Media Insider: Gannett Rejects Takeover Offer, NY AG Targets Fake Social Media Activity, Snopes Pulls Out of Facebook Partnership

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

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Gannett Rejects Takeover Offer from MNG/Digital First Media

Gannett’s board unanimously rejected an unsolicited proposal to be acquired by media company MNG Enterprises Inc., also known as Digital First Media, saying the proposal undervalues the company and the board doesn’t believe the offer is credible. On Jan. 14, MNG offered to buy Gannett for $12 a share in cash, which at the time was a 23 percent premium above its most recent closing price of $9.75 a share. In response, Gannett sent a letter to MNG offering to arrange a meeting between representatives of both companies, including two of Gannett’s independent directors. The letter included questions on how MNG would finance the deal, MNG’s view on antitrust concerns, and its approach to newsroom staffing and pension obligations. Gannett said MNG’s response was to require a non-disclosure agreement, which lead Gannett to question MNG’s motives and conclude that “the proposed NDA is a distraction designed to mask MNG’s inability to finance and complete the proposed transaction.”

There is speculation that Tribune Publishing may be interested in its own deal with Gannett amid a shakeup of Tribune’s executive ranks.

NY Attorney General Targets Fake Social Media Activity

The New York Attorney General’s office is making it clear that, in its view, selling fake social media activity in the state is illegal. Attorney General Letitia James announced a first-of-its-kind settlement with the now-defunct company Devumi, which sold fake followers, “likes,” and views on platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, and Pinterest, using activity from fake accounts. According to the settlement, Devumi’s customers included movie and television actors, musicians, business people, politicians, pundits and commentators, athletes, academics, modeling agencies, marketing and public relations professionals, and adult film stars — all of whom hoped to show that they, their ideas, or their products were more popular than they actually were. The settlement between Devumi and the state of New York does not address whether the activity of Devumi’s customers also is illegal.

The lawsuit follows an exposé on the company by the New York Times last year.

Snopes Pulls out of Its Fact-Checking Partnership with Facebook

In a statement last week, Snopes said it has withdrawn from its partnership with Facebook, which enabled it to decrease the reach of false stories, images, and videos in the News Feed. In a statement according to Vinny Green, vice president of operations, the decision has to do with bandwidth: Since fact-checkers have to manually enter each false post they flag into a dashboard on the platform, it takes a lot of time for an operation that only employs 16 people and has no physical headquarters. Snopes had been contributing to Facebook’s fact-checking partnership since Dec. 2016 and received $100,000 from Facebook in 2017. Since then, Snopes has been renegotiating the contract. “It doesn’t seem like we’re striving to make third-party fact-checking more practical for publishers – it seems like we’re striving to make it easier for Facebook,” added Green.

In other Facebook news, German regulators have ordered the social media giant to restrict its data collection.

There’s a Mystery Bidder for Meredith’s Sports Illustrated

Former Milwaukee Bucks star Junior Bridgeman has competition from a mystery player in the bidding for Sports Illustrated. “Right now, there is a bit of a horse race underway,” said Meredith Executive Chairman Steve Lacy, during his appearance at the American Magazine Conference. He asserts that there are two parties vying to buy it, but declined to divulge their identities. The price is estimated at $160 million. “One is a strategic buyer and one is what I would call a non-strategic buyer, who would use it to power other sporting events,” said Lacy. Bridgeman reportedly is the player who would take over and run it as a traditional magazine with digital and TV play. The other is the mystery guest.

In related news, Sports Illustrated has delayed the date for its 2019 Swimsuit Edition from mid-February to mid-May.

Hearst Magazine Taps First Creative Director for Branded Content

Hearst Magazines has named the first creative director of its branded content studio as the publisher looks to further expand its work with advertisers. Nicolas Neubeck is taking up the new role at HearstMade, its branded content studio, after spending about four years as creative director of the company’s digital media division, where he focused on editorial content. That mix of editorial experience across all of Hearst’s magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and others, will likely serve him well in a position that aims to integrate advertising into content for readers.

Hearst also announced it is moving its headquarters for Popular Mechanics from New York to Pennsylvania as the company continues to slash costs.

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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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