Edition #86

The Athletic launches in the UK, Tik Tok faces challenges and Vice is looking for a sale.

Some personal news:

tl ;dr — I had an amazing, long run at BuzzFeed, but the time had come for something new. And I’m thrilled to say I’ve joined Medium as the VP of Publisher Growth & Strategy. I’ll be based in NYC, traveling less than the last few years, but excited to keep this newsletter going (though maybe I’ll start publishing it on Medium, too?).


The Athletic officially launched its UK edition on Friday. It’s aiming to soon have 55 people working full-time there writing about soccer aka football, focused primarily on covering Premier League. (Press Gazette)

Tokyo-based news aggregator SmartNews raised $28 million in a new round of funding, and is now valued at $1.1b. (Axios)

Despite still having some of the most-subscribed-to newspapers in the world, Japan has seen a decline of 10 million newspaper subscribers since 2000. (Nippon.com)

The Guardian officially broke even in 2018, with a majority of its revenue now coming from digital. (The Guardian)

Some U.S. Twitter users, tired of seeing white supremacist content, are changing their locations settings to Germany, where strong federal laws require the swift removal of hate speech and anything promoting Nazism. (CNBC)

Tik Tok is growing quickly, but faces four big challenges, writes Casey Newton. A lot of its growth is still due to the huge marketing budget it has been spending, and now’s the time to start turning the curious masses in to regular users. (The Interface <— if you haven’t subscribed yet, you should!)

Here’s a long look at Quibi, the Jeffrey Katzenberg led short-form video content app launching next year. As always, the numbers are astounding: $1 billion in funding, a $470 million budgeted for marketing in year one, $100 million in advertising commitments for the first year, and already 160 employees hired. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The return of Gawker is on hold. I really can’t wait to learn more of this story — what the hell happened!? — but for now, what we know is this: The relaunch of Gawker under the umbrella of internet overlord Bryan Goldberg has been put on hold indefinitely, and the entire launch staff has been fired. If only Gawker were around to cover this. (NY Post)

The New York Times now has nearly 3.8 million digital subscribers, across its news offering, crossword and cooking apps. (New York Times)

Vanity Fair writes that Vice’s CEO is possibly trying to seek an exit via CBS-Viacom at a price around $1.5 billion. Or maybe not! The article also says CBS may not be interested, especially with the distraction of the looming Viacom merger (likely coming this week). (Vanity Fair)


Paths to subscription: The American Press Institute has released an 18-month study focused on what gets people in the U.S. to subscribe to local newspapers. It’s probably the largest study of its kind, and the main takeaways — which I’d guess would likely apply to any news subscription model — are above. (American Press Institute)

Edition #85

Netflix looks to international for growth, a big report on digital in China and the launch of HuffPost J-school


1. Netflix is increasingly looking to the international market to fuel its subscriber growth. It’s been successful in Japan, but needs to get a win in India. (Axios)

2. Spotify released a lite version of its app on Android in 36 emerging markets. (Bloomberg)

3. The New York Timesrecent job ad for its Nairobi bureau chief was, um, not free of colonial cliches. (Global Voices)

4. Axel Springer’s European news aggregator app, Upday, is reportedly profitable and looking to expand its reach — it comes pre-installed on Samsung phones but is eyeing connected devices like fridges and cars. (Digiday)

5. Mozilla looks to be joining with Scroll to offer a $5-a-month, ad-free subscription news service, but hasn’t released any real details. Mysterious! (The Verge)

6. Here’s an odd, slightly inscrutable look at Verizon’s media business strategy, which is I guess focused on diversifying revenue and aligning its various media properties? (Reuters)

7. The U.K. edition of the HuffPost is launching the HuffPost School of Journalism in collaboration with Birmingham City University. (HuffPost)

8. Spending on digital advertising will surpass 50% of the total global ad spend in for the first time in 2021. (FIPP)

9. A number of car-sharing services in Japan have discovered people are using their cars for things besides driving, like sleeping or eating lunch. One service even conducted a study and discovered people “also rented vehicles to watch TV in, get dressed up for Halloween, practice singing, rapping and English conversation, and even do facial stretches said to reduce the size of their face.” (Asahi)


  1. The Ericsson Mobility Report 2019 — tl; dr “5G cometh”

  2. The China Internet Report (South China Morning Post) — tl; dr “5G, AI and Tik Tok cometh”


The languages the U.S. speaks: This map from Business Insider shows the most common language (besides Spanish or English) spoken at home or at work in each U.S. state. German is the most common by state (with nine states), while Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) is the most common overall, with 2.1m speakers.

Edition #84

Byte Dance's big number, plus more media layoffs and a look at "best friends" around the world. the world.

Links 🔗

ByteDance claims 1 billion monthly active users. In the last edition of this newsletter, I included a little video about the growth of various social platforms over time, including Tik Tok’s meteoric rise. This week, Tik Tok’s parent company ByteDance announced announced a new milestone of a billion monthly users across its services. (South China Morning Post)

Meanwhile, Tik Tok is under investigation in the U.K. for how it handles data protection for minors on its platform. The investigation if focused on the app’s messaging system and data collected on children’s videos. (The Guardian)

The U.S. media industry is facing its worst year, job wise, since 2009. So far, media companies have announced over 15,000 jobs cuts in 2019. (Bloomberg)

A judge in Australia ruled that media companies must (somehow!?) pre-moderate comments on their Facebook pages. I’m assuming this will be appealed, because it’s frankly nuts. It would require publications to somehow pre-moderate Facebook comments to any pages they control, using a hacky workaround, and it’s a huge amount of resources for a publisher to pour into a platform they don’t own. (The Guardian)

Verizon Media is aiming to have its revenue from online shopping equal the amounts it makes from total ad sales and subscriptions by 2024. (CNN)

By 2027, India will have more people than China. (CNN)

Chart 📊

How many best friends do you have? Snapchat and ad agency Protein collaborated on a study on friendship in nine countries around the world; the results are above. Despite its questionable use of the word “best” in this context, it raises interesting questions about how the nature of friendship is tied to culture. (Snap)

Edition #83

Two big trend reports, plus HBO cancels Vice News show and Axel Springer eyes buyout.

Links 🔗

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2019 presentation is here. Every year, Meeker (a veteran VC partner) releases a slide deck outlining the state of the internet as she sees it. Highlights from this year:

  • India has the second-biggest population of internet users, and is the market with the largest potential for growth (@jeremysliew)

  • Print is going away and never coming back (Nieman Lab)

  • 62% of all digital display revenue comes from programmatic ads, and that number is growing (Vox Recode)

  • 87% of all web traffic is encrypted, up from 53% in 2016 (Fast Company)

See the whole presentation here: Internet Trends 2019

Also, the Reuters Institute released their Digital News Report 2019. One especially worrying point for the recent trend in subscriber-focused growth: Most people globally only pay for one digital subscription. (Reuters Institute)

Related: The 5 essential charts from the Digital News Report 2019 (What’s New In Publishing)

A really interesting interview/profile of Bryan Goldberg, owner of Bustle/Gawker/Mic/Elite Daily. In a time when most of digital media seems to be stumbling around for a direction, Goldberg has a clear if worrying pitch: “His playbook is to buy struggling websites for cheap, cut their costs by using Bustle’s own engineers, offices, and ad sales team, and not raise large sums of money that would force his company to grow too quickly.” (Bloomberg)

HBO canceled Vice News Tonight. The show will continue to air until September, and Vice is actively looking for a new home for it. But Josh Tyrangiel, the exectuive behind the show, is leaving Vice at the end of June. (AdWeek)

More details emerge on Quibi, the forthcoming streaming app from Jeffrey Katzenberg. It will launch in April of 2020, with two tiers of pricing: $4.99 with ads, $7.99 without. The company has already raised TWO BILLION DOLLARS. And they plan to spend nearly a half billion on marketing over the next year, and will have about 7,000 short-form videos made in the first year. (The Verge)

German publishing giant Axel Springer is considering a private equity buyout. Private equity firm KKR & Co. is looking to buy out minority shareholders in Springer in a move that would value the company at $7.7 billion and take it off the public market. (Bloomberg)

Related: Springer also announced plans to combine two of it’s big U.S.-based subsidiaries: Insider Inc. and E-Marketer. What does this all mean for the model of VC-backed media companies? (Fast Company)

Watch 📺

The Craig Newmark J-School is offering free online video masterclasses in journalism, starting with David Fahrenthold talking about investigative journalism and Jennifer Brandel on people-powered journalism, with more coming soon! (Craig Newmark Graduate School Of Journalism)

Look for Tik Tok at the end: The most popular social media networks per year, based on monthly active users, animated. Is Tik Tok the fastest to reach half a billion ever? From the numbers here, it would seem so! (The Next Web)

Edition #82

A new look! Plus: Changes at Vice and Tik Tok vs. Facebook in India.

(Some quick housekeeping: I just moved the ol’ newsletter to this new service, Substack, which means a new look. Let me know if anything’s amiss — and as always, if you like what you see here, please forward it on to a smart friend!)

Links 🔗

ByteDance vs Facebook in India. I’ve been thinking for a while that Facebook, at some point, will inevitably face a big competitor coming out of China. ByteDance — with their breakout hit app Tik Tok — looks to be that competitor. Tik Tok became the most-downloaded app globally in the first quarter of this year, passing Facebook. And the parent company has been very focused on surpassing Facebook’s user numbers in India. ByteDance currently has 200 million users there, to Facebook’s 300 million, but has far more penetration outside the top-tier cities. (Economic Times)

The Daily Mail’s website traffic dropped 50% after a recent Google search algorithm change. The site’s traffic from Google Discover dropped 90%. (SEO Roundtable)

Editors out at Vice.com. The editor-in-chief and managing editor of Vice.com were let go, following a number of structural changes at Vice’s digital properties. (New York Times)

Refinery29 is raising a $20 million in venture funding (they’ve previously raised $125m). Part of the investment will go towards expanded their international presence — they already have editions in Canada, the UK, Germany and France. (Axios)

🌮🇮🇳Taco Bell is going to make India its biggest international market. They already have 35 restaurants there, but will build out 600 more over the next 10 years. (CNN)

Work with distributed teams? Try a Distributed Day at your HQ. The team over at the Canadian Digital Service tried it, with the goal of building empathy for folks who don’t work in the office. (Digital.Canada.ca)

The UK’c communication regulator, Ofcom, has released its 2019 survey about media use and attitudes. Much of it isn't exactly news: The centrality of smartphones to everyday life, increases in watching streaming or on-demand video, coupled with the growth of hate content and misinformation in social media. Surprisingly, though, the percent of adults in the UK who never go online (13%) hasn't changed since 2014. (OFCOM)

A cool new thing: The Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership at CUNY. This is a new, year-long (mostly remote) training program for news executives focused on “the intersections of product, editorial, business, and technology.” I don’t know of a program like this anywhere else in the world, and it seems like an incredible course. The inaugural cohort starts January 2020, and applications opened this week. (CUNY)

Subscribe 📨

“A dailyish link to cool shit happening in & around the media industry”: The folks over at Revue (an editorial newsletter tool) compiled a list of the best media newsletters a few week back, and Deez Links, the newsletter of my BuzzFeed colleague and fellow newsletter nerd Delia Cai, was the 4th most-popular newsletter on the list! As described — it’s a great daily link plus other good stuff. Subscribe: Deez Links

Stat 📈

We old: For the first time ever, there are more people aged 65+ on earth than children under 5. And the trend towards an aging population will continue — at least until the global climate crisis starts in earnest. (Our World In Data)

🌎🌍🌏 (see past editions here; subscribe here)

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