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August 3, 2020

Publishing News


Disney+ Exec Tapped to Head Conde Nast Entertainment
THR: "Agnes Chu, who helped to lead the launch of Disney+, is leaving the company for a new role running Condé Nast Entertainment. As president of the publishing company's entertainment arm, she will oversee video content across digital, social and streaming platforms and will also lead efforts to adapt its IP into film and TV projects. Chu's appointment comes amid a reckoning at the magazine publisher, which employees accused of fostering a culture of racism and discrimination. She will become the second person of color to currently hold a senior executive position at the company. She replaces Oren Katzeff, who amid the larger conversation about discrimination within the company, was called out for old tweets that were described as sexist and discriminatory. A company spokesman says Katzeff is moving into a new role and that more details would be provided soon. Chu joins CNE after a decade at Disney, where she held a number of roles including at ABC and Imagineering. She also spent three years working directly with former Disney CEO Bob Iger as a VP in his office. When it came time for Disney to begin building its streaming future, Chu was one of the first people that Iger tapped to lead the effort. As SVP content, she worked with the company's various studios to assemble its slate of originals — including breakout The Mandalorian — and to build out its library of legacy programming.Disney+ has a success for the company, attracting nearly 55M subscribers since its November launch and garnering 19 Emmy nominations. At CNE, Chu will oversee a group that produces more than 4,000 videos a year for its various brands, including Vogue, Wired and Architecture Digest. The division is also behind such TV shows as Netflix's Last Chance U and feature films like Only the Brave. Chu will also likely be tasked with exploring how to bring more diversity and equity to CNE's digital video efforts following reports that people of color who appear in videos for the Bon Appetit brand were being paid less than their white counterparts. "
 

Speculation About Next Hearst Mags President in Full Throttle
In Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo reports that opinions differ about whether Debi Chirichella, the Hearst Magazines CFO who was made interim president after the abrupt departure of Troy Young, will be chosen as permanent president. Pompeo says that the business/operations side is "thrilled" to see her in the role, and some say "that her number-crunching background is precisely what is needed right now, because the magazine division, faced with the same revenue troubles as the rest of the industry, “is a financial puzzle at this point. Debbie will probably get ratified into the job.” Further, one insider said there is currently "no timetable to start any formal search for the role." Pompeo reports that in an email to staff last week, Chiricella wrote that she was determined to “lead the change that must occur and to help rebuild trust within our organization.” She also addressed the allegations about Young that surfaced in the Times piece, stating "no one in leadership, including myself or anyone at the corporate level, knew about these grotesque allegations.” Some are skeptical of that claim, says Pompeo. And "despite being well-liked and generally seen as a smart and competent manager, Chirichella probably didn’t score any points among the journalistic ranks for the part of her note that touched on the Bryan Singer fiasco, in which a 2018 Esquire investigation into sexual-misconduct allegations against the director was controversially killed by the brass, only to be published to much acclaim by The Atlantic." The piece also reports that, while some would love to see Young's well-respected predecessor, David Carey, return to the position, Carey -- who returned to the company in January (after a yearlong fellowship at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative), in the position of SVP public affairs and communications -- he has in recent days "assured inquisitive colleagues that he is happily focused on his new role." Sources said that "a big part of what lured Carey back to the company was the promise of getting to work on philanthropic initiatives via the Hearst Foundation." Pompeo also offers various unnamed sources' takes on the story behind Young's hiring and time at Hearst. 
 

DoJ Is Going After John Bolton's Royalties—and Advance
PW: "The government was unable to stop publication of former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton's bestselling book The Room Where it Happened, but in filings last week the Department of Justice moved to seize the author's royalties—including his reported $2M advance. "As the Supreme Court has explicitly held, the proper remedy for a violation of a person’s contractual agreements to undertake prepublication review is the imposition of a constructive trust on all proceeds of his book," reads a July 30 brief in support of Summary Judgment against Bolton, "including amounts Defendant may already have received (which he should be required to disgorge) and any and all amounts he may receive in the future as royalties or otherwise." The filings come after Bolton, in a July 16 motion, asked the court to dismiss the DoJ's remaining civil case against him, arguing that he has not breached any of his nondisclosure agreements. "The Government’s claims are all foreclosed by the text of the very contractual documents upon which they purport to be based," Bolton's attorneys argued. But even if the court found that the nondisclosure agreements did preclude Bolton from moving forward with his book, "imposing such a requirement—in effect, a blanket prior restraint of virtually any speech by former government employees—that requirement would be flatly contrary to the First Amendment." In filings last week, however, the DoJ rejected Bolton's arguments, noting that the courts have already found that prepublication reviews are constitutional, and that Bolton was clearly contractually required to await a written release from the government before proceeding with publication"...
 

Opinion: Publishers Can Boost Revenue Without Intrusive Ads
MediaPost's Rob Williams writes: "Publishers can boost bids for programmatic ad placements by opening their inventories to more ad networkers, James Laver, a strategic partnerships manager at publishing platform Marfeel, said last week in a webinar hosted by the International News Media Association (INMA), as summarized by editor Shelley Seale. Slightly more than half of publishers work with two to five ad networks, limiting the possibilities to boost demand for their inventory, Laver said. Publishers can increase their CPMs by about 60% by doubling the number of bidders for placements. Publishers also need to consider how quickly their websites and accompanying ads are delivered to smartphone screens to avoid higher bounce rates, or the portion of visitors who abandon a site because it's too slow. The major drawback is when a web page loads quickly, while the ad doesn't, leaving white space on the screen. Publishers can boost bids for programmatic ad placements by opening their inventories to more ad networkers, James Laver, a strategic partnerships manager at publishing platform Marfeel, said last week in a webinar hosted by the International News Media Association (INMA), as summarized by editor Shelley Seale. Slightly more than half of publishers work with two to five ad networks, limiting the possibilities to boost demand for their inventory, Laver said. Publishers can increase their CPMs by about 60% by doubling the number of bidders for placements. Publishers also need to consider how quickly their websites and accompanying ads are delivered to smartphone screens to avoid higher bounce rates, or the portion of visitors who abandon a site because it's too slow. The major drawback is when a web page loads quickly, while the ad doesn't, leaving white space on the screen."
 


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Retail News


America's New Shopping Habits: Saving More, Spending More
MediaPost: "As people adjust their daily lives to pandemic-inspired changes, experts say the new shopper is very different from last year’s model. Consumers are at once more focused yet more impulsive, and more frugal while spending more, according to a new report from Valassis. Overall, the research finds that 70% of consumers have increased saving behaviors. But they are also spending more, with 45% saying they are expanding their budget using coupons and discounts. More are scanning receipts with cellphones for points and cash-back deals, for instance, including 51% of millennials and 43% of Gen Z shoppers. Valassis, based in Livonia, Michigan, sampled 2,000 consumers in two surveys, with 61% saying coupons and discounts encourage them to try new brands, and 54% saying such offers lead to impulse purchases. And 60% believe receiving offers speeds up purchase decisions. Store circulars are still popular, with 76% saying they use them while shopping, and 71% using online circulars. More than half, though, say they want to see deals on both paper and digitally. But while consumers are watching their budget, they’re also more impulsive, with 35% calling themselves impulse shoppers, up from 28% in 2019. And when they do splurge, 43% say it’s to “treat themselves. ”While consumers may be as fond of special offers as ever, a new report from Kantar says they had fewer chances to do so. In its analysis of print and digital promotion activity in the first half of 2020, Kantar says print promotion dropped 14.7%. Personal care, dry grocery, and household products declined, with the biggest drops in snacks and cosmetics. Kantar says it saw drops of greater than 25% in four out of five food areas. As a result, non-food items accounted for 79% of free-standing insert coupons dropped. The vitamin category jumped 22% and was one of the few showing an increase. Digital promotions also dropped, falling 16.8%. Dry grocery, refrigerated foods and personal care lost the most."
 

7-Eleven Buying Speedway for $21B
CNN Business: "The Japanese owner of 7-Eleven is buying the Speedway chain of gas stations from Marathon Petroleum (MPC) for $21B. The two firms announced the cash deal in a statement late Sunday. It's one of the biggest acquisitions in the world to be announced since the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year. Japanese retail giant Seven & i Holdings (SVNDF) — which owns 7-Eleven and other outlets, including supermarket chain Ito-Yokado and the Sogo and Seibu department stores — says it is the largest in the company's history. Seven & i is the largest convenience store chain operator in Japan, with 21,000 stores there. It also owns nearly 9,800 stores in the United States and Canada. The company has been looking to expand overseas as its home market grows increasingly saturated. By acquiring Speedway, the Japanese retailer would pick up 4,000 stores and give its operations in North America a boost. With this deal, 7-Eleven would have a presence in 47 of the top 50 most populated metro areas in the United States, the company noted in a press release. The deal "will allow us to continue to grow and diversify our presence in the US, particularly in the Midwest and East Coast," 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto said"...
 

Amazon's Online Grocery Sales Tripled in Q2
SN: In Q2 ended June 30, Amazon "continued to see huge gains overall due the impact of COVID-19, with online grocery sales alone reaching three times last year’s figures. Overall net income rose to $5.2B or $10.30 per diluted share, vs. $2.6B, or $5.22 per diluted share, in Q2 2019. Net sales rose 40% to $88.9B vs. $63.4B in Q2 2019. Operating income rose to $5.8B vs. $3.1B in Q2 2019. With the higher sales due to the pandemic came higher operating expenses. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, stated: “As expected, we spent over $4B on incremental COVID-19-related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers in this time of high demand — purchasing personal protective equipment, increasing cleaning of our facilities, following new safety process paths, adding new backup family care benefit, and paying a special thank you bonus of over $500M to front-line employees and delivery partners. We’ve created over 175,000 new jobs since March and are in the process of bringing 125,000 of these employees into regular, full-time positions"... Amazon, which owns more than 500 Whole Foods stores, said it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160% and tripled grocery pickup locations during the quarter. Physical store sales saw revenue drop 13% to $3.8B. Those sales come mainly from Whole Foods, however, and exclude online orders made through Amazon’s brick-and-mortar brands, such as Prime Now delivery and pickup via Whole Foods stores. That drop in revenue can be attributed to less in-store traffic overall during the pandemic"...
 

Pandemic Powers 22% Sales Increase for Publix
PG: "Aided by the coronavirus pandemic, Publix reported sales for the three months ended June 27 of $11.4B, a 21.8% increase from the $9.3B posted in 2019. Comp-store sales for the three months ended June 27 grew 19.9%. The company estimated that its sales for the three months ended June 27 rose about $1.5B, or 16.1%, due to the impact of COVID-19. Net earnings were $1.4B vs. $661.1M in 2019, up 106.8%. EPS for the quarter grew $1.94 per share, up from 92 cents in the year-ago period... Publix’s sales for the six months ended June 27 were $22.6B, an 18.9% increase from the $19B logged in 2019. Comps rose 17.1%. Publix estimated that its sales rose about $2.5B or 13.1% because of the impact of the pandemic. Net earnings were $2B, from $1.6B in 2019, up 23.9%. EPS rose to $2.89 per share, up from $2.29 in the year-ago period. Net earnings and earnings per share were affected by net unrealized gains on equity securities, Publix noted...
 

WellCare, Shipt Offer Free Grocery Delivery to Seniors
PG: "WellCare, a wholly owned subsidiary of multinational health care enterprise Centene Corp., has struck up a partnership with same-day delivery service Shipt to give Medicare Advantage members safe and convenient access groceries and everyday essentials during 2020. WellCare provides government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs, primarily via Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plans. The partnership is part of WellCare’s ongoing commitment to overcome such non-medical obstacles to health care as food insecurity or transportation assistance, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic"...
 

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