Media Insider: Zucker Buys into Front Office Sports, Report Looks at Who is Paying for News Online

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

Media Insider, 10/6/23, person holding a credit card while using a laptop

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Former CNN boss Jeff Zucker to buy into Front Office Sports
Axios | Sara Fischer

Jeff Zucker will acquire a stake in newsletter startup Front Office Sports, and will serve as co-chair of the newsletter startup’s board. It marks Zucker’s splashiest deal since launching RedBird IMI, a $1 billion investment fund focused on media, entertainment, and sports. A source says FOS, which was founded in 2014 and valued at $25 million in 2022, will seek to hire new on-camera talent.

In other media business news, German media company Axel Springer has expressed interest in buying the Telegraph, prompting a potential bidding war.

Paying for news: Price-conscious consumers look for value amid cost-of-living crisis
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism | Nic Newman, Dr. Craig T. Robertson

A new report explores “who is paying for news content online, which publications they pay for, how much they pay, and what motivations they have for subscribing or donating to news.” The report, which uses survey data from 20 countries, investigates how rising costs-of-living effect people’s willingness to pay for online news. While around half of non-subscribers say that nothing could persuade them to pay for online news, others say they could be attracted by a lower price, more relevant content, or less cluttered (ad-free) websites and apps. Along with education and income, the clearest predictor of online news payment is the level of interest in news and in politics. The research also found that both existing and potential subscribers are drawn to the idea of all access bundles that combine multiple titles, podcasts, and other benefits — they don’t want to be tied to one source.

Read next: The Daily Beast took the unpaywalled route for its Obsessed vertical, and it seems to be paying off.

News execs lobby lawmakers on AI protections
Axios | Sara Fischer

The threat of AI is pushing news execs to take the rare step of lobbying members of Congress. Last week, dozens of media executives descended on Capitol Hill in an event organized by the News/Media Alliance (NMA). They held over 80 meetings with lawmakers across 25 states to discuss copyright protections for their work in the AI era, among other issues. NMA CEO Danielle Coffey said the alliance will focus on four AI-related issues: IP protection, disclosures and transparency in training AI models, liability, and accountability and competition. “I think AI is an exacerbation of a previous problem,” Coffey said. “It’s very clear that there is a marketplace imbalance and there will be no business model for quality content if we don’t start changing some of these laws.”

Also from Axios: Chief technology correspondent Ina Fried looks at interesting ways to utilize AI in the newsroom.

Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast company Pushkin Industries lays off 30% of staffers
New York Post | Ariel Zilber

Nearly a third of staffers at Pushkin Industries — 17 of the company’s 54 employees — are being laid off. Malcom Gladwell, who co-founded the company in 2018, will assume the role of editorial director while stepping down from his role as president. Gladwell will be replaced as president by Gretta Cohn, who came to the company last year after it acquired her podcasting company Transmitter. Pushkin has produced dozens of podcasts and audio books featuring prominent authors such as Michael Lewis and Ibram X. Kendi. “What I think has changed and had such a big effect is the position of some of the biggest players,” Pushkin co-founder Jacob Weisberg told Bloomberg News. “All these companies were investing a lot in podcasting and pulled back dramatically.”

Read next: WSJ’s new Take on the Week podcast aims to “make investing feel accessible and fun in the same way that following sports or fantasy leagues can be.” 

Meta news leader Campbell Brown exits company, marking end of era
Axios | Sara Fischer

Campbell Brown, who led Meta’s foray into news, is leaving the company. The announcement comes as Meta looks to mostly back away from elevating news content and instead focus on entertainment and viral trends. Brown joined Meta, then Facebook, in 2017 to lead its inaugural news partnerships team. During her tenure, the company launched a dedicated News Tab, invested in news accelerator programs, and expanded its global fact-checking network. But regulatory pressure and criticism around censorship over the past three years has pushed tech giants, especially Meta, to abandon efforts to elevate news content and as a result, traffic referrals to publishers from social media have cratered. Brown said she’ll “remain affiliated with Meta in a new consultant capacity.”

More personnel news: Hearst Magazines has promoted Lucy Kaylin to the title of editorial director.

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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.

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