Media Insider: Tech Giants Bet Big on Podcasts, ACLU Files Suit Over ‘Fake News’ Laws, Editors Piece Together Fall Magazines

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

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Spotify, Amazon, Apple and Barstool Sports Are Betting Big on Podcasts

If there was any remaining doubt that Spotify is serious about podcasts, the Swedish streaming company added an exclusive deal with Joe Rogan reportedly worth $100 million. Meanwhile, Apple is beefing up its podcast plan, seeking to acquire podcast spin-offs of Apple TV+ shows and podcasts that could become Apple TV+ shows. Amazon also wants to be in the mix: Amazon-owned Audible is on the prowl to buy podcasts and is offering more money to acquire them than everyone else except for Spotify. And Barstool Sports, which started as a Boston sports blog in 2003, has become known for its podcasts, which now make up well over a third of its revenue. The company has more than 30 podcasts and is a top 10 U.S. podcast publisher, with more monthly podcast listeners than ESPN.

According to the 2020 Infinite Dial report, 37% of the U.S. population – 104 million people – consume podcasts regularly.

ACLU Files Lawsuit Over Puerto Rico ‘Fake News’ Laws Feared by Journalists Covering Pandemic

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the Puerto Rican government over what the group called a pair of “fake news” laws that it says authorities can use to punish reporters covering the coronavirus pandemic. The suit, brought in federal district court, was filed on behalf of two journalists, Sandra Rodríguez Cotto and Rafelli González-Cotto. According to court documents, one of the provisions criminalizes raising “a false alarm” over an imminent catastrophe, during a state of emergency, or to “spread rumors” about “non-existing abnormalities.” The second provision makes it a crime to “transmit by any means” false information with the intention of creating confusion, panic, or public hysteria. The group says violators could face a maximum of three years in jail and $5,000 fine. “The laws give people far too little guidance on what speech may constitute a crime and the government far too much discretion in deciding whom to prosecute,” the group said. “As a result, the laws chill a great deal of reporting on the COVID-19 crisis and other emergencies, because journalists risk prosecution if the government disputes the accuracy of their reporting.”

Related: Coronavirus is being used to suppress press freedoms globally.

Torstar to Be Sold, Taken Private in $52 Million Deal

The company that publishes the Toronto Star has agreed to be sold to a company run by entrepreneurs Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett in a deal worth roughly $52 million. Torstar, a print and digital publishing company that runs newspapers and websites across Canada, announced the deal with NordStar Capital this week. Bitove and Rivett said former Ontario premier David Peterson will be vice chair of the company, which they intend to take private. Current Torstar CEO John Boynton will remain in his role. The deal was approved by Torstar’s board of directors, a “significant majority” of Class A voting shareholders, as well as Fairfax. The statement added that Bitove and Rivett will maintain the Star’s editorial process and commitment to the “Atkinson principles,” which have driven the paper’s progressive journalism throughout its 128-year history.

News Corp has announced the end of more than 100 Australian print newspapers in a huge shift to digital.

So Far, Publishers Are Keeping Subscribers Gained During the Coronavirus Crisis

New subscribers, the small bright spot for the ravaged publishing industry, are not churning at the same rate as other subscribers, according to early data from subscription platforms. The curve in subscription growth is starting to flatten for some but remains higher than before the coronavirus. Still, publishers such as Bloomberg, The New York Times, and The Guardian anecdotally say they are seeing signs of stronger retention rates from subscribers who have signed up since February and March. Most say it’s too early to declare this as a win, but aggregate data from subscription platforms give an early indication that these readers are more likely to stick around.

Read next: How Reporter Magazin turned casual readers into paying subscribers

Editors Are Piecing Together Fall Magazines, But Do Advertisers Still Care?

Fashion magazine editors have always been in the business of predicting the trends of upcoming seasons, months ahead of when their publications hit newsstands, but this year is particularly challenging. In the coming days, editors will be putting the finishing touches on their September editions, which are usually the largest of the year — thick issues that attract pages and pages of advertisements. COVID-19 has left these magazines scrambling to coordinate photoshoots virtually and keep in constant communication with their longtime ad partners to tweak their messaging and provide them with an ad opportunity they might be willing to take. Despite these efforts, the pandemic seems to be accelerating the pre-pandemic decline in print advertising. “Unfortunately, whether in the U.S. or markets around the world, we’re looking at a softer environment for advertising,” said Brian Wieser, global president, business intelligence at GroupM.

Maxim magazine, struggling financially, is turning to its controversial cover-model contest to help it survive these tough economic times.

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Maria Perez is Director, Web Experience & Operations at Cision. In her spare time, she runs Bags of Love Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides cancer patients with care packages aimed at making their treatment more comfortable. She also enjoys kickboxing, baking, and cuddling with her dog Toody, who thinks he rules the world.

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