Insights & Analysis: Publicly Traded Companies in Q1 2023

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Every quarter, business analyst Matthew Scott Goldstein details and shares his insights on what he saw happen with publicly traded companies across advertising, technology, and media.

Top-Level Insights for Publicly Traded Companies Q1 (2023)

Macro Environment: What We Saw in Q1 2023

  • Some media publishers are facing challenges, many others are investing in their future and considering acquisitions or divestitures.
  • Publishers are exploring ways to integrate AI into their editorial processes.
  • Concerns for publishers today are extensive, including the continued decrease in the ability to monetize traffic, often due to Google algorithm changes, and the need to receive compensation for their content powering AI.
  • The most successful publisher initiatives over the last five years include Axios and Forbes Marketplace, though there may be others that have been overlooked.
  • We may see some publisher AI initiatives that will be fascinating and potentially transformative within the next 1-2 years, beyond enhancing the editorial process, which could alter the publisher landscape as we know it.
  • Advancements in artificial intelligence could also reshape the digital landscape.
  • The ChatGPT chatbot, released last year, can produce plausible answers to a range of questions and has been praised by some industry observers as a potential alternative to current search engines such as Google.
  • The recent wave of layoffs is an indication of how tech firms are shifting from a growth-above-all mindset to protecting their bottom line.
  • Google and Meta’s share of U.S. digital-ad spending fell below 50% for the first time since 2014 due to their slower growth compared to the rest of the market.
  • The Justice Department and eight states have also sued Google, accusing it of having a monopoly over the technology behind online advertising.
  • The sale of Google’s old DoubleClick assets may present challenges for the industry. 

Deeper Insights for Publicly Traded Companies Q1 (2023)

Digital Media Publishing: What the News Reported in Q1 2023

Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures 

  • The sports, finance and lifestyle publisher The Arena Group, which houses editorial titles including Sports Illustrated, The Street and Parade, has acquired Fexy Studios, a digital video and content production studio with a focus on food media, in a stock-and-cash transaction.  With the deal, the publisher will meet rising demand from marketers for premium video inventory, ultimately growing Arena Group’s video ad revenue. 
  • Vice Media has restarted its sale process after bidders balked at the price tag. The company is now likely to fetch less than $1 billion. 
  • Nate Silver and his website FiveThirtyEight are said to be on the chopping block as owner ABC News looks to cut costs
  • Rupert Murdoch has called off his proposal to recombine News Corp. and Fox Corp., citing concerns that a merger “is not optimal for the shareholders” of either company right now. 
  • The News Movement, a video news organization started by former top executives at the BBC and News Corp., is hoping to establish its brand in the United States in part by acquiring The Recount, a social video startup that got millions of views but failed to figure out a revenue model.
  • BDG Media (Bustle) suspended operations at Gawker. Following the dramatic reductions to its culture and innovation portfolio, BDG is turning its focus to lifestyle, parenting and prestige.
  • Penske Media Corp. announced a strategic investment in Vox Media, the digital publisher whose brands include, New York Magazine, Popsugar, Thrillist, Vulture and SB Nation. With the investment, PMC will become Vox Media’s largest single shareholder. The two companies said they will continue to operate independently. As part of the deal, PMC CEO and founder Jay Penske will join the board of directors at Vox Media. PMC is investing $100 million in Vox Media, which will give PMC a 20% stake in the company. Vox Media in December 2021 merged with Group Nine Media, a digital media roll-up venture whose backers had included Discovery. That came after Vox Media in 2019 acquired New York Media, publisher of New York Magazine. The company’s portfolio of brands comprises Curbed, The Cut, The Dodo, Eater, Grub Street, Intelligencer, New York Magazine, NowThis, Polygon, Popsugar, Recode, SB Nation, Seeker, The Strategist, Thrillist, The Verge, and Vulture.
  • LifeHacker has been sold by its parent G/O Media to Ziff Davis 
  • Tastemade tries again to get into the restaurant business with new taco chain
  • Group Black, which aims to invest in Black-owned media firms, has bid around $400 million for Vice Media, the Wall Street Journal reported the latest sign of how digital media valuations have plunged. The offer price compares to Vice’s 2017 peak valuation of $5.7 billion and is likely below Vice’s debt level

Investment, funding, expansion, and innovation 

  • USA Today has been named the “first major publishing partner” on Post, the Twitter rival founded last year by the former chief executive of traffic and navigation app Waze. A small number of other publishers such as Reuters and Yahoo Finance have also begun trying out the new platform although were not described in the same way by founder Noam Bardin.
  • BuzzFeed stock jumped in late January on reports of a deal with Meta and plans to use artificial intelligence to personalize and enhance the digital media firm’s online quizzes and content.
  • Automotive journalist Doug DeMuro has been on the fast track since becoming a YouTube sensation with his car reviews. Now, his fledgling Cars & Bids online-auction platform is getting a $37 million infusion from the Chernin Group, a leading investment firm. In the words of 34-year-old DeMuro, this is a big deal. It’s going to allow us to take Cars & Bids to the next level, let me refocus on making YouTube videos and get the help of a group of people who actually know what they’re doing.
  • Nordic publisher Schibsted grew tired of waiting for advertisers to place their bets on an alternative to third-party cookies, so it made the choice for them. That choice was, perhaps unsurprisingly, its own first-party IDs. These are encrypted identifiers that the publisher uses to share data on those logged users with advertisers that might want to reach them via programmatic auctions. made them available to any advertiser looking to bid on its inventory via the ad tech vendor
  • Politico plans to expand in its home market of the United States as well as Europe as part of a five-year plan focusing more on regional policy-making centers. 
  • Media and publishing company Future plc, which owns a stable of 250 special-interest magazines and sites, has hired digital media veteran Jon Steinberg as CEO. Jon is a natural fit as we look to further extend Future’s leadership, particularly in the U.S.
  • Jimmy Finkelstein, a longtime media investor and entrepreneur who formerly owned The Hill, has raised $50 million for his new venture called The Messenger. In total, he’s hired roughly 35 people, with the goal of hiring several hundred more throughout the year. 
  • Fox Corp said it will look for merger-and-acquisition targets after the decision to call off plans to remerge with News Corp.
  • Time launching new commerce site with Taboola; Time plans to launch a new commerce website next quarter powered by content created by a team of editors and writers at Taboola
  • There are more than 2 million paid subscriptions to writers on Substack — up from 1 million last reported in November 2021
  • Axel Springer has unveiled plans for a new headquarters in New York City as it aims to make Politico its global flagship title as it shifts its focus to the U.S
  • Meta has awarded grants totaling $29.4 million to 564 news organizations as part of its Meta Journalism Project (MJP), The total amounts received from Meta ranged from $5,000 to six-figure sums received by the Boston Globe and others. The median amount received was $25,000, but 239 outlets received just $5,000
  • The Condé Nast title Glamour launched a digital storefront called The Glamour 100, a shoppable grid featuring 100 curated products from women-owned brands, as part of its efforts to build commerce and advertising revenue. The landing page is part of a larger franchise, called By Women, which also includes a permanent database of women-owned businesses, a TikTok series, a related podcast and a slate of forthcoming pop-up events
  • Yahoo has been dropping hints about its return to competing in the search space. There’s going to be so much innovation in Search in the coming years and there aren’t many places where you can immediately have an impact this big. Yahoo CEO Jim Lanzone took the helm of Yahoo in September 2021. He has deep roots in search.
  • The lifestyle publisher Dotdash Meredith, which houses titles including Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living, has partnered with Pinterest to produce 180 original, seasonally aligned vertical videos. Pinterest will fund the creation of the content, but it wouldn’t share financial specifics. 
  • The New York Times says its Wordle game was played 2 billion times last year and brought in “tens of millions” of new users.
  • Mail Metro Media has partnered with Firework to launch a vertical video infrastructure across its digital portfolio. It claims to be the first European news publisher to do so.  The video technology suite debuted this month on the MailOnline and Metro desktop and mobile websites. It allows users to move up or down the homepage based on the content they want, while enabling brands to integrate their social, UGC and shoppable commerce content into leading breaking news carousels.

Editorial changes (mostly around AI)

  • Vogue is cutting one print issue this year to give it a total of 10. 
  • Retail trading platform Robinhood is launching an independent media brand called Sherwood that will be led by veteran tech editor and media entrepreneur Joshua Topolsky. The entity will build on the success of Robinhood’s popular daily markets newsletter, Snacks, and will serve as a branding and customer acquisition tool for Robinhood’s trading platform
  • CNET is reviewing the accuracy of its articles generated with the help of an AI engine after several errors emerged. 
  • The stock more than doubled in value earlier in the day as a Wall Street Journal report said Buzzfeed would use ChatGPT creator OpenAI for its content. Buzzfeed said we are not using ChatGPT – we are using OpenAI’s publicly available API 
  • BuzzFeed Vows Not to Use AI for Journalism; BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti: “The place where I’m most excited about AI is not in news, but in entertainment.”
  • News Corp is in talks with an AI firm about compensation. News Corp has thrown down the gauntlet to the likes of ChatGPT owner Open AI, insisting AI firms will need to pay news publishers for the right to use its technology on “proprietary” content.
  • The Wall Street Journal appears poised for some serious changes as newly installed Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker’s vision takes shape. Tucker is extremely keen on shifting the paper away from commodity news and towards a hardcore focus on exclusives and investigations.
  • CNET, owned by Red Ventures, a massively popular tech news outlet, has been quietly employing the help of “automation technology” — a stylistic euphemism for AI — on a new wave of financial explainer articles, seemingly starting around November of last year.
  • BuzzFeed is encouraging its newsroom to produce more articles in an effort to boost traffic, as its news division continues to lose money and the digital publisher braces for continuing declines in revenue. News Editor-in-Chief Karolina Waclawiak told staff at a recent meeting that increasing the news division’s volume and traffic was part of an effort to help the newsroom meet a goal of becoming profitable this year. 
  • Axios’s software business is raising $20 million to build new artificial-intelligence-powered communication tools.
  • Tom’s Hardware, a digital publication for PC enthusiasts, claims it was plagiarized by Google Bard and that the AI system apologized. Editor-in-Chief Avram Piltch says he asked Bard a question about “which of two competing processors — the Intel Core i9-13900K or AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D — was faster.”  Piltch writes, “The answer it gave was taken directly from one of our Tom’s Hardware articles, but Bard didn’t mention the article and instead referred to the number as occurring ‘in our testing,’ implying that Google itself had done the benchmarking.” 
  • Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch agrees that creators should be compensated for use of content to produce results from AI chatbots. 
  • BuzzFeed is quietly publishing AI-generated articles that look like the content mill model CEO Jonah Peretti promised to avoid

Challenges and obstacles

  • BuzzFeed’s $300M purchase of Complex promised to grow both brands, but strategies have clashed and Complex’s culture is being completely gutted
  • Semafor, a news startup, plans to buy back Sam Bankman-Fried’s stake in the company, according to a report from The New York Times. Bankman-Fried invested approximately $10 million in the startup, which raised roughly $25 million before it launched in October
  • IAC faces culture hurdles at Dotdash Meredith — Mergers are hard, and this was really hard,” says Dotdash Meredith CEO Neil Vogel, who is declining to rule out major layoffs.  
  • Fear of U.S. government scrutiny is holding up a deal to sell Forbes to a foreign buyer, leaving the company scrambling to find U.S. investors willing to lend their money and name to the iconic American magazine. Shiv Khemka, an Indian billionaire whose fortune was amassed over decades living in Russia, has been leading the purchase of the iconic, if shopworn, American finance brand. But Forbes’ bankers have told U.S. investors that they are looking for help to smooth the deal’s approval by American national-security regulators. 
  • Vice Media has secured $30 million in debt financing from Fortress Investment Group, as the company faces a financial crunch.
  • Nancy Dubuc is leaving Vice Media as unpaid bills pile up and the private frustrations of investors spill out into public view.
  • Vox Media is said to be looking to raise around $200 million amid drastic cost-cutting measures and layoffs at the company.  
  • BuzzFeed reported rev of $135M for the Q4, down -8% Y/Y. Ad revenue was $51M, down -27% from last year’s fourth quarter, and Sponsored Content revenue was $55M, down -9% Y/Y. One bright spot was commerce and other revenues, including live events revenue, which totaled $29M for the fourth quarter of 2022, up +76% Y/Y
  • The Messenger — a yet-to-be-launched news site from media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein — risks becoming a money pit helmed by old-school executives with “delusional” ambitions in an increasingly cutthroat business, according to industry insiders. Finkelstein, a former part owner of The Hollywood Reporter and The Hill who has amassed $50 million to fund the venture, told The New York Times he will launch the site in May with at least 175 journalists located across New York, Los Angeles and Washington.
  • NPR is canceling four of its podcasts as it lays off 10 percent of its staff members and tries to close up a budget shortfall.  
  • The digital media rollup dream is dead for the moment — now it’s all about core brand strength.  Digital media companies including 
  • BuzzFeed, Vice, Vox and Bustle Digital Group are sharpening their focus on core strengths.
  • Dotdash Meredith expected the company’s product integration to be completed by summer 2022. It’s still in the works. The scale and complexity was certainly unlike anything we had ever experienced before and so even though we had our best playbook and best estimations in place, we just couldn’t move fast enough. Even though both Dotdash and Meredith used GAM, each side “had unique account strategy management systems. Both had inventory management. Both had targeting systems. And figuring out exactly how to stitch that together was the most complicated.

Digital Media Publishing: What We Saw in Q1 2023

  • Publishers are trying to optimize the editorial side of the business by using data in more ways to measure editorial success, finding the correct tools and metrics for each individual publisher is important 
  • Publishers are trying to grow the audience within more uniques; publishers are also trying to recirculation users, especially those users from search 
  • Publishers are concerned that traffic continues to decrease, often due to Google algorithm changes 
  • Publishers are worried that programmatic CPMs are not coming back, now passing the one-year point of the Ukraine war and CPMs are still down; perhaps this is just inflation/raising interest rates etc. 
  • Publishers need Apple to build a third-party app ad network; ATT killed the APP ad and IOS businesses.
  • Publishers are trying to move into new and different verticals, some of these verticals have much higher CPMs  
  • Publishers are worried about SSPs; is the EMX/Yahoo news a blip of indicative or more consolidation to come
  • Publishers are really figuring out vertical video and how to make $’s from the content; currently it’s difficult with not much programmatic ad demand 
  • Publishers are focused on ecommerce, the next evolution of monetization and may someday take over traditional programmatic advertising 
  • Publishers are trying to figure out what a DMP and lack of cookies means for revenue in the future, each publisher needs to figure out what first party data means to them, and how best to utilize it across their business
  • Publishers are trying to capture more email addresses and use that data to increase revenue, but not sure this will materialize into revenue. Still not clear that utilizing emails to replace the functionality of third party cookies will be a long term solution given privacy concerns. 
  • FB is depreciating FBIA in April; additionally, FB in moving away from News in general; maybe FB is worried about upcoming payment for content laws and just want out of news
  • Publishers are worried about finding top notch talent, seems like some of the best people have left the industry  
  • Publishers are worried that the US/Europe is going to have a recession, worried that Direct sales getting squeezed out due to budget cuts and buyers continue to spend more money on CTV in general
  • Smart Publishers are preparing long term plans and focusing on strategic, key initiatives
  • Publishers are consolidating as we see with Arena group, Vice, BuzzFeed, Vox, Penske, etc.  
  • Publishers need to get paid for their content powering AI, unlike what happened 20 years ago with Google Search where publishers were left with nothing 
  • The most successful publisher initiatives in the last 3-5 years are Axios and Forbes Marketplace, though I am sure I forgot something 
  • I am not sure we will see another successful digital publisher emerge in the next 3-5 years
  • I think there will be some publisher AI initiatives that will be very interesting emerge in the next 1-2 years, beyond enhancing the editorial process, that may change the publisher landscape as we know it, may be something like Artifact   

Ad Tech: What We Saw in Q1 2023

  • Private equity firm BC Partners has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Madison Logic, a provider of business-to-business digital marketing services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a person familiar with the matter told Reuters the transaction valued Madison Logic at about $750 million. BC Partners is acquiring Madison Logic from Clarion Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm that had acquired the company in 2016.
  • The Trade Desk, a media buying platform for the open internet, has debuted a tool to help advertisers activate first-party data across channels and devices. The new technology, Galileo, allows ad buyers to unlock data  to find new customers who share similar characteristics. In addition, the privacy-conscious solution helps advertisers optimize media buys across all digital media and measure results and business outcomes, the company says. 
  • OpenWeb is acquiring publisher-tech firm Jeeng for $100 million. The acquisition is the third company OpenWeb has bought in about a year. The Jeeng acquisition will help OpenWeb’s publisher clients collect data for subscriptions and ads.
  • Google selling the old Doubelcklck assets could be challenging, because the big tech and media companies that could afford such a deal—from Microsoft Corp. to Comcast Corp.—might face antitrust hurdles of their own, the executives said. Some observers said that a spinoff would be more likely and that the resulting enterprise could become an acquirer in an ad-tech business crowded with small firms.
  • Twitter has partnered with DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science to offer advertisers insights about the content that appears adjacent to their ads, including promoted tweets
  • Advertising technology firm Kargo has acquired VideoByte, a video tech firm that helps advertisers make ads for streaming TV platforms. Three-year-old VideoByte sells an ad server that lets advertisers run custom ads on streaming TV platforms. For instance, advertisers can position their watermarked logo or an image of their product in the corner of a TV screen while a show plays. Advertisers can also overlay QR codes on top of TV commercials to direct viewers to more information about an ad. VideoByte’s technology targets ads based on what content someone watches or where they’re watching. VideoByte’s technology is used by Viacom, Tegna, and LG, according to Kargo
  • French advertising technology provider Criteo is making a new attempt to sell itself after discussions with potential acquirers in previous years proved unsuccessful, according to people familiar with the matter. The Paris-based company, which is listed in New York, kicked off a sale process last week that could attract other companies and private equity firms
  • Yahoo plans to lay off more than 20% of its total workforce as part of a major restructuring of its ad tech unit. The cuts will impact more than 50% of Yahoo’s ad tech employees — more than 1,600 people. As part of the changes, Yahoo will shut down a part of its advertising business SSP. It will also shut down its native advertising platform, called Gemini, and instead will leverage its newly-formed partnership with ad tech giant Taboola to sell native advertising on its own content instead.
  • Chartbeat, a digital publishing software company, has acquired Tubular Labs, a social video analytics company, and Lineup Systems, a digital revenue management company.
  • to acquire contextual and native DSP Bidtellect
  • Ad tech OG and Beeswax co-founder Ari Paparo has launched yet another startup. This one is aimed at helping companies launch and commercialize new products. The SaaS platform now in beta has been purpose-built with task and document management features specific to the product launch process, including cross-functional communications to manage expectations, assign tasks, and keep projects moving. 

Big Tech: What We Saw in Q1 2023

  • Google and Meta saw their share of U.S. digital-ad spending last year fall below 50% for the first time since 2014 because they are growing more slowly than the rest of the market
  • Musk says he is open to buy Substack
  • Meta fined more than $400 Million in EU for serving ads based on online activity, Meta has long allowed users to opt out of personalizing ads based on data it gleans from users’ activity on other websites and apps. 
  • Microsoft is preparing to launch a version of its Bing search engine that uses the artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT to answer some search queries rather than just showing a list of links
  • The recent wave of layoffs signals how tech firms are pivoting from a growth-above-all mindset to protecting their bottom line
  • YouTube has announced that creators can start making advertising revenue on Shorts, its rival to TikTok, starting February 1.
  • Microsoft is in talks to acquire a 49% stake worth $10 billion In ChatGPT owner OpenAI 
  • Small businesses that try TikTok say they are getting a return on their investment, often within six months. 
  • A senior Twitter manager told company workers that more than 500 of its top advertisers have paused spending there since Elon Musk’s takeover and that daily revenue was 40% lower than a year earlier
  • Sports leagues and news publishers have struck sponsorship deals with Twitter around big events this year despite the drama since Elon Musk’s takeover. 
  • Alphabet will lay off 12,000 workers, reducing its staff by 6% across its global workforce as ‘richcession’ continues – after Microsoft and Amazon axed thousands of jobs as well as many other tech companies. Those cuts have been part of a broader pivot toward protecting profit and cementing the end of a growth-at-all costs era in technology
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, held several meetings with company executives. The topic: a rival’s new chatbot, a clever A.I. product that looked as if it could be the first notable threat in decades to Google’s $149 billion search business. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin, who had not spent much time at Google since they left their daily roles with the company in 2019, reviewed Google’s artificial intelligence product strategy. They approved plans and pitched ideas to put more chatbot features into Google’s search engine. And they offered advice to company leaders, who have put A.I. front and center in their plans. The re-engagement of Google’s founders, at the invitation of the company’s current chief executive, Sundar Pichai, emphasized the urgency felt among many Google executives about artificial intelligence and that chatbot, ChatGPT. 
  • The Justice Department and a group of eight states sued Google, seeking to break up its online advertising business. In the agency’s first antitrust lawsuit against a tech giant under President Biden, Google is accused of “engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers and brokers to facilitate digital advertising.” The lawsuit asks for Google to be forced to sell its suite of ad technology products and cease engaging in allegedly anticompetitive practices
  • Apple is reportedly focusing on improvements to native iOS apps like maps to better compete against Google’s offerings
  • Microsoft is developing its own “clean room” to let marketers pool and analyze their consumer data without exposing the underlying information. 
  • You probably heard about Yandex, it’s the 4th biggest search engine by market share worldwide. Yesterday proprietary source code of Yandex was leaked. The most interesting part for SEO community is: the list of all 1922 ranking factors used in the search algorithm 
  • A new, paid version of ChatGPT is announced. OpenAI, which created the A.I. chatbot, said it was introducing a $20-a-month app offering round-the-clock access; the free version is frequently overwhelmed by demand. Microsoft reportedly plans to soon update its Bing search engine with a faster version of ChatGPT
  • Another prominent Democrat has joined Republicans seeking to hobble TikTok, with Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) calling on Apple Inc. and Google to bar the Chinese-owned video platform from their app stores. Republicans have been the most outspoken critics of TikTok, but in recent weeks, Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois joined with Republicans to sponsor legislation to ban TikTok outright. 
  • Elon Musk said Twitter will start sharing certain ad revenue with creators, so long as they subscribe to Twitter Blue first. 
  • Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. is launching a subscription service called Meta Verified that will include a handful of additional perks and features, including account verification badges for those who pay. The new subscription will cost $11.99 per month — $14.99 if purchased through the iOS app — and is primarily targeted toward content creators. In addition to a verification badge, the subscription includes “proactive account protection, access to account support, and increased visibility and reach,”
  • Meta says it is experimenting with AI-powered chat on WhatsApp and Messenger
  • Google is opening public access to Bard, its answer to the viral chatbot ChatGPT, while stopping short of integrating the new tool into its flagship search engine
  • TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Wall Street slammed Chew’s testimony, dubbing it a “disaster moment” for TikTok.
  • Elon Musk said Twitter is now worth about $20 billion, according to an email to employees. Also: Twitter’s source code has leaked.
  • Amazon is considering buying AMC Entertainment to use its movie theaters for marketing and consumer data. 

Streaming Services & Platforms: What We Saw in Q1 2023

  • Amazon has discussed doing a stand-alone app for watching sports content, as CEO Andy Jassy doubles down on streaming.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery signed a deal with measurement firm VideoAmp in another hit to Nielsen. 
  • Amazon is working to make advertisers whole after “Thursday Night Football” audiences fell short. The tech giant’s viewership was 25% lower than estimated, per an advertising source
  • Netflix Inc. has signed on to air its first live awards show in a multiyear deal with the union that represents actors.
  • The Screen Actors Guild Awards will air on the streaming service from 2024. This year’s event on Feb. 26 will be broadcast on Netflix’s YouTube channel. The streaming industry leader is entering the field of live events as it broadens its range of programming 
  • It’s official: Netflix is joining upfront week. The streaming giant will host its first-ever upfront week event on Wednesday, May 17, at New York’s Paris Theater. For its first year at upfront week, Netflix is looking to put its own spin on the annual advertising showcase, hosting an intimate gathering with its advertising partners.
  • The number of new, original scripted series hit a record high in 2022, following a slower growth period during the pandemic, thanks to production delays. Streaming has created a new level of demand for original programming, but media executives remain conflicted about when the demand will finally start to slow down. In total, 599 original scripted television series were produced last year, up 7% from 2021, according to the latest data from FX Networks Research.
  • Disney plans to bring Hulu’s ad targeting capabilities to the ad-supported tier of Disney+. 
  • Videogames are shaping up as the next content gold mine for movies and television. Sony will be a major beneficiary. 
  • Paramount Global later this year will effectively merge its streaming services, Showtime and Paramount+, into one service called “Paramount+ with Showtime.”
  • Warner Bros Discovery has reached deals with streaming services Roku and Fox Corp’s Tubi to license movies and TV series.
  • Netflix has begun asking users to connect to the Wi-Fi at their primary location and watch at least once every 31 days
  • Apple’s selling sponsorships for its new soccer streaming service that don’t include audience guarantees. It’s also not selling to sports betting brands
  • Netflix is making progress in its plunge into advertising—slowly. The streaming firm told advertisers in the past 10 days that new sign-ups for the tier with ads had doubled in January over December, a sign that low-cost offering was catching on with subscribers, ad executives say. Netflix didn’t tell advertisers how many sign-ups that amounted to. But last fall, when it was first pitching the ad offering to marketers, it told advertisers it expected the tier would draw just 1.75 million subscribers by the end of the first quarter, the equivalent of just 2.4% of Netflix’s North American subscriber base at the end of December
  • Amid shifting economic winds, Warner Bros. Discovery has adjusted its plan to completely merge streaming services HBO Max and discovery+. Instead, discovery+ will remain available along with a new, higher-priced combination of the services debuting in the spring. 
  • Iger acknowledged that as the 2024 deadline to buy or sell the company’s stake in Hulu approaches, “I’m concerned about undifferentiated general entertainment, particularly in the competitive landscape that we are operating in, and we are going to look at it very objectively and expansively
  • Apple has hired Lauren Fry, a TV and digital video advertising executive, to help build a video ad business for Apple TV+.
  • After a slow start, Netflix’s advertising business has gained some momentum. The company’s advertising-supported service reached about 1 million monthly active users in the US after its second month. The user base grew by more than 500% in the first month from its launch and another 50% in its second month. 
  • The YES Network is launching a streaming service, giving non-cable subscribers a way to watch live New York Yankees games. The streaming service will cost $24.99 per month with a promotional offer of $19.99 per month that ends April 30.

E-Commerce Companies: What We Saw in Q1 2021

  • Shopify is offering retailers a new way to target potential customers through the world’s largest ad platforms
  • Amazon may soon be held liable for counterfeits on its platform
  • Bed Bath & Beyond is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection, following poor sales and an inability to compete w/ large online and big-box retailers. The Co is reportedly considering skipping debt payments due Feb 1, a typical move distressed Cos on the verge of bankruptcy to conserve cash. 
  • Apple began letting businesses update their information on its Maps app and integrate features such as “text to shop.” 
  • The fast-fashion retailer Shein is said to be raising new money at a $64 billion valuation, down sharply from its current $100 billion level. 
  • Big banks are teaming up to launch a digital wallet that people can use to shop online. Big banks are working on a new product that will allow shoppers to pay at merchants’ online checkout with a wallet that will be linked to their debit and credit cards. The digital wallet will be managed by Early Warning Services LLC, the bank-owned company that operates money-transfer service Zelle. The wallet, which doesn’t have a name yet, will operate separately from Zelle
  • Gap quietly ended its retail-media ad sales network after about a year. 
  • Amazon and other retailers are revamping “free” shipping as costs soar. 
  • Apparel retailers are using RFID chips to track individual items more closely in stores, aiming for better insights into customers’ shopping habits and faster fulfillment of online orders

web3 & Crypto Markets: What We Saw in Q4 2022

  • The once-booming NFT market is down by nearly every trackable metric as nonfungible tokens continue struggling amid a crypto winter. The trading volume for NFTs across all sectors has plunged almost 90% y/y, pushing the global NFT sales value deep below peaks seen in 2021. Global NFT sales value slumped 76% y/y, reaching $638mn in Dec. The number of active wallets have also plunged by 80% y/y. 
  • Employees at some companies have challenged new directives in corporate all-hands sessions. Those pushing to remain at home say they find in-office work unproductive and commuting inefficient. Employers, meanwhile, say bringing workers back together is important because it helps with issues such as problem-solving, training new hires and reinforcing corporate culture
  • Denmark reported zero bank robberies last year, a first, as the nation goes cashless
  • SpaceX is raising $750 million in a new round of funding that values the company at $137 billion, the company’s satellite internet service, Starlink, exceeded 1 million subscribers and provided a lifeline to users in Ukraine who suffered infrastructure disruptions after Russia’s invasion. SpaceX also managed to surpass 60 reusable rocket launches in a single year via its Falcon program.
  • Overall podcasting rev and listenership continue to grow, but the runaway exuberance many felt about the state of the medium has dissipated lately, even among some of its most ardent practitioners. Following a prolonged buying spree, some of the industry’s biggest spenders are now pulling back
  • Ben Smith’s new book, “Traffic,” provides a “riveting insider’s look at the history of online news media,” with “the feel of a novel.” Smith, former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News and New York Times media columnist, debuts with a riveting insider’s look at the history of online news media. He chronicles the rise in the early 2000s of online outlets that measured success by the amount of traffic individual articles generated, starting with Gawker’s decision in 2003 to start selling advertising space. 
  • The owner of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse is in the market for another restaurant brand. 
  • EVs made up 10% of all new cars sold last year. China, Europe drive electric-vehicle expansion as U.S. gains traction
  • Harvard Medical School joins the U.S. News rankings exodus
  • Employee experience manager is a new hot job as companies aim to address a rise in worker burnout and disengagement. 
  • Twitter auctioned off over 600 items from its corporate headquarters — including kegerators and a neon sign of its bird logo — as part of Elon Musk’s cost-cutting. 
  • Tesla’s recent price cuts on its most popular models in the U.S. are reverberating through the car business. 
  • Justin Bieber sold his music rights to Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital in a deal valued at around $200 million
  • The maker of Fireball Cinnamon is being sued over a lack of whisky in its mini bottles sold at grocery stores and gas stations
  • Whole Foods Market is asking suppliers to help the retailer bring prices down on packaged groceries as inflation moderates
  • The newly retired Tom Brady has a 10-year $375 million contract with Fox Sports to become its No 1 NFL game analyst.
  • Fox Sports said a few Super Bowl ads went for more than $7 million for a 30-second spot. 
  • Super Bowl averages 113 million, 3rd most-watched in history
  • Publicis Groupe is to pay “record-high” annual bonuses of close to €500m (£444m) to staff after ending 2022 strongly, with better than expected revenue, up 10%, and profit up 23%.
  • Beyoncé set a record for Grammys won by a single artist 
  • Chick-fil-A is testing a different kind of plant-based menu item: a fried cauliflower sandwich
  • Hasbro said its card game “Magic: The Gathering” had reached a billion dollars in annual sales, topping other company brands including Transformers and G.I. Joe
  • Entenmann’s is bringing back the cellophane window in the packaging for its baked goods after a two-year absence
  • The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has pushed big banks into a state of turmoil.
  • Some Americans are claiming Social Security years before full retirement age out of fear their benefits will be cut once the program runs short on cash. They say they want to get as many benefits as they can before 2034. That is when the retirement program is projected to deplete its reserves, triggering a 23% reduction in benefits, unless Congress acts. Economists and financial advisers generally discourage claiming early.
  • Sesame Street Workshop is getting into NFTs, starting with 5,555 Cookie Monster tokens priced at $60 each
  • The Johns Hopkins Covid-19 map was viewed more than 2.5 billion times. Now it’s done
  • Lowe’s employees love the four-day workweek. The retailer said its staffing levels since it implemented the change in August are at their best levels in three years
  • John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Michael Chang will play in a televised pickleball tournament with a $1 million purse. 

Insights provided by Matthew Scott Goldstein, from his Quarterly newsletter “What I Saw Happen

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