Media Insider: Chicago Tribune Staffers Seek New Owners, Google to Phase out Third-Party Cookies, FCC Extends Cox Media Deadline

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

A street-level view of the Chicago Tribune building

Chicago Tribune Staffers Seek New Owners Amid Fears of Hedge Fund Takeover

Reporters at the Chicago Tribune are trying to find a new owner for their newspaper. Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund, recently became the largest shareholder in the struggling publishing company. Alden has a terrible reputation in the newspaper industry due to its history of slashing jobs and sucking up short-term profits from other papers it controls. “We’re doing everything in our power to try to stop them,” said Gary Marx, a 31-year veteran of the Chicago Tribune. Over the weekend, Marx and another of the Tribune’s top reporters, David Jackson, penned an op-ed warning about the pernicious influence of Alden. “Unless Alden reverses course — perhaps in repentance for the avaricious destruction it has wrought in Denver and elsewhere — we need a civic-minded local owner or group of owners. So do our Tribune Publishing colleagues,” they wrote. “We believe that Alden is an existential threat, not just to this newspaper but to every newspaper in the chain,” Marx said.

Last week, Tribune Publishing started offering voluntary buyouts to employees with eight or more years of service.

Google to Phase out Third-Party Cookies

Google said it plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in its popular web browser, Chrome, within the next two years. Chrome is the last major internet browser to discontinue cookies, which means the end of the decades-old tracking technology is finally in sight. Unlike its rivals Apple and Mozilla, which started blocking third-party cookies by default in their browsers last year, Google says it plans to take a more gradual approach. “Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem,” said Justin Schuh, director of Chrome Engineering, in a company blog post. Instead, Chrome has introduced new technologies it hopes will enable marketers to target users efficiently online without raising user privacy or security concerns.

Of some concern: Publishers and marketers are mostly absent from a key group deciding what comes after the third-party cookie.

FCC Gives Cox Media More Time to Complete Sale of Newspapers

Last year, Cox Enterprises Inc. announced it was selling most of its media outlets, including those in Dayton, Ohio — the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun, and Journal-News — to Apollo Global Management. At the time, FCC rules allowed one company to own all these media outlets. But in October 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC’s rules were invalid, and it reinstated previous rules that prohibit one company from owning both the dominant broadcast media and a daily newspaper in the same market. In November, the FCC approved the CEI-Apollo sale, but it required Apollo to reduce the daily newspapers to three print days a week to comply with the court’s ruling. It gave Apollo until Jan. 16 to implement the three-day schedule. On Tuesday, the FCC extended that deadline until March 16. According to Rob Rohr, market vice president of CMG’s Dayton properties, the company expects to have a buyer for the three papers within 60 days.

ICYMI: Dozens of layoffs loom as Seattle Times closes its main printing plant.

Backed by Hollywood A-Listers and Top News Publishers, Quibi Aims to Transform Mobile Storytelling

Quibi, a new subscription-based mobile video streaming service, is rolling out with exclusive shows from Hollywood A-listers like Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, and Bill Murray. The company also has signed up news publishers including the BBC, NBC, CBS, and ESPN, among others, to produce daily news shows. Quibi has raised $1.4 billion in funding backed by investors including Disney, WarnerMedia, Alibaba, and Viacom and has reportedly sold out its $150 million advertising inventory for the first year. Quibi, which stands for “quick bites,” aims to distinguish itself by focusing exclusively on the mobile viewing experience and will stream short episodes of less than 10 minutes. The app uses a new technology called “Turnstyle,” which allows the viewer to seamlessly move between portrait and landscape viewing. But turning the phone is not the only way Quibi will leverage mobile: Steven Spielberg is making a horror show called “After Dark” that will use viewers’ locations to allow watching only after sunset.

Read next: How Complex Media became one of the most innovative digital publishers.

‘Definitely a Concern’: Influencer Fraud Is on the Rise Again on Instagram

Despite Instagram’s efforts to rein in influencer engagement fraud, a report from influencer marketing measurement firm Instascreener has found that fake engagement on the social network is on the rise again. According to the data, after Instagram removed the likes and comments of users from third-party apps in May, fake influencer engagement rates declined from 1.7% to 1% on certain accounts with the least authentic audiences. But from September to December 2019, the fake engagement rate for those accounts increased from 1% to nearly 1.2% because some influencers who report fake engagement rates were able to circumvent Instagram’s methods. “Fake followers and fake engagement is kind of like an arms race,” said Sean Spielberg, co-founder of Instascreener. “When Instagram creates a new fancy algorithm to detect fraud, someone immediately begins working on ways to get around it.”

In more Instagram news, the Facebook-owned company deleted its IGTV button because hardly anyone was using it.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at Cision. She founded Bags of Love Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides cancer patients with care packages aimed at making their treatment more comfortable. In her spare time, she loves nothing more than cuddling with her blind Maltese, Toody, who thinks he rules the world.

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