February 19, 2016 Last Updated 7:20 am

Primaries in the US tomorrow, while Uganda votes today, President shuts down social media, detains opponent briefly

Morning Brief: Behind the scenes, some major magazine companies are working to significantly improve their odds at attracting digital advertising, a trend hard to see at industry events or by reading trade journals

Tomorrow voters in Nevada and South Carolina will express their opinions in this year’s Presidential race. Democrats in Nevada will gather, while Republicans in South Carolina vote. Then next week on Tuesday Republicans caucus in Nevada while on Saturday Democrats vote in Nevada. Though the South Carolina primary is considered “open”, meaning a voter can vote in either primary, they cannot vote twice – if you vote in the Republican primary tomorrow, you cannot return to vote again on Tuesday. Also, you have to be already registered, there is no same day registration in South Carolina, unlike New Hampshire and Iowa.

But today the people of Uganda voted, with President Yoweri Museveni seeking a fifth term in office, and so far the news from the country is disturbing.


The opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was detained for three hours while the government shutdown social media.

The President said shutting down social media was a temporary measure to stop people “creating trouble” and “telling lies,” according to Charlotte Alfred, World Reporter at The Huffington Post.

Earlier this week British journalist Richard Dowden wrote that in the early days of the former rebel leader Museveni’s presidency he used to gather and debate with journalists.

“But the longer Museveni has ruled, the more dictatorial and remote he has become. He has reverted to crude practices such as distributing bags of money to buy votes, while his former comrades have abandoned him. The best went first, and he is now just left with servants rather than comrades,” Dowden wrote.

Museveni is widely expected to win his fifth term.

Today, few who cover the media have much actual experience in media, and extremely few have ever been in a management position in the media business.

So, we tend to get an outsider’s view of the business whenever we read their reports. Jason Abbruzzese, who is the Media Reporter at Mashable, for instance, is a journalism grad, but his entire career in media amounts to a short time as web editor at the Financial Times. This is not uncommon, and not meant as a criticism – it is what it is.

It used to drive me crazy, while at Reed Business Information (formerly Cahners), that HR’s policy was never to mention the industry that would be covered when recruiting for a new editor-in-chief of one of the publisher’s B2B magazines. Actually knowing your industry was never a prerequisite for the job, they basically said. (I don’t think Norm Cahners used to think like.)

In some ways, a lack of experience in the media world might be a bit of an advantage in that one is not automatically prone to buying the propaganda media executives give out when speaking at industry events. As Abbruzzese writes today, media industry people can talk about all the layoffs and shutdowns in their industry, and still come across as optimistic about print and the future of the business. Their public words, it seems, fail to reflect reality.

“In the face of this, staying optimistic is difficult, though media executives don’t yet seem to be letting on,” Abbruzzese said.

Cosmo-jan16-300Cosmopolitan’s editor-in-chief Joanna Coles faced a barrage of questions from Re/code executive editor Kara Swisher about the future of print media and how it should monetize online. Coles deflected and, despite all the evidence of print’s decline thrown at her, offered little other than unbridled optimism.”

The article’s point is that traditional media company’s are finding it “freaking hard” to find success online, but are only willing to talk about it when not on an event stage (which is the reason events are a waste of their admission fees other than for the social interaction).

“And that’s why, onstage and off, conversations centered on whether the optimism of the digital media boom years that featured soaring reader traffic and massive funding rounds had given way to a steely reality: The Internet is really freaking hard, much harder than anybody had seemed to expect,” said Abbruzzese.

Nonetheless, it should be said that having editors talk about the future of the media business is silly. The action behind the scenes at these publishers is not talking place in the editorial offices of magazine companies, but in the corporate offices where a string of mergers and acquisitions are, in fact, starting to transform many traditional media businesses.

Just in the last few weeks we have seen Time Inc. acquire Viant – not just for the Myspace brand, which Time Inc. very much downplayed in this announcement of the deal – but for the data and technical expertise that would be brought into the business.

“We see opportunities to improve our targeting of individuals, and customizing both content experiences and marketing messages,” Time Inc. said today in an SEC filing. “In 2015, we hired our first Chief Data Officer, and we are migrating to a state-of-the-art marketing automation and analytics platform for email, mobile, social and online marketing to more effectively leverage our data for targeting consumers.”

News Corp-owned News America Marketing just this week said it is partnering with Linkable Networks in order to use the partner’s payment card-based savings technology.

“This partnership creates a terrific opportunity for retailers to reach the digitally-minded consumer, particularly millennials, and engage them through a platform with proven success. And with the addition of Linkable’s Shopper Attribution Platform, we can turn the reach of the FSI into a performance-based ad network for retailers,” said Jeff Jensen, EVP and General Manger, Linkable Networks.

The reason traditional media companies have found it difficult to compete online is that they have been fighting with native digital media companies for ad dollars, using their print brands as their point of differentiation. Look at the MPA’s new metric which attempts to track the growth in print brands through digital and social media. It is as if merely repeating the words “Better Homes and Gardens” would be enough to convince an ad buyer to invest in the magazine’s digital offerings rather than Google or Facebook.

Luckily, many current media executives, leading some of the major publishing companies, have moved beyond this way of thinking and now realize that they will need to provide ad buyers with the kinds of data, customer demographics, and sales campaign reporting that the big digital natives are delivering.

So, in fact, there is a reason to be optimistic – not because print will enjoy a revival, despite what print editors have to say, but because their companies already know what needs to be done. And when those solutions are in place the editors will eventually learn about them, assuming their print magazines are still around.

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