Media Insider: in Talks to Sell to Bustle, Mashable and PCMag Employees Move to Unionize, Ad Forecasts Predict Mixed Year for Publishers

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s round-up of media stories from the week.

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RECODE | PETER KAFKA in Talks to Sell to Bustle, a digital publisher with a millennial focus, is in talks to sell at least part of the company to Bustle Digital Group, a publisher that has focused on millennial women. The sale talks come after Facebook canceled a video series with Mic that had provided an important source of revenue to the publisher. Mic acknowledged in September that it had been discussing selling the company to a different, unnamed buyer. The company had also been talking about raising more money. The Facebook deal was part of a news video initiative championed by Campbell Brown, Facebook’s global head of news partnerships. Sources say it could have paid Mic around $5 million over the course of 12 months. Potential sales and funding rounds went away after Facebook didn’t renew, leaving the publisher with limited options. Mic employs more than 100 people and has raised more than $60 million. Right now, it looks like Bustle would consider bringing in half or less of the Mic staff.

Meanwhile, Nexstar Media Group announced it will buy Tribune Media in a $4.1 billion deal, forming the largest TV station company.

Mashable, PCMag Employees Move to Unionize

The journalists at Mashable and PCMag have joined the wave of digital news outlets aiming to become union shops. Staffers at the tech and culture sites sent a delegation to management last Thursday morning asking that their owner, New York-based digital media company Ziff Davis, recognize their union with the NewsGuild of New York and begin bargaining toward a first contract. More than 80 percent of workers in the would-be bargaining unit have signed union cards, according to the union. The union intends to represent around 40 Mashable employees and another 28 or so at PCMag, as well as a staffer apiece at two other sites, and Employees are calling their union the Ziff Davis Creators Guild. Ziff Davis can voluntarily recognize the union or demand that a secret-ballot election be held through the National Labor Relations Board.

On the other side of the pond, journalists at the Financial Times have passed a vote of no confidence in the newspaper’s CEO, John Ridding.

TheBlaze Joins CRTV After Traffic Dips 21% Y-O-Y

TheBlaze is merging with CRTV to form Blaze Media, a company that will aim to reach 165 million people via television, digital platforms and social media, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The two organizations were founded by Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, respectively. The latest analysis of Comscore data by TheRighting, a media company that aggregates articles from right-wing media outlets, shows TheBlaze’s total unique visitors dipped in October 2018 year-over-year by 21%. In October, TheBlaze reached 5 million total unique visitors. It ranks below Fox News, Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Washington Times, Western Journal, Daily Caller and National Review, which are all in TheRighting’s list of top 20 conservative websites of the month.

Several conservative websites witnessed double-digit declines in unique visitors in October 2018, according to TheRighting’s analysis.

Condé Nast’s Overseas Profits Offset European Losses

Condé Nast said profits in overseas operations in India, Asia, Africa, Latin America and South America offset losses in the struggling European operation. According to filings in Companies House, a British government financial clearinghouse, Condé Nast International Ltd. — the European arm — racked up about $48.2 million in “comprehensive losses” in 2016. According to a spokeswoman, the numbers don’t tell the whole story because Condé Nast International Ltd. only includes the European arm with magazines in Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. In Europe, the spokeswoman said, the primary causes of the 2016 losses were a recalibration of the defined benefit pension liabilities and one-off severance costs.

Another company facing mounting losses, American Media Inc., is again attempting to refinance its debt.

Ad Forecasts Predict Mixed Year for Publishers

Madison Avenue forecasts ad spending will grow modestly next year. Publishers will be challenged to boost digital ad sales amid growing competition from social media companies like Facebook and Snapchat. The Big Three media agencies — WPP’s GroupM, IPG Mediabrands’ Magna and Publicis’ Zenith — this week cut their estimates of 2019 ad spending. An average of their estimates shows the growth rate in ad spending will slow from 5.3% this year to 4.1% in 2019. Among the risks to the outlook are rising interest rates that make buying a home or a car more difficult for many people. A possible trade war between the United States and China that triggers a jump in consumer prices also may hamper commercial activity. The saving grace for many publishers will be mobile ad sales, which are forecast to rise 31% to $70.7 billion this year, followed by a 21% gain in 2019.

Learn more: Agency Daily offers a deeper dive into the Big Three’s forecasts here.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at PR Newswire. An animal lover, she curates content for @PRNPets – that is, when she’s not busy cuddling with her 10-year-old blind Maltese, Toody.

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