Media Beat: January 25, 2021
More layoffs at Bell Media
Bell Media has made more layoffs in management just weeks after a sweeping executive shuffle at its head office. Among those caught up in this round of departures are Rob Farina, Head of Content, Strategy & iHeartRadio, who had been in the role since 2016; Tyson Parker, Director, Podcasting and Artist & Music Industry Relations; Lis Travers, General Manager of CTV News Channel, who had been with Bell for 17 years and was a former Executive Producer of Canada AM; Edwina Follows, General Manager of the six Discovery Networks in Canada (Discovery, Animal Planet, Velocity, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery and Discovery GO); Martin Spalding, Regional VP & GM, Local Radio and Television for Bell Media Quebec; and Grant Ellis, GM of BNN Bloomberg. On the West Coast, Les Staff, News Director for CTV News Vancouver, departs. He had been in the role since late 2012, first joining CTV Vancouver as an Executive Producer in 2007. Also in Vancouver, John Voiles is out after nearly eight years as VP, Bell Media Sales, Western Canada. Prior to joining Bell in 2013, Voiles was a VP and General Manager with Astral Radio in Vancouver. Stewart Meyers, Vice President and General Manager for Bell Media Alberta, is also no longer with the company. Read more here. – Connie Thiessen, Broadcast Dialogue
Google Looking for a Fight
In Australia, 95% of online searches are conducted through Google. This week, in a shit fight with government authorities, Google threatened to shut down its entire Aussie operation.
The parties are fighting over how and how much Google should pay news media for links and previews of stories that appear on Google.
Google says it helps news media by sending them readers, and that Google should retain the power to determine how much they chose to pay media. They also argue that unfettered linking is the backbone of the web and it shouldn't be constrained by government meddling.
The government argues that the power of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants is way out of control and that they have built a good deal of their wealth on monopolistic practices and the work of news media who they exploit without fair compensation. They argue that Google doesn't just provide links, they monetize these links by advertising in and around them and make money harvesting valuable data about the people who use them. They argue that the news media at the other end of the link should be stakeholders in how the spoils are divided.
The fight doesn't seem to be about the principle of news media getting compensated, Google has already agreed to that in France. The fight is over control of who gets to decide how much to compensate the news media and under what terms.
The ferocity of the Google response indicates to me that they view this as the beginning of a fight that is likely to spread globally. This is not just about money. The ad tech industry has shown itself to be above government control in some areas. They are not likely to go quietly. – Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian
Apple out to challenge Spotify’s podcast business
Apple is notoriously secretive about product launches, so we likely won't know any exact details until the service actually goes live. However, according to the sources who spoke to The Information, the service will have exclusive content, be ad-free, and will charge users a monthly fee. This business model has been tried a few times with podcasts in the past, the biggest example being start-up Luminary. The service launched in 2019 with the goal of becoming the "Netflix of podcasts," but only had an estimated 80,000 subscribers as of last May.
While ad-free podcast services have a weak track record, Apple has a few advantages that could finally make it work. First, it has tens of billions in cash on its balance sheet, so it will never have a problem paying creators, which is important to get the value proposition high enough so people actually want to subscribe. Second, its ad-supported Apple Podcasts service, which has hundreds of thousands of shows, has been the leader in podcast listenership for many years (although Spotify is quickly gaining ground). Apple could easily market a premium service to its existing users, whereas Luminary has had to rely on paid advertising.
Lastly, Apple will likely bundle this podcast service with Apple TV+, Apple Music, and some of its other subscriptions, making it cheaper for customers to sign up for the service if they are in the Apple ecosystem.
Should Spotify be worried?
Long story short, no. – Brett Shafer, The Motley Fool
Office Ladies wins Podcast of the Year in American iHeart Radio Podcast awards
Office Ladies is a podcast hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey which premiered on the Earwolf platform on October 2019. In each episode, Fischer and Kinsey, who co-starred on the American television sitcom The Office as Pam Beesly and Angela Martin, rewatch an episode of the show and offer behind-the-scenes commentary, insights and responses to fan questions. They are sometimes joined by guests that include former co-stars, producers and writers. The podcast aims to cover every episode of The Office's nine-season run. The managing producer is Codi Fischer (no relation to Jenna) and Sam Kieffer is the show's audio engineer. Below is the Jan. 20 edition of the show.
Here’s Alan Cross’s affectionate recollection of one memorable Larry King radio show
Back when I was doing a lot of club work, I spent a lot of time listening to Larry King on the drive home when he was on the Mutual Broadcasting System. With last call at 1am, I’d get to hear the last 45 minutes or so of his show, which always ended up with Larry saying he was on his way to Duke Zeibert’s restaurant in DC for some matzoh ball soup.
As a fan of all things broadcast, I studied Larry’s interviewing technique and how he worked the phones on the call-in portion of his program. This led to me one of his autobiographies which included one particular story that rings true with every single guy who has worked as a late-night/all-night DJ.
Elon Musk targets telecom for next disruption with Starlink internet
Elon Musk became the world’s richest person this month by upending the global auto industry and disrupting aerospace heavyweights with reusable rockets. Now he’s setting his sights on another business dominated by entrenched incumbents: telecommunications.
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched more than 1,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service and is signing up early customers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, demand in China and India — and rural customers such as Brian Rendel. – Dana Hull, Bloomberg
Why Amazon's move to drop Parler is a big deal for the future of the Internet
Cloud computing seems basic today, but it was a revolutionary concept, serving as the backbone for pretty much the entire modern digital startup ecosystem—eliminating the costly and time-consuming process of spinning up your own servers got rid of an immense hurtle for fledgling companies, making them better able to compete with—and in some cases topple—existing hegemons. But that convenience came at a cost: modern Internet services are increasingly built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its rivals, like Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud. That has given those firms tremendous sway over what conduct is and is not acceptable on the Internet—in terms of free speech, they have become even more powerful than, say, Apple. It’s one thing to stop offering an app, it’s another to destabilize or block another company’s entire online operation.
Whether AWS and rival services should wield such power is the central debate in Parler’s subsequent lawsuit against Amazon, which underscores just how reliant Parler was upon AWS.
Rolling Stone now publishing advertorial content
While many media companies feature clearly signposted branded content on their websites, it is less common for a major journalism brand to offer third parties, including PR professionals, the chance to pay to write pieces for publication.
A spokesperson for Penske Media Corporation, which owns the magazine, said that Rolling Stone does not allow paid content to run as editorial in any context, and that all such content was clearly labelled.
Pieces already published as part of the scheme include a set of positive predictions for the future of the cannabis industry by a PR executive who represents a cannabis producer, and a piece praising the social nature of sports betting by the founder of an online sports betting community. – Archie Bland, The Guardian
Trump-tied lobbyists paid massive sums to push pardons
Washington lobbyists with close ties to outgoing President Donald Trump were paid lucrative sums by clients angling for last-minute pardons from the president.
Matthew Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a close Trump ally, brought in the largest haul. According to a lobbying filing released Thursday night, Schlapp was paid a whopping $750,000 since mid-December to lobby Trump to pardon Parker Petit, a top Republican donor who served as Georgia finance chairman for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Petit was convicted of securities fraud in November and faced up to 20 years in federal prison. – Karl Evers–Hillstrom, OpenSecrets.org