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Markets & Media

This Week in Upfronts



FishbowlNY was at some of the early upfront presentations this week in New York City, attending both Gannett’s and The Discovery Channel’s events on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

There were packed audiences at both venues, with Gannett’s presentation being held at the AXA Equitable Center and Discovery holding their event at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. Gannett had a “stories of extraordinary impact” theme, rolling out speakers like best-selling author Mitch Albom and Olympic track and field star Lolo Jones. At the presentation, Gannett announced a partnership with The Weinstein Company, giving the film company first-look access to turn Gannett’s local TV and newspaper stories into TV shows and films.

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Soledad O’Brien on Diversity in the Media: ‘It’s not that hard’


(from L to R) Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media and Keith Lorizio, VP of U.S. sales and marketing at Microsoft

Media types gathered last night at the 40/40 club in New York to kick off MSN’s partnership with Interactive One. The event was part of an ongoing trend necessity for media companies to focus on diversity, and Microsoft is looking to do just that not only with Interactive One, but also through partnerships with Lisnr and the Marcus Graham Project.

Interactive One’s chief content officer Smokey Fontaine spoke to the crowd about how the company evolved over the years to keep in line with America’s changing demographics. “We changed our focus from being solely African American to… all of the folks who demographically and psychographically are part of the multicultural landscape.”

Why? “Companies have no choice but to serve multicultural. If you want to stay relevant, you have no choice but to serve that market. But you do have a choice whether you’ll serve that market really well.”

Census data shows that minorities will be the majority in the near future, and Pew continues to document how little change there is in terms of minorities in the newsroom. “I’ve been having the same conversation about diversity for 26 years, since I started in TV news,” Soledad O’Brien told FishbowlNY. “Sometimes, that’s really disheartening.”

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AOL Display Ads Up for First Time Since 2007

AOL’s ad business actually grew in the last quarter, reports Peter Kafka, and it’s about time for AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong. Display ads were up four percent for the first quarter — the first time that number has moved up since 2007, and domestic display results grew 11 percent.

But the news for AOL isn’t great all around:

Overall ad revenue was down 11 percent, because AOL’s international and search ads are still shrinking. And AOL’s display numbers still lag the rest of the Web industry… AOL overall revenue dropped 17 percent, and net income dropped 86 percent.

So why the positive spin? The 4 percent display ad growth, which might otherwise seem miniscule, was its first growth since 2007, and surprised much of Wall Street. As Kafka puts it bluntly, “any turnaround is a turnaround for Armstrong.”

That’s how you get positive press from an otherwise negative news: low expectations.

Will Reader’s Digest Association Sell Off Popular Food Website Allrecipes?

Earlier this week we reported that Mary Berner was stepping down as CEO of Reader’s Digest Association, and now Adweek is providing some potential backstory to this change.

The naming of CFO Tom Williams as Berner’s replacement prompted speculation that the company plans to sell off some of its assets, in particular, the highly popular food website, which RDA bought in 2006, prior to Berner’s arrival. This raises some eyebrows, because of just how well Allrecipes is doing:

Seattle-based Allrecipes has more than doubled its traffic in that time, becoming one of the biggest food sites on the Web. In March, monthly uniques approached 17 million, making Allrecipes the top food site, per comScore.

The word is that Berner “clashed” over this direction of the company with its new board. In the past, Berner has conceded Allrecipies was a “hot topic,” but has not stated that the company plans to sell it.

Book Review Startup IndieReader Looks for the ‘Cream-of-the-Indie Crop’

Put the word “independent” in front of anything and its coolness factor doubles. Cheaply made films and music albums can pass for high art with the right amount of vision. But put the word “self-published” in front of a novel, and readers instantly think “inspirational poetry that hasn’t been proofread.”   IndieReader, based in New Jersey, is an online resource for lovers of independent books and the people who write them.  IndieReader might not be the first publication to review self-published books, but it is bold in its similarity to the “critically-acclaimed independent films” category on Netflix.

Indie Reader founder Amy Edelman created the site for “literate people who are looking for something other than the latest James Patterson novel,” she said, adding, “not that there’s anything wrong with James Patterson.”  IndieReader reviews and rates self-published books to help readers find the ones that are worth reading.  After a year and a half of Beta testing, the site was relaunched last month to include news, commentary, interviews, and IndieReader Selects, a special page for indie bookstores to find local authors.

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Consulting Firm McKinsey Steps in Again at Condé Nast

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is back at the Condé Nast offices, Adweek reports. McKinsey also stepped in back in 2009, when Condé was facing a deep decline in ad dollars. Based on their recommendations, Condé closed Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride — not to mention laid off staff and cut budgets throughout the company.

Is McKinsey’s re-entry a sign of impending doom for more Condé brands? At this point, no: Condé insiders told Adweek that there will not be a repeat of 2009′s cuts; rather, McKinsey is going to help Condé price its digital products. But McKinsey may also be likely to address what one executive described as the “growing divide among those who have adapted to the new order and those who haven’t.”

Ah, the terrifying new digital world order. Stay strong, Condé.

A Round Up of Media Mogul Salaries: The Rich Get Richer

For those of you worried about the fortunes of the very rich, breathe a sigh of relief. After hobbling along with depleted salaries during the economic recession, The Wrap is reporting that the “same executives who made a big show of cutting their paychecks during tough times have huddled at the trough once more.”

Thank god.

Here is what the top brass took home:

  • Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman more than doubled his take home pay for a total compensation of $84.5 million. Wow!
  • Dauman’s boss Sumner Redstone actually earned less than he did, taking home the paltry sum of $15 million, poor guy.
  • News Corp shares may be stagnant but not Rupert Murdoch‘s salary! His paycheck increased from $22.2 million to $22.7 million.
  • And despite helming the runaway train that is Fox News, Roger Ailes actually took a significant pay cut, from $22.1 million to $13.9 million.

Moody’s Maintains Stable Outlook for Newspaper Industry

Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service has announced that it has a stable business outlook on the U.S. newspaper industry. It expects sector-wide revenue declines of 5% to 10% for 2010, amid a pickup in the broader U.S. economy.

Says Radio Business Report:

“Our 2010-2011 forecasts assume continued improvement in nominal US GDP growth,” said John Puchalla, a Vice-President and Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s. “The stable outlook is also supported by expectations that operating leverage from aggressive cost cuts will lift earnings for the next 12 to 18 months.”

But after that, the picture becomes much less clear:

The cyclical snapback in advertising could subside in 2012, Moody’s warned, shifting the stable outlook back to negative as a return to the longer-term trend approaches.

Of late, Moody’s has been cautiously raising its expectations for newspapers. The company raised its credit rating on the newspaper industry to stable from negative in April, citing moderating declines in advertising revenue but warning that many newspapers need to refinance their debt obligations.

(h/t MediaPost)

Telemundo Will Incorporate Jewelry, Home Decor Into Slap Fights And Lingering Looks

telenovela_4.14.10.jpgTelemundo, my grandmother’s channel of choice (after Univision), is embarking on a new marketing scheme, ostensibly with the goal of making telenovelas even more offensive and annoying (and… kind of wonderful?).

By now, anyone who has watched a network sitcom (we’re looking at you, 30 Rock) has firsthand knowledge of “branded entertainment,” wherein a show integrates a brand or product into a scene or storyline. Telemundo is trying something a little different, however: Instead of featuring Salma Hayek shilling McFlurries in a wink-nudge, self-aware manner that becomes immediately grating, the network will feature newly-created products specifically for a certain show.

First up will be a line of jewelry by Richline Group, which will be worn by a character on El Clon – a remake of a popular Brazilian novela that features bellydancing and ladies wearing Kohl eyeliner, looking mysterious and/or lovelorn in the shadows.

In September, Arrow Home Fashions will have their designs featured on telenovelas as well as on the Levántate morning show. Because Christ knows how many times you’ve watched daytime TV and wondered how you can have what Kelly Ripa is sitting on. Amiright? Arrow and Telemundo are also brainstorming on a special line of products specific to the network.

The network has also entered into an agreement with IDT wherein the latter’s prepaid phonecards will feature the name of the network’s soccer program, “Fútbol Estelar,” and the show’s anchors, who will mention the phonecards on air.

What a fun and vibrant way to appeal to Latino&#36!

Journalists Are Pessimistic About Future Of Industry, Says Survey

half_empty_4.12.10.jpgThe Pew Research Center, as part of its “Project for Excellence in Journalism,” polled members of the American Society of News Editors and the Radio Television Digital News Association to determine their thoughts on the Future of Journalism. Pew received a total of 353 sets of responses, a good portion of which did not express much optimism: 48 percent of editors polled said that, without a significant new revenue stream, their employers could not remain adrift for another decade. An additional 31 percent gave their organizations five years or less.

Of the editors polled, 58 percent opined that journalism was “headed in the wrong direction,” with 62 percent chiming in that the Internet had “changed the profession’s fundamental values” where quality standards for reporting were concerned.

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