January 13, 2017 Last Updated 8:39 am

Supermarket tabs as modern political posters; Apple App Store case revived by appeals court

Morning Brief: With US supermarket tabloids with small circulations compared to their British cousins, their real role are as quick, viewable propaganda, Politico’s media critic argues

The president-elect went on another Twitter storm this morning, a sign that the future commander-in-chief wakes up with the need to vent. This can’t continue, can it? In just over a week we’ll know.

His target this morning was both the intelligence community (which, in case you’ve noticed, everyone simply types as IC), and then Hillary Clinton. But it was the last tweet that may be the most important:

There are many reporters who are absolutely convinced that Republicans will need to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act before repealing it, they simply wouldn’t throw 20 million Americans off their insurance, right?

Well, we’ll see, but from my perspective, I simply don’t see how it would be possible for the Congress to go a full week without a repeal vote. The only question is whether they might agree, in conference, to delay its implementation until the end of 2017 (something already suggested by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).



Jack Shafer, who used to work for Reuters, is now at Politico. He wrote today on where tabloids like the National Enquirer now fits into the political conversation, post-election.

Unlike in the UK, where the tabs are the newspapers with the highest circulation, here in the States they are not even categorized as newspapers, but as magazines, and with minuscule circulations compared to the big dailies, a fact that I know a lot of professionals might find surprising. Many see the tabs as what middle America picks up at the grocery store in order to get their fix of sleaze and fantasy – that is, fake news. But it is actually not true.

The last publishers statement shows the National Enquirer with barely over 250K in newsstand sales, down from 812,686 a decade ago. America has either lost its taste for tabs, or newsstands are disappearing… or both.

So, what is their role today? Shafer sees them as the propaganda tool of the incoming administration. The equivalent of those old Soviet political posters, though he doesn’t mention them (but he should have).

Politico, Jack Shafer:

Pravda on the Checkout Line

The 2016 campaign hadn’t even begun when America’s supermarket tabloids picked their guy. “New Poll: Donald Trump’s The One!” the National Enquirer breathlessly announced in February 2015, long before the real estate developer was even a punchline in the political conversation…

…It’s easy to imagine that tabloids don’t matter; the Enquirer is a relatively small voice in the media kingdom, with a weekly circulation of only 342,071, down from the 5.9 million it commanded in the 1970s. But that misses the importance of the constant cultural background noise it adds to American life: There are 37,000 supermarkets in America, with an average of about 10 checkout stands each, and many stands feature a wire rack displaying the Enquirer, the Globe, often the company’s other tab, the National Examiner, and celebrity magazines. According to an industry study, American households make an average of 1.5 trips to the supermarket each week. Every customer passes by the checkout stand, which means that even people who never purchase a tabloid still absorb the ambient headlines, and those headlines can shape their view of the world.



Many reporters really got a kick out of the lede on this one, and I have to admit, it’s a winner.

Despite the obvious absurdity of the story, the underlying fact that a Congressman would object to the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics is flat out frightening.

Politico, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein:

Chaffetz threatens to subpoena federal ethics watchdog over Trump criticism

House Republicans have found a subject for their opening review of conflicts of interest under Donald Trump: the federal official in charge of investigating conflicts of interest.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, criticized the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics on Thursday over his criticism of Donald Trump’s plan to address conflicts of interest. And he threatened to subpoena the official, Walter Shaub, if he refuses to participate in an official interview.



There are two ways to look at the story below, as a bizarre argument that could end up being used as a weapon against Apple, or as a legitimate position to take that could actually benefit publishers.

The App Store is a disaster for publishers. Apple launched the Newsstand during Steve Jobs’s last days as CEO, and it appeared at the time that Apple truly wanted to work with publishers. I’m sure this was actually true, but it was true that Jobs was a reader and he felt his products should feature the best of journalism. But the App Store, and the iTunes program, has been a mess. Since 2013 the category used by most publishers has been broken, Apple has known, and done nothing.

But if publishers didn’t have to go through Apple to gain access to iOS devices, if there were more, and better app stores, this might actually revive the digital edition.

Another thing of note: PC World is another of those publications that have decided to stop reader comments on stories, saying that it is using social media for conversations on its stories. I was truly interested in knowing what readers felt about all this, then found that this story was not tweeted – hence nothing.

PC World, John Ribeiro:

Apple must face claims of monopoly in iPhone app market

An appeals court has ruled that Apple must face antitrust charges in a lawsuit that alleges that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps.

The U.S. Court for Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed Thursday a decision by a lower court and ruled that the app buyers filing the lawsuit are direct purchasers of iPhone apps from Apple, rather than from app developers, and hence have standing to sue. Apple was a distributor of iPhone apps, selling them directly to buyers through its App Store, according to the court.



What exactly happened to C-Span yesterday? At 2:30pm yesterday, as Rep. Maxine Waters was on the floor of the House arguing a point about the SEC, the network feed switched to RT, the state-run Russian television network. I jokingly called it a test run for future interruptions. I’m afraid that others thought the same, only were serious.

It was weird, but C-Span said that they think the problem was internal. I assume they are right. Let’s hope so.

C-Span, via Twitter:



Finally, if you missed this, then I suggest you make sure you take the time over the weekend – though I can’t say that it will be pleasant reading. I think, though, that Kovalev is right about many of his points, especially the lack of solidarity one will see in the press, even as its freedoms are under threat.

Medium, Alexey Kovalev:

A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media

Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang my bells…

…But your colleagues are there to help you, right? After all, you’re all in this together? Wrong.

Don’t expect any camaraderie.

These people are not your partners or brothers in arms. They are your rivals in a fiercely competitive, crashing market and right now the only currency in this market is whatever that man on the stage says. Whoever is lucky to ask a question and be the first to transmit the answer to the outside world wins. Don’t expect any solidarity or support from them. If your question is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t expect a rival publication to pick up the banner and follow up on your behalf.

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