BuzzFeed, Google and AI: Media News Recap for May

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

May has been another busy month for the media industry. From major acquisitions and AI news to shifting reader habits and regulatory updates, there’s a lot to catch up on. In this roundup, we cover the top stories that have shaped the media world this month. Whether you’re in the industry, a news junkie or just curious, these highlights will keep you in the loop.

Vivek Ramaswamy acquires activist stake in BuzzFeed

Earlier this month, former GOP presidential nominee and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy acquired a 7.7% stake in BuzzFeed, according to a new regulatory filing. Shares in the struggling media company jumped more than 50% to $4.15 in pre-market trading, their highest point since March 2023. The shares were acquired with his personal funds, the filing said. (Axios)

Ramaswamy has since upped his stake to 8.37% and released a lengthy letter outlining what he believes the company should do to turn itself around. In his letter, Ramaswamy called for three new board seats and to dramatically cut costs, including “large-scale headcount reductions, dumping legacy digitized print business model and divesting assets to repay debt.” (Hollywood Reporter)

Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder and chief executive, has already rejected some of Ramaswamy’s requests out of hand, setting up a clash between the two men. Peretti owns a special class of voting stock that gives him an effective veto over any drastic remaking of the company or its board. (New York Times)

Google threatens to pause Google News Initiative funding in U.S.

Google is warning nonprofit newsrooms that passage of a new California bill would jeopardize the firm’s future investments in the U.S. news industry. This is the second time this year Google has threatened to pull investment in news in response to a regulatory threat in California – but this time, hundreds of publishers outside of California would also feel the impact.

The bill, called the California Journalism Preservation Act, has also been opposed by Google rival Meta, which has warned it would block links to news sites in California on its platforms if the bill becomes law.

Google’s new outreach to smaller news outlets is happening in response to a different bill, introduced this year by State Sen. Steve Glazer, that would tax Big Tech companies like Google and Meta for “data extraction transactions,” or digital ad transactions.

With the link tax bill, Google only threatened to pull news investments in California. However, the company is telling partners that the ad tax proposal will threaten the consideration of new grants nationwide by the Google News Initiative, which funds hundreds of smaller news outlets. (Axios)

More Google news:

  • Google, Hubspot talk of a potential acquisition gets louder (Media Daily News)
  • Rumble sues Google, again (Axios)
  • Google Search document leak reveals inner workings of ranking algorithm (Search Engine Land)

Spin rolls out: Bob Guccione, Jr. returns with first print issue in 12 years

Spin magazine, the music title that once amused young readers with its irreverence, will soon be back on the stands. The first print edition since 2012 will appear on Aug. 29 and will be edited by the founder and original editor of Spin, Bob Guccione, Jr.

The return issue will be available at higher-end retailers like Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Kroger’s, Walmart and Smiths in Canada, and at airports and independent record stores – some 50,000 copies in all. This will be followed by regular quarterly editions and a 40th anniversary issue next March. (MediaPost)

Some other notable launches announced this month include:

  • Vox launches subscription program as news publishers race to diversify revenue streams (CNN Business)
  • Fox, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery sports-streaming venture to be called Venu Sports (NY Post)
  • PolitiFact launches Spanish-language website to serve more than 40 million U.S. Spanish speakers (Poynter)
  • Deadspin to launch for third time with mysterious owners, unclear staff (Front Office Sports)

The Atlantic, Vox Media ink licensing, product deals with OpenAI

The Atlantic, one of the oldest magazines in the U.S., and Vox Media, one of the nation’s largest digital media holding companies, have inked separate licensing and product deals with ChatGPT parent OpenAI. The deals give OpenAI added momentum in its quest for credible content to train its algorithms and inform its chatbots — and could also protect the Microsoft-backed company further from future copyright liability. Both multi-year partnerships include agreements in which OpenAI can license the publishers’ archived content to train its AI models. Both agreements also allow OpenAI to tap into the respective publishers’ current content to fuel responses to user queries in OpenAI products, including ChatGPT. (Axios)

AI dominated much of the headlines this month. Here’s a roundup of the latest AI stories:

  • Newspaper conglomerate Gannett is adding AI-generated summaries to the top of its articles (The Verge)
  • News Corp. strikes content licensing deal with OpenAI (Axios)
  • Google draws heat for its AI overviews (Publishers Daily)
  • Web publishers brace for carnage as Google adds AI answers (Washington Post)
  • OpenAI says it’s building a tool to let content creators “opt out” of AI training (TechCrunch)
  • OpenAI will use Reddit posts to train ChatGPT under new deal (Ars Technica)
  • See how easily AI chatbots can be taught to spew disinformation (New York Times)

Shift to smartphones from TV and print in full swing

A sweeping, in-depth survey of the news consumption habits of Chicago-area residents by researchers at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University captures the tectonic shift to smartphone usage from television and print newspapers, and finds that half of consumers believe no one should pay for journalism.

In one of the survey’s most significant findings, researchers identified a lack of public awareness of the financially perilous state of local news. A majority of those surveyed (54%) believe local news outlets are doing “somewhat well” financially. Another 17% said they are doing “very well,” meaning that in total, 71% of respondents don’t know the news business is in crisis.

The disconnect between performance and awareness has profound implications for the future of journalism because many local newsrooms need to persuade more consumers to become paying customers for digital news to make up for weak online advertising revenue. But audiences not only don’t believe the news business is suffering, they are also skeptical about who, if anyone, should pay for news. About half (51%) of respondents said no one should pay for news. Another 27% said those who can pay should pay. (Medill)

Here are a few more interesting research reports that were released this month:

  • Americans have mixed views about how the news media cover Biden’s, Trump’s ages (Pew Research Center)
  • New THR/Morning Consult poll names America’s most trusted anchors (Hollywood Reporter)
  • More Americans want the journalists they get news from to share their politics than any other personal trait (Pew Research Center)

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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.

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