old-school Hollywood think there are personal agendas and there's back room dealing," he said, but added that the people at the top of the list, such as Netflix CEO Reed Hasting are there because they are buying. "They're excited about people who are spending a lot of money.”

Amazon charges up online ad rankings

Amazon’s advertising business is growing so fast that measurement firm eMarketer is now predicting it will be the third-biggest digital ad sales entity by the end of the year, behind behemoths Google and Facebook.

On Wednesday, eMarketer revised an earlier projection published in March that had Amazon coming in fifth behind Microsoft and Verizon’s Oath, which includes AOL and Yahoo. 

Amazon is now expected to book more than $4 billion in ads. The company’s popularity among advertisers is driven in part by consumers' shift to conducting product searches on Amazon and the firm’s two-day shipping service. Amazon is also selling ads on its streams of NFL Thursday Night Football and its gaming destination Twitch.

The report states that Amazon is projected to generate $4.61 billion in advertising revenue versus an earlier year-end forecast of $2.89 billion.

Notably, Google and Facebook’s share of the pie shrinks, according to this forecast. The so-called “duopoly” will take a 57.7 percent share of digital ad revenue in 2018 versus 59.2 percent last year, with smaller players also capturing some of the market.

 

eMarketer.com

Woodward book on Trump is a record breaker

"Fear," is officially a record breaker.

Bob Woodward's book about disarray in the Trump White House recorded first-week sales of 1.1 million in all formats, a record for publisher Simon & Schuster.

The last record holder was Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography, according to the publisher. That book sold 379,000 copies back in November 2011.  

"There is only one word to describe the sales of 'Fear' - and that word is huge," said Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, which is part of CBS Corporation. "What's especially gratifying is the appreciation readers and reviewers have for the integrity and importance of Bob Woodward's reporting."

The publisher has ordered a 10th printing, bringing the number of hardcover copies in print to 1.2 million. First day sales were 900,000, the company said in a statement.

Still, the book, only its second week on sale, is already fading from the news cycle as another title about President Donald Trump has emerged — this one from Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago. Her book, "Full Disclosure," published by St. Martin's Press, is now attracting headlines after The Guardian wrote about its contents.

And there's more Trump-related books on the way. Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that former FBI official Andrew McCabe has signed a book deal for "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump," out on Dec. 4.  

Will more tech investors step up for print media?

Staff and former editors of Time Magazine are celebrating the news that Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO worth $6.6 billion, and his wife Lynne Benioff are acquiring the iconic magazine from Meredith Corporation.

Richard Stengel, who ran the newsweekly between 2006 and 2013, told NBCNews.com that was happy to hear about the acquisition.

"It sort of like a dream come true in the sense of here's a tech billionaire who believes in the brand and in impartial news coverage and growing Time both domestically and internationally and doesn't want to play an editorial role," Stengel said. "It's the best of all possible worlds."

Nancy Gibbs, who was the first woman editor of the magazine from 2013 to 2017, said: "I'm over the moon, because obviously we've been living with uncertainty for a long time and hoping for the best outcome.

"What struck me, is this is not some bloodless business transaction," Gibbs said. "You can feel the passion and the purpose that he and Lynne bring to this."

Gibbs said she met Benioff, who is spending $190 million on the magazine, at a dinner in Davos, Switzerland, when she was running the Time Inc. news group. 

Gibbs, who is now the Edward R. Murrow Chair of Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, added: "When it comes to imagining a new future, I can't imagine a better steward. I'm thrilled for my colleagues and readers and everyone who spent so much of our careers there and rooting for the best possible outcome."

Time magazine's editorial staff were also celebrating the change in ownership on Twitter. Chris Wilson, the director of data journalism, tweeted: "I'm delighted that it will be in wise and benevolent hands with the Benioff family."

Columnist Susanna Schrobsdorff tweeted: "There's no better owner for Time and no better time to own Time."

Recode noted the magazine sent the famed bar cart around the office to celebrate.

Benioff said in a text message exchange with a New York Times reporter — conducted while he was receiving a massage — that Time is still in a strong financial situation. "It's a very strong business," he reportedly texted. "Very profitable."

The WSJ reported on Monday that Time is projected to see a 9 percent decline in revenue in 2018 from $173 million in 2017.

Jennifer Grygiel, assistant professor of communications and magazine at Newhouse School, wondered about the all-round rejoicing given tech's role in wrecking the traditional economics of publishing. 

"I am not one of those people who are celebrating the sale of legacy publishing to a tech insider," Grygiel said.

While she says Benioff is well liked because of his stance on human rights and same sex marriage, legacy publishing has been decimated by tech disruption. 

While Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs have shown what investment and expertise can do for publications such as The Washington Post and The Atlantic, other wealthy individuals have found publishing a tough road and have given up their investments. 

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes sold The New Republic after a rocky period of ownership, and billionaire Joe Ricketts folded DNAInfo after he couldn't find a way to make it profitable. Peter Barbey, a wealthy investor, said he would sell The Village Voice just three years after buying it.

Still, Grygiel said there may be more Silicon Valley luminaries headed for the publishing world. Alibaba's Jack Ma acquired the South China Morning Post, while Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder, created The Intercept. 

Meredith is looking to sell other major magazine titles including Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated.

Online video viewing continues to rise, says research firm Magid

Magid Advisors President Mike Vorhaus gave one of the most popular presentations at Goldman Sachs' annual Communacopia conference on Thursday. No prizes for guessing it was about the explosion of online video trends and cord cutting.

Vorhaus said that three-quarters of all internet users are now paying for a subscription video service, and online video viewing is up 8 percent per year.

The presentation also suggested that there's more consumer demand for smaller selections of cable channels, or skinny bundles, a point also brought home by Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, who confirmed his company has a deal to provide a host of its TV channels to smaller online bundles offered by Hulu and Sling TV.

But Vorhaus also touched on the topic of China, asking how many investors in the media had actually visited the country that is likely to be the lead topic of earnings presentations in the not-too-distant future. By his count only a quarter of the audience responded that they had.

Vorhaus told The Query that the Chinese digital middle class is around 700 million people, while there's another 600 million blue collar workers who will be digitally connected in the coming years.

"If you claim to cover a U.S. studio and you don't know about China, you are out of touch," he said. "There is this whole image that it is very agricultural.

He noted there are more than 150 cities in China with a population of one million or more.

Still, he noted that even Chinese players such as Tencent are still operating at the whim of government rules. Tencent stock dropped last month after the Chinese government banned the content of one of its games. Here's how CNBC covered it. Tencent Holdings also owns RIOT Games which produces the popular "League of Legends" computer game.

Magid Advisors
Magid Advisors

Take-Two Interactive CEO on challenges in China

The CEO of games publisher Take-Two Interactive, Strauss Zelnick, used his perch at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference on Thursday to launch a broadside against China.

Zelnick, a newly appointed board member at CBS, told investors of the many hurdles of growing the gaming business while Chinese companies can operate without any challenges.

"We have a completely odd and unequal situation where Chinese companies can come to the U.S. and buy companies no problem in our space," he said. "And if they don't want to do that, they can bring a title here and market it and keep all the proceeds."

Zelnick added: "In order to go to China, we've have to have half our business owned by a local company in China. The good news is they provide expertise. We are in business with companies like Tencent and we are thrilled to be in business with them, but we don't have a choice to be clear."

The Take-Two chief executive added that the firm needs government approvals to launch games in China, which in itself is a political process, and added: "China's been stealing our intellectual property for a really long time. Those things just have to change." 

So far, the tariff wars with China have not included any measures involving the entertainment sector to any large extent, but Zelnick wants to see some changes. "I'm not sure why the U.S. government thinks that it's an OK thing to do with our sector." 

Here's the link to the webcast to listen to the full session, and here's a link to Zelnick's CNBC interview where he talks about the need for boards to have good compliance, a clear reference to CBS. 

Zelnick also used the stage to promote his new book, “Becoming Ageless,” which drew a few laughs from the crowd. 

Survey shows Kaepernick campaign has already taken a toll on Nike

Nike’s new ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is tanking the company’s favorability ratings, according to a survey from Morning Consult, a polling company.

The company, which surveyed more than 8,000 people before and after the print and TV ads were released earlier this week, said that Nike’s favorability ratings have dropped sharply.

"Before the announcement, Nike had a net +69 favorable impression among consumers, it has now declined 34 points to +35 favorable," Morning Consult wrote in its report.

The ad campaign features Kaepernick, the athlete-turned-activist who knelt during the national anthem to protest mistreatment of minorities in the U.S.

The ad copy reads: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” 

Kaepernick has not played for an NFL team since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017. Since then, the NFL has been dealing with an ongoing controversy over players protesting during the national anthem.

President Donald Trump even tweeted about the Nike ad campaign.

"Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts," the president tweeted. "I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!"Morning Consult’s First Poll released on Thursday morning found:

  • Only 2 percent of Americans reported hearing something negative about Nike recently. That number jumped to 33 percent following the announcement.
  • Republicans had the biggest swing, with those "like to purchase Nike goods" declining from 51 percent to 28 percent.

There's a book about Matt Drudge on the way

Investigative reporter Matthew Lysiak has just signed a new book deal to write about one of the biggest names in conservative media: Matt Drudge.

Lysiak signed a deal for the book with his publisher, Benbella Books, he and the company confirmed on Tuesday.

There's been a lot of ink spilled about influential figures in conservative media from Infowars' Alex Jones, to Fox News' Roger Ailes, and talk radio's Rush Limbaugh, but not much is known about Drudge, a relatively anonymous figure despite his eponymous website.

DrudgeReport.com hit the national consciousness in January 1998 after he published an allegation that Newsweek was sitting on a story about then-President Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. 

Back then the format looked like a word processing tool. Here's a link to the original Clinton/Newsweek story. Now, Drudge Report has one main story with a photo and giant headline and three columns of links to the most gripping stories of the day. 

The website remains one of the most-read news websites, with Drudge's own website on Tuesday touting 22 million visits within the past 24 hours and some 817 million visits in the past 31 days. For many journalists, a link on Drudge means a guaranteed audience.

Lysiak, the author of "Newtown: An American Tragedy," said: "This is a man who dictated the stories we read more than any person in history. It is not just a revolution in the way we consume news. He has seized a narrative and little remains known about the guy."

Lysiak, a former New York Daily News reporter, is however having trouble reaching the man himself. He has sent a number of certified letters, he said, and reached out to friends who say they are too afraid that he'll cut them off.

The book is due out in 2019. Drudge didn't return an email request for comment.

NewsGuard gives Fox News a thumbs up, Breitbart a thumbs down

Trying to rate the trustworthiness of America's news destinations isn't the easiest task — just ask Facebook.

But NewsGuard Technologies, a digital media start-up, is working its way through thousands of publications and media outlets to allocate a green flag for good journalism or a red flag for questionable practices.

Run by the founder of Court TV, Steve Brill, and former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard wants to bring ad dollars back to news destinations after social platforms muddied the waters about what's real and what's fake.

The aim is to replace algorithms with humans who are writing short "nutritional labels" with details about the provenance and reliability of news. 

The company has already discovered a few dilemmas; they questioned how to identify websites that simply have sports scores and websites set up by industry associations.

Steve Brill, speaking in a phone interview, added that the service has been emailing Breitbart, which currently has a red flag to help it gain a green verification.

"Breitbart is red but if it makes one change it becomes green, if it would list its owners on the website," Brill said.

Breitbart scores positive marks for five of the nine criteria that help readers determine what's trustworthy. Brill said NewsGuard received no response to its outreach. Breitbart was not immediately reachable for comment.

Rating the quality of news site will almost inevitably stir controversy, and the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard is already questioning the start-up's decision making process, which gives Fox News a green (for good) flag.

Still, Brill and Crovitz say they've had a lot of talks with companies in Silicon Valley and also with advertisers who told NewsGuard that they have ways to flag pornography and hate speech online but so far have found few ways to filter for fake news sites. NewsGuard flagged www.Buzzfeednewz.com as a bogus service. A spokeswoman for Buzzfeed said they are aware and that they've reached out to the owner with a letter of copyright infringement.  

NewsGuard will also leap into action to provide a rating when an unknown news service is catapulted into the news.

NewsGuard is backed by advertising holding company Publicis Groupe. The company raises revenue from licensing its services, but everyday consumers can use the Microsoft and Chrome extensions, located at NewsGuard's website, to see how it works.

Owner of The National Enquirer stays silent on Michael Cohen plea

American Media, Inc., owner of The National Enquirer, has so far kept silent about the implications of Michael Cohen’s guilty plea.

Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pled guilty in federal court on Tuesday and said he had paid an executive from a media company to keep allegations of an affair out of the public eye — a violation of campaign finance laws. He said he did so at the direction of a federal candidate, which Cohen's lawyer later said was Trump.

Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model that has alleged she had a relationship with Trump, and her lawyers have said that the National Enquirer paid her $150,000 in August 2016 to keep her story about Trump from circulating.

Calls to American Media CEO David Pecker and the publisher’s public relations staff made Tuesday night were not returned. 

AMI executives were reportedly subpoenaed as part of the Southern District of New York’s case against Cohen. 

Court documents suggest that Pecker had an agreement to keep an eye out for damaging stories against Trump as early as 2015, according to the New York Times.

Cohen's guilty plea puts the company in an awkward position. The owner of the supermarket tabloid has been shopping around high-yield bonds with the help of bankers to raise as much as $450 million to pay off debt, according to Debtwire. The company recently spent $80 million acquiring competitive titles from Bauer Publishing, including InTouch, Life & Style and Closer. 

But audiences for The National Enquirer are on the decline. According to the Magazine Publishers Association’s 360 Report, National Enquirer’s print and digital numbers are down 19.8 percent year-to-date through June versus the same period last year. 

Whether American Media is in any legal jeopardy remains to be seen. Cohen reportedly created a shell company to pay McDougal for her story about a long-term affair with Trump and then didn’t run it, according to a 2016 article in the WSJ

The practice is known as “catch and kill," and American Media's relationship with candidate Donald Trump is thoroughly detailed in this The New Yorker article.