Media Insider: Meta launches Twitter alternative, ESPN lays off top talent, Wiener Zeitung ends print run

Welcome to Media Insider, PR Newswire’s roundup of media news stories from the week.

Media Insider, 7/7/23, Newspaper printing machine

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Meta launches Threads early as it looks to take on Twitter
CBS News | Aimee Picchi

Meta’s Threads app debuted a day earlier than expected, offering billions of users with an alternative to Twitter amid growing frustration with the Elon Musk-owned social media service. Threads had been slated to be released at 10 a.m. EDT on July 6, but the company pushed forward its countdown clock to 7 p.m. EDT on July 5. Within hours, 10 million people had signed up for the service, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. By Thursday morning, more than 20 million had signed up, according to NBC News, which cited the number of Threads badges on Instagram users’ accounts. Threads, which looks similar to Twitter, lets users post messages, reply to other users, and like or repost messages. The service also lets users of Meta-owned Instagram follow the same accounts on Threads, which could help people add followers.

Speaking of Twitter, the social media platform placed TweetDeck behind a paywall.

ESPN lays off top on-air talent
CNN Business | Nathaniel Meyersohn and Jon Passantino

ESPN is laying off around 20 high-profile sports commentators as part of a cost-cutting initiative. Among those let go were Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy, Jalen Rose and LaPhonso Ellis. Suzy Kolber also announced she had been laid off. The cuts to Disney’s global workforce are part of a multibillion-dollar cost-cutting initiative aimed at streamlining the company’s operations. The company reported operating profit grew 56%, to $12.1 billion, in 2022. “Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries,” ESPN said in a statement. The company did not comment on who was laid off, but some of the former network staff began to announce their departures on social media.

View the full list of names and shows affected by the layoffs.

G/O Media Has Begun Using AI to Generate Content
Adweek | Mark Stenberg

Publisher G/O Media began using generative artificial intelligence to create editorial content, making the company the latest in a growing list of publishers experimenting with the tech. In an email shared with staff, editorial director Merrill Brown described the venture as a limited trial, which will produce only a handful of stories for the publishers AV Club, Gizmodo, The Takeout and Deadspin. The company bills the technology as a means of generating the kinds of content its staff disliked producing in the first place, such as a rote list of the best sandwiches in every state. At least initially, the articles will not appear on sites’ home pages and are primarily intended to net search traffic.

Related: New lawsuits filed against OpenAI allege the company violated state and federal copyright and privacy laws.

Media companies pull back from Facebook, Instagram as Meta plans to block Canadian news from services
Globe and Mail | The Canadian Press

Media companies began pulling advertising from some social media platforms and telling readers and viewers how to access news directly as Google and Meta moved toward blocking Canadian news from their services. News and telecommunications company Quebecor Inc. announced it would immediately withdraw advertising from Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms. Cogeco, which owns and operates 21 talk and music radio stations across Quebec, also announced it will be pulling ads off the platforms. Google and Meta have chosen to block Canadian news from its social media services in response to the federal Online News Act, which will require Google and Meta to pay news publishers for content that appears on their sites if it helps them generate money. The act, known as Bill C-18, is due to come into effect later this year.

The Canadian government also suspended all advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Stop the press: Vienna newspaper Wiener Zeitung ends daily print edition after 320 years
ABC News | Staff

One of the world’s oldest newspapers, the Vienna-based Wiener Zeitung, ended its daily print run after more than three centuries. First published under the name Wiennerisches Diarium, the paper set out to provide a sober account of the news “without any oratory or poetic gloss” when it was launched on Aug. 8, 1703. The Wiener Zeitung, which is owned by the Austrian government but editorially independent, suffered a sharp decrease in revenue after a recent law dropped a requirement for companies to pay to publish changes to the commercial registry in the print edition. The newspaper was forced to cut 63 jobs and reduce its editorial staff by almost two-thirds to 20. It will continue to operate online and plans a monthly print edition.

ICYMI: The Dallas Morning News will discontinue print editions of its free weekly Al Dia and Briefing publications at the end of August.

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Maria Perez is director of web operations at Cision. In her spare time, she enjoys gaming, watching too much TV, and chasing squirrels with her dog Cece.