CMO Today: Media Alliances Look to Counter the 'Duopoly'

By Mike Shields Features Dow Jones Newswires

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: When you have two digital ad giants gobbling up 85 cents of every new dollar being spent on digital media, and those two companies, Facebook and Google, seemingly get more powerful by the day, what do you do? Become fast friends with your longtime rivals. At least that seems to be the recent trend in the media business, where sales alliances between media players--who all have seen their power wane in light of the duopoly--are the new survival strategy, reports Digiday. For example, there's the recent data-targeting hookup between Viacom, Turner and Fox. There's the digital ad sales triumvirate of Conde Nast, NBCU and Vox Media. And now mid-sized web publishers like NowThis and the parenting-focused Fatherly are working together to land video deals from advertisers like General Motors. These alliances theoretically allow the media companies to offer greater reach and more interesting targeting possibilities for advertisers. We may see more such the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend partnerships. The question is whether any will be big enough to make Facebook and Google even sweat.

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PROPAGANDA WAR: The spread of fake news is a tricky problem to solve, and one that seemingly requires a mix of technology and manual (read: actual humans evaluating individual pieces of content with their eyes) solutions. But some of the digital media industry's bigger players are trying to get serious about stamping the problem out. Facebook is testing a feature designed to highlight content that has been vetted by third-party fact checkers, reports TechCrunch. The plan is to present articles from top sources like the Washington Post via Facebook's Related Articles feature before people click on a news story that may or may not be up to snuff. The hope is that people become more discerning over time and break out of their bubbles. Meanwhile, Google is looking to push down fake news in its search result rankings, reports Recode. Lastly, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced plans for Wikitribune, a website he hopes will become an outlet for real news that has been screened by journalists and consumers, reports Reuters. Wikitribune won't carry any ads, according to Mr. Wales - and the plan is to raise money from enough money from outside donations to hire 10 professional journalists to man the new outlet.

BLUE BUBBLE: Should more journalists have seen President Donald Trump coming? Perhaps it wouldn't have been as shocking if more of them lived in all those Rust Belt and Red States that voted heavily in Mr. Trump's favor? It is at least an interesting question being asked by Politico, which found that the concentration of journalists in urban areas and heavily Democratic-leaning Blue States is higher than ever. You might ask, haven't lots of elite journalists been segregated in Manhattan for decades? Yes, but they were offset by more newspaper reporters scattered throughout the country, Politico notes. More recently, as newspapers have shuttered or cut staff, digital journalism outlets have been growing--and mostly hiring in places like Brooklyn or San Francisco. Just 22% of internet publishing jobs fall outside of the East and West Coasts and greater Chicago area, found Politico. It would be interesting to see the same kind of analysis for ad agency executives, who are also trying to understand the American Heartland consumer in the age of Trump.

SUPER STREAM: DC Comics may pale in comparison to rival Marvel on the big screen ("Superman v Batman anyone?") but the comic brand is all over the TV dial, from Fox's "Gotham" to four different superhero shows on the CW helmed by uber-producer Greg Berlanti, including "Arrow" and "The Flash." Thus, it's somewhat eye-opening when Warner Bros and DC Entertainment announce that Mr. Berlanti's next TV project won't be on traditional TV, but rather an upcoming direct-to-consumer subscription service, reports Deadline. The upcoming DC branded offering will feature the live-action, Berlanti-backed "Titans"--featuring a group of young superheroes--as its anchor, as well as the animated show "Young Justice." While this won't upend the TV landscape overnight, if it works, it does make you wonder what could be next. Would DC no longer need to distribute shows via network TV if enough die-hards sign on? Might Marvel decide it no longer needs outlets like Netflix to push its scripted super series when it could seemingly launch a similar streaming service of its own?

Elsewhere

Twitter posted its first revenue decline since going public in 2013, but the $548 million the company pulled in during first quarter was better than analyst predictions. [ WSJ]

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An African-American on-air host for Fox News, Kelly Wright, has joined a group of 11 current and former employees suing the cable channel and some of its senior executives for alleged racial discrimination. They are seeking class action status for their lawsuit. [ WSJ]

Two European media moguls--former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Frenchman Vincent Bolloré, owner of the media conglomerate Vivendi SA--seem to have all of the ingredients and motivation needed to partner and create a new pay-TV powerhouse. That is, if the two can get past their differences. [ WSJ]

The Federal Communications Commission says it plans to put current media regulations through a full review, and may revisit whether rules limiting media ownership by large companies in local markets still makes sense in the internet era. [ WSJ]

Veteran ad executive Carol H. Williams is reflecting on her career--which dates back to 1969 at Leo Burnett in Chicago--as she becomes the first African-American creative executive to be inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. [ NYT]

Gannett Co.'s print advertising revenue declined by 17.7% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago. Gannett also saw an 8% dip in circulation revenue. [ Poynter]

Advisors representing what is left of Gawker Media Group are trying to find whether there's a way to sue the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who helped fund Hulk Hogan's legal battle against the media company. [ WSJ]

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has been on a ratings hot streak of late, and could find an opening now that Fox News has shaken up its long-dominant primetime lineup. However, on Monday night, Tucker Carlson--who replaced Bill O'Reilly at 8:00 p.m.-- as well as the 9:00 p.m show "The Five," notched a ratings victory for Fox. [ CNN, CNN]

Viacom is launching its first subscription-based channel--MTV Mix--in Asia as part of a partnership with Hulu. [ Hollywood Reporter]

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 26, 2017 07:51 ET (11:51 GMT)