In the news this week, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar one-ups himself, allocating $100 million to fund investigative journalism, and the fight against hate speech and misinformation. A Pew Research study finds one area of agreement among Americans: they think the Trump-media feud is unhealthy and blocking access to important political news. And Amazon pays an eye-popping $50 million for streaming rights to 10 Thursday Night Football games this year — will they get their money’s worth? Our Metric of the Week is Total Engaged Time, and we speak with Hearst Media’s Emma Dibdin about “S-Town,” the smash hit podcast by the makers of “Serial.”
Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!
Digital Media Brief
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Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is an award-winning writer and accidental entrepreneur, who has taken MediaShift from a one-person blog to a growing media company with events such as Collab/Space workshops and weekend hackathons; the weekly MediaShift podcast; and digital training, DigitalEd, in partnership with top journalism schools. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Emma Dibdin is the Entertainment Editor for the Hearst Digital Newsroom. She writers about television, movies and podcasts for brands including BAZAAR.COM, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Elle and Marie Claire, with coverage including opinion essays, news posts, episodic reviews and in-depth interviews with creatives.
Top News Of The Week
Pierre Omidyar Gives $100 Million for Investigative Journalism and the Fight Against Hate Speech
For those who scoff at the notion that billionaires can make a long-term difference in journalism and media, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar just keeps coming back with bigger and bigger piles of money. Last week, we told you about the $12 million he was giving to various non-profit investigative outfits, including ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity. And this week he went further, committing $100 million in funding to support more investigative journalism, and the fight against misinformation and hate speech. One of the first recipients is the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which will get $4.5 million. The ICIJ gained prominence for its award-winning Panama Papers last year, which revealed how the wealthy and connected use shell companies to hide from taxes. Grants were also given to the Anti-Defamation League to fight anti-Semitism, and a new alliance in Latin America to promote civic technology platforms and government transparency.
All these grants were given by the billionaire’s philanthropic arm, the Omidyar Network, which was started in 2004. The Omidyar Network was one of the first tech charities to use “market-based approaches” to giving, and blurred the line between venture investing and philanthropic giving. Others, including the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, have followed suit in looking for massive global impact. If you’re interested in nabbing some of that money, you’re probably out of luck, as they said they’ll announce more grants in the coming weeks, likely to those they’ve already been working with. In any case, the fight against hate speech continues in Germany, where the German cabinet approved a bill that would fine social networks 50 million euros for failing to take down hate speech postings. While tech companies think the rule is too strict, German politicians believe the platforms should be able to pull down offending content within 24 hours. We’ll see if this becomes law, and how tech companies will cope with it.
A Study Shows the Feud Between Trump and the Media is Hindering Access to Political News
President Trump’s ongoing battle with the press has been so heated that it’s become a regular feature on “Saturday Night Live,” with Melissa McCarthy playing Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer. But Americans don’t seem to think the reality is all that funny. A recent Pew Research report found amazing agreement among people of all ages, races and political affiliation when it came to the Trump-media feud. A full 83% said the relationship was unhealthy, and 73% said the bickering was actually “getting in the way of Americans’ access to important political news.” In fact, Republicans and Democrats answered that last question in nearly the same proportions. Of course, while there is agreement that the relationship is not helping Americans, there is more division over who is to blame — the media or Trump.
The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers pointed to a recent Suffolk University-USA Today survey that asked whether Trump was right about the media being biased against him, or whether the media was right about holding the White House accountable. On that question, 79% of Republicans sided with Trump, while 86% of Democrats sided with the media. As for hindering access to accurate political news, that’s where fake news and bots come in on social media, often leading people down a rabbit hole of misinformation. An eye-opening report on BuzzFeed News by Joseph Bernstein found that an American hacker who calls himself MicroChip has been using bots and spam accounts to push his own pro-Trump news into Twitter trending topics. His latest success was getting #SusanRice to trend after a story came out saying that the former Obama aide had requested “unmasking” Trump aides who were under surveillance. After all the coverage of Russian hackers and Macedonian teenagers, Bernstein talked with MicroChip, who says he is a mobile software developer in Utah. Even after being banned numerous times on the platform, he says he’ll be ramping up his bot network immensely, with many co-conspirators. We can already envision how this plays out, with partisan hackers and bot makers spawning endless political misinformation on social media.
Amazon Pays $50 Million to Stream 10 Thursday Night Football Games
It’s still early days for live video streaming but battle lines are already being drawn. And one of the fronts of that battle seems to be… Thursday Night Football. This is the one corner of the NFL empire that’s up for grabs. Last year, Twitter paid $10 million for the rights to stream 10 games on its platform, and this year, the winner is… Amazon, for a whopping $50 million for the same 10-game Thursday night package. Amazon won the bidding war over Twitter, Google and Facebook, and will require viewers to be Amazon Prime subscribers, which costs about $99 a year. Amazon will get to show some commercials alongside the games, and will likely promote its own shows, including a co-production with the NFL called “All or Nothing.” Of course, the TV rights to these games remains with CBS, NBC and the NFL Network.
So did Amazon pay too much? Let’s first look at what Twitter got out of its one-year deal. The games only averaged 300,000 viewers per minute last year on Twitter, but the company said in a statement that the games helped launch live-streaming in various areas, including sports, news, politics and entertainment. In other words, the NFL basically helped them kick-start their live-streaming efforts. For Amazon, this could be a move in the same direction. The company already has made a massive push into on-demand TV programming and movie rentals, but hasn’t done live-streaming to date. One Amazon investor, Jay Somaney, wrote on Forbes that Amazon would only have to get 500,000 new Prime subscribers to recoup their costs, and that the games could be a popular draw in other countries. Could one of the new streaming tech companies grab the brass ring, NFL TV rights, when they come due in 2022? No less than CBS CEO Les Moonves thinks it could happen. The one wild card? Players hate Thursday Night games because they have less time to recover from the Sunday before, and the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman wrote a diatribe against them on the Players’ Tribune. But where there’s a bigger money pot, there’s less chance the NFL will mind the increased chance for injuries.
Music on this Episode
Can’t Hate The Hater by 3 Feet Up
Sinking Feeling by Jessie Spillane
DJ by Jahzzar
Backed Clean Vibes by Kevin Macleod
Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie
I Never Wanted To Say by Lorenzo’s Music
I’m Going for a Coffee by Lee Rosevere
Jefferson Yen is the producer for the MediaShift Podcast. His work has been on KPCC Southern California Public Radio and KRTS Marfa Public Radio. You can follow him @jeffersontyen.