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From: Glenn Petersen9/30/2017 9:22:24 PM
2 Recommendations   of 2335
 
How Many Palm Beach Mansions Does a Wall Street Tycoon Need?

As many as destroying America’s hometown newspapers can buy him.


By Julie Reynolds
The Nation
September 27, 2017



Illustration by Victor Juhasz.
_______________________________

In 2013, a reclusive New York tycoon and his wife began buying up expensive Palm Beach real estate—lots of it. First they bought seven mansions for a total of $23 million. Then another four “moderately priced” homes for $8.4 million. Then five more for $23 million. None of them were purchased in the tycoon’s name. They weren’t purchased in his wife’s name, either. Instead, the homes were deeded to limited-liability companies, including L. Jakes LLC and 124 Coconut Row LLC.

Think of those luxury homes as the shuttered offices and fired workers of hometown newspapers across the United States, because gutting those newspapers helped make spending $57.2 million on 16 Palm Beach mansions a trifling expense for the tycoon.

His spending spree began after the tycoon acquired two firms, the Journal-Register and MediaNews Group, which would merge into one of America’s largest newspaper chains, Digital First Media. It continued under the veil of yet more limited-liability companies that likewise owned luxury homes. The only thing linking all these purchases was the same postal address in Manhattan’s glamorous Lipstick Building. There, within the tycoon’s privately held investment firm, his personal real-estate deals were commingled with the sales of scores of newsrooms, printing plants, and office buildings that previously belonged to small hometown newspapers across the United States.

The tycoon continued to finance his lavish lifestyle by purchasing and then destroying newspapers. His henchmen—young executives in expensive suits with no experience in the news business—laid off hundreds of journalists and other news workers. They ultimately closed or radically downsized such venerable papers as the Oakland Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and The Denver Post. At the Mercury News, the newspaper’s printing press was literally dismantled and carted away, which one staff reporter likened to “watching a heart being ripped out.”

The tycoon behind all this private profit and public destruction is Randall D. Smith, a seasoned Wall Street operator in his mid-70s who shuns publicity. Smith is the founder and chief of investments at Alden Global Capital, which manages $2 billion worth of assets. He has no experience with actually managing a newspaper, and his professional history reflects no interest in journalism beyond profiteering. Rather, he is what is known on Wall Street as a “vulture capitalist.” Or, as he prefers to phrase it in one of the company’s brochures, Smith invests in “distress.”

“Distress” is an apt word for the current state of America’s newspapers, and Smith isn’t the only financial mogul gobbling them up. On September 4, the New York Daily News was purchased by Tronc, the media conglomerate whose majority shareholder is Michael W. Ferro, the business magnate who founded the investment firm Merrick Ventures.

The shrinking and disappearing of hometown newspapers has done incalculable damage to Americans’ knowledge of the world around them. Democratic self-governance presumes an informed public, but the -hollowing-out of America’s newspapers, in both their online and print versions, leaves citizens increasingly ignorant of vital public matters. It also undermines the press’s ability to hold elected officials and powerful interests to account. When vulture capitalism eliminates reporters and closes hometown papers, where can citizens turn for in-depth local news? Who will cover City Council meetings, school-board decisions, election campaigns, and other staples of civic life? And who will call out corruption and incompetence on the part of local officials or private companies?

The most commonly cited culprit for the decline of America’s newspapers is the Internet and the assumption that no one needs to pay for news anymore. But simple capitalist greed is also to blame. Since 2004, speculators have bought and sucked dry an estimated 679 hometown newspapers that reached a combined audience of 12.8 million people.

Unlike large corporate owners in the past, the stated goal of the investment firms is not to keep struggling newspapers alive; it is to siphon off the assets and profits, then dispose of what little remains. Under this strategy, America’s newsrooms shriveled from 46,700 full-time journalists in 2009 to 32,900 in 2015—a loss of roughly one journalist out of every three. The American Society of Newspaper Editors stopped trying to estimate the number of working journalists in 2016 because “layoffs, buyouts, and restructuring are a norm.”

Over the past six years, Digital First Media has become America’s second-largest newspaper chain in terms of circulation. Even as Digital First has downsized or closed its papers, it has held its edge in circulation by continually buying up more publications, such as last year’s acquisition of The Orange County Register. Digital First’s annual profits have averaged a handsome 10 to 12 percent under Alden Global Capital’s management, according to industry analysts, with its smaller publications yielding more than 20 percent. (Because Alden Global Capital is privately held, its financial statements are not publicly available.) Since 2015, the company has intensified its cost-cutting to the point that it imposes budget cuts and layoffs at twice the average rate for US newspapers.

Alden Global Capital’s strategy appears to have worked, at least for its investors: A memo that CEO Steve Rossi sent to employees in July stated that the company was “solidly profitable” in fiscal year 2017, and that “The company’s performance in advertising revenue has been significantly better than that of our publicly traded industry peers over the past couple of years.” Rossi’s memo did not mention the new round of layoffs he had just a week earlier.

Neither Smith nor Rossi responded to The Nation’s repeated requests for comment.

There’s a reason that hedge funds like Smith’s are known in Wall Street parlance as “ vulture funds”: They seek out struggling, bankrupt companies—or countries—to invest in at rock-bottom prices. Then they find ways to squeeze out maximum profit, from cutting costs to collecting debt repayments at high interest rates. When the investors sense that profits are drying up, they leave the bones behind as they fly off in search of the next opportunity.

Often these funds are shrouded in secrecy. Originally incorporated in the Bailiwick of Jersey, Alden Global Capital bases many of its funds in the Cayman Islands, another location known as a tax haven. Other Alden funds are based in Delaware, whose tax-privacy laws are more generous than New York’s.

Like Donald Trump’s myriad firms, Alden’s investments are difficult to track through the maze of limited-liability companies. Alden’s few Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that in March 2017, its primary company, Alden Global Capital LLC, managed $2.1 billion in assets for 10 unnamed clients. The minimum investment is $2 million.

This lack of transparency, along with investors’ devotion to maximizing profits no matter the social cost, troubles critics. “These private-equity firms, their first obligation is to their shareholders,” says Penelope Muse Abernathy, a former Wall Street Journal and New York Times executive and the author of The Rise of a New Media Baron and the Emerging Threat of News Deserts. Community service is not part of the media barons’ vision, Abernathy notes: “Hedge funds and private-equity companies have a very short time horizon.”

In less than a decade, newspaper ownership in the United States has changed at a dizzying pace; these days, it rests increasingly in the hands of a few largely anonymous investment funds. Of the 10 largest newspaper owners in the country, six are now investment firms, Abernathy reports. In addition to Alden Global Capital, the major players include New Media/GateHouse, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI), Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times), and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Another large chain, Gannett, is publicly traded, but nearly 95 percent of its stock is owned by investment firms, according to the financial website Post Analyst.

While some may shrug off this development as irrelevant in the era of Facebook news, a December 2016 Nielsen Scarborough study found that newspapers and their websites still reach 69 percent of the US population every month. And it’s not just old folks clinging to their old-media ways: “Younger readers now account for a greater percentage of newspaper readers,” the ratings agency reported. “Notably, Millennials 21–34 make up 25% of the US population and now represent 24% of the total monthly newspaper readership” (a total that includes online readers).

Little-known investment firms like Civitas Media have bought up newspapers in “the poorest and most rural” communities, Abernathy notes, where those outlets are often the only source for local news. These companies then “pursue a harvesting strategy in which they ‘manage the decline’ of the assets in their portfolio. If their newspapers fail, and viable alternatives do not arise, many communities across the country are in danger of becoming news deserts."

In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, Smith’s Digital First Media has shut down many of its small-town papers, including the Alameda Times-Star, the Fremont Argus, and the Hayward Daily Review. In 2016, it also closed the 142-year-old Oakland Tribune, folding it and the former Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, California, into brief sections of a new daily named the East Bay Times.

Even in areas that aren’t complete news deserts, the decrease in coverage is having dramatic effects. “It’s not just the towns without a paper, but the places where you’ve lost coverage,” Abernathy says. “Reporters barely have time to even fact-check. They end up covering nothing but events or meetings—and then they have to cut back on the meetings.”

According to a study by Patrick Sims, a former research associate at the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism, the state’s “investment-owned” newspapers scored the worst when it came to coverage of Hurricane Matthew, which devastated parts of North Carolina in 2016. The stories in investment-owned papers on Matthew’s aftermath “tended to be less in-depth—and provide less context—than the stories that appeared in the independently owned [newspapers],” Sims wrote. The investment-owned papers also scored poorly for their coverage of the local elections in 2016; only a locally owned paper, The Pilot of Southern Pines, published important voter information well in advance of Election Day, an important service in an era when more citizens vote early by mail.

Vulture capitalism’s longer-term impact on newspapers is, paradoxically, to drive away the business’s customers. When news-business analyst Ken Doctor gives presentations, he likes to show a picture of two Coke bottles. One is a two-liter bottle that used to sell for a buck; next to it is a one-liter bottle that is now being offered for $2. That’s exactly what downsized newspapers are pitching to their readers today, Doctor says, so it’s no wonder that circulation, subscriptions, and advertising are tanking: “Tell me another industry that’s been able to halve the product and sell it for twice as much.”

Pete Carey is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and investigative reporter who left the San Jose Mercury News last year in a round of buyouts that included the departure of Harvard Nieman fellow Joe Rodriguez and longtime editor David Early. Carey was there when the Merc swelled to 100 daily pages and a newsroom of 400, bolstered by Silicon Valley help-wanted ads. “Then Silicon Valley took the money back—and how,” he says, referring to the abrupt shift of classified advertising to the Internet. After revenues sank and the 2009 recession hit, Alden Global Capital seized the opportunity, scooping up the Merc’s bankrupt parent company, MediaNews, in 2011.

The sharp young men at Alden first sold off the building that had housed the Mercury News since 1967, Carey recalls. “Then they sold off the real estate. I watched the presses being dismantled…. The guy who installed the presses was back there with tears in his eyes.”


Six of the 10 largest US newspaper owners are now investment firms.

Thomas Peele is another prize-winning investigative reporter at the Merc. He won a Pulitzer for leading and writing a series of investigative stories following the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, a prize shared by several others in the Merc and East Bay Times newsrooms. Days after the prize was announced, Digital First Media proceeded with another round of layoffs, gutting the staff by 20 percent. It was all part of meeting a preordained profit margin set by the higher-ups at Alden.

Doctor believes it doesn’t have to be this way, and he’s trying to make the case for reinvestment in newspapers—facing head-on the disruption that new technology brings while exploring ways to innovate and survive. That usually means putting cash back into a business, not siphoning it away.

One encouraging example is blossoming in Doctor’s home state of Minnesota. In 2014, Glen Taylor, the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, purchased the Minneapolis Star-Tribune from the investment firm Avista Capital Partners. Taylor charted a long-term course for the paper that didn’t require it to reach large profit margins every year in order to be sustainable.

On a recent visit, Doctor was thrilled to see how thick the Star-Tribune was—“like an old-fashioned Sunday paper!” The management team “are very good businesspeople,” Doctor says. “They’ve added another DC correspondent and another at the Statehouse. They understand what keeps people reading, because they have a long-term vision. They know that at the root of it is their service to the community.”

Abernathy cites another success story, The Pilot in Southern Pines, North Carolina, whose circulation of 14,000 is roughly equal to the town’s entire population. With a newsroom of 12, The Pilot publishes twice weekly in print and frequently online. It provides the staples of local news—high-school sports scores, town-council election results—but it also publishes five arts-and-culture magazines, a statewide business journal, and a few telephone directories. And it operates a cozy storefront called the Country Bookshop. “We felt this community would be less without a local bookstore,” says Pilot editor John Nagy. “So we went out and bought it. And it’s finally making a profit.

“What all that’s done is diversify our revenues, diversify our outlook, and diversify our business skills,” Nagy adds. “Part of the print industry’s problem today is, they don’t believe in themselves. Publishers like GateHouse, Gannett, McClatchy, Berkshire Hathaway, they’re managing margins. They’re not looking for real, aggressive growth strategies that have a little risk attached.”

Some will argue that only a nonprofit model can keep local news safe from the clutches of the vultures. It’s an experiment being played out in Philadelphia, where, in January 2016, philanthropist H.F. Lenfest donated the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com to the Philadelphia Foundation. In August, Britain’s The Guardian announced that it had formed a nonprofit US adjunct to produce the kind of important journalism that investors see as too costly.

Ultimately, it may be a mix of altruistic investors, nonprofits, involved local owners, and citizen demand that keeps local news alive. Whether that news is printed on paper or pushed to a smartphone isn’t nearly as important as society’s willingness to invest in the act of reporting itself—an act central to our founders’ vision of democracy.

thenation.com

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From: Ron10/1/2017 9:35:36 AM
1 Recommendation   of 2335
 
The Media Baron who Didn't Act Like One: Si Newhouse
vogue.com

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To: Ron who wrote (2301)10/6/2017 6:43:18 AM
From: Sam
2 Recommendations   of 2335
 
Is Trump-Whisperer Maggie Haberman Changing The New York Times?
She’s a West Wing-beat colossus and a sui generis creature at the paper of record. “Maggie’s success is very much part of that tabloid, Twitter-fied sensibility bleeding into the Times,” says a colleague.

by Joe Pompeo
October 5, 2017 5:00 pm
vanityfair.com

excerpt:

With her tabloid pedigree, her Lois Lane mien, her 158,000 thousand tweets to more than 640,000 followers, and her lightning rise to front-page dominance, Haberman is a sui generis creature at the Times, even if she has formidable predecessors. Maureen Dowd was around the same age Haberman is now, 43, when she rose to fame covering the administration of George H.W. Bush in the early ‘90s. “When I was a Times White House reporter, it was very hard to get on the front page in the first year,” Dowd told me. “Maggie lives there—and in the digital ether, like that woman who loomed large in the sky in Woody Allen’s New York Stories.” Dowd, who was one of 20 colleagues, associates, and Times insiders I spoke with for this story, also said: “I tried to mentor her but quickly realized it should be the other way around.”
[....]
“The larger story,” one of Haberman’s colleagues told me, “is the increasingly tabloid-y evolution of the mainstream political press. These stories are fun to read, they’re very of-the-moment, they’re made for Twitter. So I think Maggie’s success is very much part of that tabloid, Twitter-fied sensibility bleeding into the Times, entering the Times’s metabolism.” Jim VandeHei, who helped popularize this incremental, fast-twitch style of Washington journalism as a co-founder of Politico, where VandeHei hired Haberman in 2010, said it’s “definitely new turf” for Haberman’s current employer. He cited “a level of metabolism, a level of intrigue, a level of intense focus on the players and the personal dynamics that you’re just not used to seeing in The New York Times.” Speaking of Haberman and Thrush, a fellow New York tabloid and Politico alum, who joined the Times’s Trump team at the beginning of the year, former Times executive editor Jill Abramson said, “They’ve made the Times competitive in a Politico style of reporting that everybody who plays the inside game loves. The Times would not be as competitive without them.”

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From: Sam10/6/2017 6:50:03 AM
   of 2335
 
Here is a podcast interview that David Axelrod did with Haberman last year:

podcast.cnn.com

July 07, 2016: 6:00 AM EST
Ep. 64 - Maggie Haberman

Maggie Haberman, presidential campaign correspondent at The New York Times, chats with David about her family’s journalism background, her time on the City Hall beat, what it was like covering 9/11, the 2016 race, and more.

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From: Ron10/6/2017 11:45:08 AM
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Who's watching what on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon streaming:
hollywoodreporter.com

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From: Ron10/6/2017 11:58:53 AM
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Progress in the wrong direction: With the New FCC: Defining Digital Down
brookings.edu

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From: Glenn Petersen10/9/2017 9:24:08 PM
2 Recommendations   of 2335
 
Rupert Murdoch Is The Media’s Unlikely Hero In The War Against Facebook And Google

Murdoch's bare-knuckle tactics are familiar to his many media enemies. Now his sights are set on Silicon Valley, and fellow media executives are starting to think the billionaire villain behind Fox News isn't so bad.

Originally posted on October 4, 2017, at 6:48 a.m.
Updated on October 4, 2017, at 3:12 p.m.
by Steven Perlberg BuzzFeed News Reporter and
Mark Di Stefano
BuzzFeed News Reporter

As the media industry girds for war with Silicon Valley’s powerful tech companies, its executives are coming to a painful realization: Rupert Murdoch saw it coming.

The octogenarian Aussie is seen in his industry as a rogue, a villain, and a bit of a Luddite, crouching behind his paywalls as the future arrives. His empire’s most daring technical innovation might have been phone hacking.

But in recent months, the 86-year-old billionaire has emerged to his industry as something else: a hero.

Murdoch and his chief newspaper lieutenant, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, have taken a central role in the news industry’s corporate war against Facebook and Google, technology leviathans that have eaten journalism’s business model and forever changed how readers consume information.

That dynamic has until recently been the stuff of insider-y media trade stories and navel-gazing panel discussions, but the 2016 election changed everything. Stories in recent months highlighting Facebook and Google’s fraught role in the election — from the spread of “fake news” to 10 million people viewing Russian-bought ads — have thrust skepticism about the power held by social giants into mainstream public view like never before.

Now media executives are sensing blood in the water — hoping that Facebook and Google’s legitimate public relations nightmare might give news outlets more leverage in business negotiations, and that Washington lawmakers and the public at large will come to see tech giants as public utilities that require regulation.

As the most well-connected media mogul in Washington, the news industry might need Murdoch now more than ever.

His bare-knuckle tactics are familiar to both UK election campaigns — “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” — and brutal regulatory battles in the US. In a legendary late 1980s cross-ownership feud in Boston, Murdoch’s Herald newspaper launched a vicious campaign against Senator Ted Kennedy, who had blocked the mogul’s exemption from owning a newspaper and television station in the same market. (Read one anti-Kennedy lead from a Boston Herald columnist: “Was it something I said, Fat Boy?”)

Google and Facebook might do well to study the Kennedy incident. The Times of London, a Murdoch-owned British daily newspaper, has engaged in a months-long campaign this year exposing various problems with tech platforms, particularly issues that have concerned advertisers. The series began on Feb. 9 when a jarring image was splashed across the front page: an advertisement for resort chain Sandals next to a jihadi YouTube video. “BIG BRANDS FUND TERROR,” read the headline.

Since then, the paper has published 18 front pages taking on Facebook and Google, YouTube’s owner, with headlines like “ GOOGLE: WE WON’T REMOVE VIDEO THAT ATTACKS JEWS” and “ FACEBOOK PUBLISHING CHILD PORN.”

The Times series and subsequent reporting from other outlets this spring (like Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal) sparked an advertiser exodus from YouTube by brands like Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s, and L’Oreal. Thomson even railed against social media companies on an investor call on the same day of the Times’ initial story, adding that, conveniently, News Corp was testing its own digital-advertising network.

The YouTube advertiser revolt didn’t harm Google’s staggeringly strong bottom line, but the Times series rattled the company enough to lead to a face-to-face meeting between Murdoch, Thomson, and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, according to sources.

“[Google and Facebook] would prefer we didn't draw so much attention to the problematic content on their platforms. Understand firstly that we're not going to stop. Secondly, this content is a huge issue,” said a senior executive at Murdoch’s UK newspapers.

To be sure, journalists across the board have been homing in on Facebook and Google because it has been a captivating story.

Lawmakers and regulators from Washington to London to Brussels have begun scrutinizing tech giants once lauded as corporate darlings. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are being dragged to Capitol Hill to answer questions about Russian attempts to use social media to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mark Zuckerberg has spent months walking back Facebook’s PR line that the company’s influence in the election was a “pretty crazy idea.” Google was slapped with a monster antitrust fine after a seven-year EU investigation.

For media executives, the tides of public opinion turning against Facebook and Google couldn’t have come any sooner, and they are happy to keep up the pressure. News Corp sources describe its battle against the platforms as a business, not moral imperative.

That’s because the so-called duopoly of Facebook and Google, by some estimates, accounted for nearly 100% of the growth in US digital ad revenue last year. Nearly all mainstream media outlets derive a mammoth portion of their audience from the very platforms that are swallowing them whole. Some digital upstarts have built entire businesses on the backs of the social platforms, and are therefore routinely beholden to the whims of their tech overlords (case in point: the “ pivot to video”). For years, that reality has been enough to keep media executives up at night — but also hushed in their criticism.

Not Murdoch or Thomson. In some regard, News Corp was always well-positioned to become a loud voice railing against big tech. From early on — after Murdoch’s 2007 acquisition of the Wall Street Journal — the company made the decision to focus on paying subscribers instead of chasing a huge audience, which necessitates playing ball with Google and Facebook.

“The fact that the WSJ never gave its journalism away, that ethos helped reinforce their thinking,” said Raju Narisetti, a former News Corp executive and now CEO of Univision’s Gizmodo Media Group.

The reality of the news business means that working with Facebook and Google is a fact of life, though News Corp has always been notably fiery on the subject. In 2009, for instance, when Google’s search engine was fast changing the media landscape, Murdoch threatened to yank News Corp articles from Google search results in favor of Microsoft’s Bing, because Google “[steals] our stories.”

Murdoch had also singled out former Google CEO Eric Schmidt personally before in public statements. In recent years, one person familiar with the matter said, Google executives have sought to steadily thaw the two companies’ relationship.

Many media executives express fears about Facebook and Google publicly, and are gleeful in their criticism whenever the platforms mess up (like when Facebook had to admit a series of video metric miscalculations). But in the past, many have only done so privately among colleagues or on background with media reporters.

There are, of course, exceptions. Andrew Morse, general manager of CNN’s digital business, told Bloomberg this summer that “Facebook is about Facebook” and that “for the media companies looking to partner with ­significant commitments, it gets to be a bit of whiplash.”

Since the election, with Facebook and Google scrambling to defend their roles in the public discourse, news executives have ramped up criticisms. Facebook and Google are now a major political story.

NBC’s ad sales chief, for instance, said that if her company delivered as much nonhuman traffic as Facebook, “We would be testifying in Washington” — a not-so-subtle jab at Facebook, which has had to testify in Washington. (NBCUniversal is an investor in BuzzFeed.)

Executives haven’t always been so blunt.

“It was seen as unfashionable to highlight the risks. There was an element of fear that you might suffer the consequences,” said one executive at News Corp’s Dow Jones unit, which owns the Wall Street Journal. Thomson, for his part, has become well-known for his flamboyant anti-tech rhetoric, like how many websites act as “tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet” or how some “net Neanderthals [think] everything should be free all the time.”

“For the last several years we've been working closely with major publishers around the world, including News Corp and hundreds more," Richard Gingras, vice president of news at Google, said in a statement. "We responded to their concerns about slow loading mobile pages with the open source AMP project and to their interest in video distribution with the YouTube Player for Publishers. The current big ask from publishers is around growing the market for premium content and subscription models. We are all in on helping with that!”

“Our goal is to support quality journalism on Facebook. We've met directly with partners across the news landscape so we can best understand their ambitions for online subscriptions, and their collaboration is baked directly into the product we plan to test," Campbell Brown, Facebook's global head of news partnerships, said in a statement. "We want to improve news publishers’ outcomes on Facebook full-stop.”

Now that anti–Facebook and Google talk is in vogue, News Corp is happy to take a victory lap.

“The digital duopoly clearly benefited from commodifying content and rewarding sites, fake or flawed, that gamed search engines and peddled witless clickbait at the expense of provenance and professional journalism,” Thomson told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “That commercial and social damage has been a serious concern for many, many years, and yet other publishers have been supine in the face of this assault on principle and profit.”

Sources close to Thomson, long a loyal Murdoch ally in both London and New York, say the battle against Google is ultimately his baby, more so than Murdoch, who since the Roger Ailes scandal has taken on the top role at Fox News. But it’s a narrative happily championed by the close-knit circle of executives at News Corp and 21st Century Fox, sister companies that split in 2013. James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and chief executive of 21st Century Fox, recently lambasted Facebook for its problem with the “damn Russians.” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said in an interview with The Information.

The Murdochs have a reason to play up any negative news about Facebook or Google. News Corp, like all media companies, is engaged in a losing fight with the “duopoly” for a finite amount of digital advertising money. News Corp also collides with Google through its investment in AppNexus, a rival to Google’s DoubleClick. And then there’s News Corp’s planned digital ad network, announced the day of the first Times story and still in development.

“If you think the timing of the Times investigation and the launch of News Corp’s new digital ad strategy was purely a coincidence, well, I’ve got a bridge to sell you,” said one senior advertising executive.

The tough talk and tough reporting seems to have gotten News Corp somewhere in its negotiations with Google and Facebook. News Corp had long opposed Google’s “first click free” policy, which pushed news outlets to offer free access to articles in search results. Earlier this year, the Journal yanked free stories from search, which reduced its Google search traffic by 38% and its Google News traffic by 89%. Google announced the end of the policy this week.

“Felicitously, the tide has clearly turned over the past year and we genuinely welcome Google's recent initiatives, though we will need to check against delivery,” Thomson told BuzzFeed News.

Facebook is also adding subscriptions to its Instant Articles program, a policy News Corp pushed for. Traffic wise, some News Corp properties have suffered for their devotion to subscriptions. The Journal has lagged seriously in monthly traffic to its newspaper competitors like the Washington Post and New York Times, which have opted for softer paywalls and more expansive relationships with the platforms (and have broken seemingly endless news about the Trump White House).

Now, one open question is whether Murdoch, who is said to speak with President Donald Trump regularly, will use his deep ties in Washington to apply more pressure on the platforms as they face heat on Capitol Hill. Some sources close to Murdoch note that, from a personal perspective, he tends to want government to keep its hands off business. But he’s also self-interested, and News Corp was among a handful of companies and industry groups that signed a letter in support of the EU’s fine on Google.

News Corp is also among a group of newspaper companies seeking an antitrust exemption from Congress in order to win the right negotiate collectively with the tech platforms. The lobbying effort, led by trade group News Media Alliance, is something of a long shot — but News Corp has said it wants to “focus the public and Congress on the anticompetitive behavior of the digital duopoly, especially as it adversely affects the news and information businesses.”

“I do think News Corp was ahead of the curve in terms of seeing the difficulty of engaging with the Google and Facebook model,” said David Chavern, the chief executive of the News Media Alliance. “You had business anxiety before the election. Then you had the election that really brought it home to the public and to politicians that this news thing is not on a good path right now and that’s dangerous.”

“You’re seeing a growing voice of concern that this is a matter of both economical power and control that Google and Facebook have over the news industry and the societal consequences,” said Jason Kint, CEO of publisher trade group Digital Content Next.

Indeed, in recent months, some news executives have sought to leverage the rising public awareness, like when UK parliament launched an inquiry to look at the spread of “fake news” earlier this year.

“We had a fake news roundtable and it very quickly became a row between old media who were there and the social media companies who were also there and it wasn't anything to do with fake news,” according to a senior government source who attended the initial discussion. “It was all to do with, 'You're stealing our business model and you take our content and you distribute it in a way that we have no control over.’”

Sources close to Murdoch and Thomson characterize their position fairly simply: They want large tech platforms to pay them for their content, and they aren’t afraid to use their own media properties as weapons. Which isn’t to say that reporters are directly told to go after Facebook or Google, but that those stories are prioritized, given heavier promotion and placement, and then championed by the executive structure.

“The power of the campaigning British newspaper is planting a seed in the head of the audience — many who aren’t spending hours and hours on the internet. They’re saying, ‘You probably wouldn’t know the evil that your Google or your Facebook are hosting. Here it is and here’s why you should care,’” said a former senior editor at a UK Murdoch paper. “Over months, maybe even years, that little seed grows and attitudes can start changing.”

But a senior correspondent at The Sun, Murdoch’s tabloid, said the paper was genuinely concerned with big tech — and that the coverage was more than just a self-interested business battle.

“Most of the coverage of the tech giants is linked to the terror stuff because that’s what our audience cares about,” this person said. “The editor genuinely believes the internet is the Wild West and tech companies, some which are bigger than governments, should be doing more to make it safer.”

Ultimately, sources close to Murdoch say that he hopes to push public opinion into viewing tech platforms more like Wall Street banks. And after years of bitter criticism, a softer refrain is echoing among Murdoch’s media contemporaries: Say what you want about Rupert, but he does love the news business. ?

https://www.buzzfeed.com/stevenperlberg/rupert-murdoch-is-the-medias-unlikely-hero-against-tech?utm_term=.prV05WLQJ#.fnNN3kvV7

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From: Glenn Petersen10/11/2017 5:07:20 PM
   of 2335
 
How a Silicon Valley Striver Became the Alt-Right's Tech Hero

Andrew Torba founded Gab.ai as a "free speech" alternative to other social networks

By Joshua Brustein
Bloomberg
October 9, 2017



Illustration: Steph Davidson
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There’s a revolution going on in online conservative media. Breitbart and Infowars are attracting audiences that are too angry for Fox News, and communities of conspiracy theorists and Internet trolls thrive on platforms like Reddit and 4Chan. Then there’s the upstart social network Gab.ai. The content on Gab tracks closely with the fixations of the populist right in the Trump era – desire for restrictive immigration policies, disdain for “political correctness,” disapproval of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem – with outright racism and bigotry mixed in. But the site’s management and its users seem particularly furious about one subject: Big Tech.

Gab was started a year ago by Andrew Torba, a 26-year old entrepreneur from Pennsylvania. Torba has ridden its success into the upper ranks of right-wing rabble-rousers. He rubs elbows with former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, and debates best practices on website moderation with Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. When Torba donned a suit for a recent appearance on Infowars, he made sure to mention he was doing so because the infamous political operative Roger Stone had chided him about his wardrobe. He posted a public welcome note to right-wing activist and filmmaker James O’Keefe when he signed up for Gab in September.

Technically, there’s nothing distinctive about Gab. It’s a lot like Reddit or Twitter, where users set up accounts, follow one another, and post videos and links. The service’s main draw is its loose policy governing what users are allowed to say. Almost anything goes, except for explicit threats, spam, illegal pornography, and posting other people’s personal information. “We believe that the only valid form of censorship is an individual’s own choice to opt-out,” the company writes in its guidelines. Users can choose to block posts with specific words, or those from specific accounts. According to Gab, 290,000 people have signed up since it started, although it doesn’t provide data on how many accounts are active. It also offers premium memberships for $6 a month.

Torba tries to distance himself from the more extreme content on the site, and objects to the common description of Gab as an alt-right social network. But he’s comfortable in that rhetorical neighborhood. Torba recently reposted a message from an account named “Hitler Was Right,” and suggested Gab users report Mark Zuckerberg to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement because the Facebook CEO played host to a handful of DACA recipients.

Gab has never been able to get its app into Apple’s app store, and in August was banned from Google’s, because the company said Gab’s users posted content that violated its standards and the site had inadequate moderation in place. In September, Gab’s domain registrar, the Australian company Instra, said it would no longer do business with Gab, forcing the company to find a new one. Torba said several days later that he had succeeded, but declined to disclose the new registrar’s identity.

At a time when Big Tech has replaced the mainstream media as a target of rightwing vitriol-- “ Facebook was always anti-Trump,” the president tweeted on Sept. 27-- Torba sees a huge opportunity in providing an alternative. He has used the rejection of his company as a rallying cry for the broader campaign against Silicon Valley. In late September, Gab sued Google, arguing that removing Gab’s app from the Android store was an attempt to kneecap Gab’s growth in order to benefit Google Plus. “This will be historic, people will talk about this all around the world, and people will know the real story of what is going on in Silicon Valley,” said Torba in a livestream.

Antitrust and digital free speech experts give the case little chance of succeeding. But some see Gab’s situation as a reminder of Silicon Valley’s power to silence dissenting voices. “I do sympathize with Gab’s plight,” said Aaron Mackey, a staff attorney at the Electric Frontier Foundation. “There’s something to be concerned about with regard to policies that are vague, and may be applied in different ways depending on who comes through.”

The most interesting thing about Torba may not actually be what he’s doing now, but how he got here. Fewer than three years ago, his startup got into Y Combinator, the prestigious Silicon Valley incubator. Torba moved from Pennsylvania to Palo Alto, hoping to hit it big in the field of social media marketing. The first chapter in Gab’s story is about a young man who moved across the country looking to buy into the promise of the tech industry, only to become obsessed with tearing it down.



Source: Periscope
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Torba is a stocky, bearded guy who’s partial to dark sunglasses and a green hat that says “Make Speech Free Again.” He studied philosophy and political science in college, and likes to wax poetic about his beliefs. While Torba declined to comment for this article -- more on that in a bit -- it’s possible to trace his thinking through articles and videos he has posted over the last several years.

While still living in Pennsylvania in 2011, Torba launched an advertising business called Kuhcoon. It made software to automate the process of placing and maintaining targeted ad campaigns on Facebook. Torba felt like he had his big break when the startup got into Y Combinator in late 2014. “Scranton will always be our home,” he wrote on the company’s blog, “ but Silicon Valley has always been our destiny.”

Torba’s mentors and peers at YC were enthusiastic about Torba’s idea. Several YC companies signed up to use the service. “He was super-nice, and it was a pretty cool product,” said Eugenia Kuyda, the co-founder of Luka, a YC company that makes chatbots. A few YC partners made personal investments in Kuhcoon, which later changed its name to Automate Ads, according to a person involved with Torba’s business at the time. (With the exception of Kuyda, everyone who agreed to speak about Torba’s past requested anonymity because of his controversial public profile.)

Torba loved YC. But California was a culture shock. He had always been a conservative, and it wore on him that this was considered a character flaw in Silicon Valley, according to someone familiar with his thinking at the time. As the 2016 election heated up, Torba's alienation grew.

The situation at Automate Ads added to the stress. Meetings with representatives at Facebook, Google, and Twitter were frustrating, and catering to small businesses was labor-intensive in a way that made it hard to grow. As two people familiar with the company described it, Automate Ads died like so many startups do, by slowly losing momentum until it ground to a halt in mid-2016.

Torba took his company's failure very hard, said people who interacted with him at the time. His political fights with other YC founders online became increasingly poisonous. Videos he posted to Periscope last summer show someone who was engaged both in politics and the advertising business. In June, Torba recorded a video from the floor of a Trump rally in San Jose. He followed it up with a stream of himself playing Pokemon Go with a group of people in a darkened park. “The ability to drive commerce with this game, I think it’s going to be incredible,” he enthused. But his mood was darkening.

Torba launched Gab in August, as the charged atmosphere around the online political debate was intensifying. Twitter had just banned Yiannopoulos, a move that foreshadowed the company’s persistent attempts to tamp down on trolling and harassment, and conservatives were loudly complaining about censorship in Silicon Valley. Torba became fixated on his grievances against tech. He recorded a series of videos while on a trip to Las Vegas, mixing banal sightseeing with stream-of-consciousness political rants. The entrepreneur who had once referred to social media marketing as his No. 1 passion now proclaimed that advertising was a foolish business model because everyone used ad blockers. He criticized Facebook for its use of personal data, and scoffed at its stated goal of making the world more open and connected. “You know what that sounds like to me? That sounds like globalism, and that sounds like something I’m not about,” he said.

While in Vegas, Torba accused “Big Social” of abusing him and treating him terribly. (Snapchat, he said, was cool.) Then he made a prediction about Gab. “They’re all going to approach us, they’re going to try to buy us, they’re going to try to flash billions in front of my face. And you know what I’m going to tell them?” Torba flicked off the camera.

Torba seemed to covet rejection. He gleefully documented how Facebook froze his account. Days after Trump’s victory, YC kicked him out of an online alumni group for directing profane, anti-immigrant comments at other founders. It all fed into his narrative that Silicon Valley silences anyone who disagrees with its politics. Of course, Gab’s perceived enemies haven’t completely silenced it. The service continues to have a presence on both Twitter itself and its live streaming service, Periscope. For announcements, Gab also uses Medium, which is run by Ev Williams, one of Twitter’s founders. The company says that mainstream social media companies periodically make it hard to participate fully on their platforms.

Torba also had trouble separating politics from personal slights. Last month, Fox News invited him to talk to Tucker Carlson. Just before he went on, Torba appeared on Periscope. He was visibly excited, sporting a fresh haircut. “ Prepping tonight for Tucker Carlson, when Gab goes mainstream!” he said. His tone following the interview was markedly different. He appeared in a Periscope stream with Gab chief operating officer Utsav Sanduja, complaining that Fox kept rearranging the schedule and reduced their air time. These are the same minor indignities to which all news networks subject their guests. The two men accused Fox News of treating them like Nazis, at which point Sanduja sarcastically yelled "Sieg Heil!” The stream recently disappeared from Gab’s Periscope feed. When asked what happened, Sanduja said he wasn’t aware of Gab removing any videos. A spokesperson for Twitter said the company doesn’t comment on individual accounts or enforcement actions.

Torba’s views on Fox shifted yet again after his supporters praised the interview. Yiannopoulos even posted a link of the interview to Gab, congratulating Torba. Upon further examination, what had seemed like a loss was actually a win. Torba began boasting about the appearance.



Source: Periscope
_______________________________________

With the exception of Fox, the mainstream media has treated Gab with universal hostility, and the feeling appears to be mutual. When I interviewed Sanduja in mid-September, he recorded the conversation without my knowledge. Torba then posted the audio on Periscope, along with a short, insulting introduction. (Several days later, that video also disappeared from Gab’s Periscope account.)

Torba declined to speak with me directly. “Andrew does not do interviews with the mainstream media as he strongly feels they are immensely biased and engage in fake news,” Sanduja explained in an email. Torba then posted a screenshot of the emailed interview request on Gab. “Lol the sophist media thinks that I will fall for their lies. Get bent,” he wrote.

Gab sued Google a few days later. The 44-page complaint is a spaghetti-on-the-wall account of Gab’s grievances against Silicon Valley, arguing, among other things, that Google enforces its community standards inconsistently. A Google spokesperson described the suit as baseless.

While Torba ranted about Google’s application of its content standards, he was finding it increasingly tricky to walk the same line on Gab. In September, Theodore Beale, a right-wing science fiction writer who goes by the alias Vox Day, complained to Torba about posts from several Gab users that accused Beale of being a pedophile. Torba didn’t take Beale’s side, and told him to toughen up. “Imagine thinking you can email me and get me to suspend users who hurt your feelings at will," he wrote on Gab. In a post on his personal blog, Beale argued that Gab's inadequate moderation made it “knowingly complicit in publishing these false, malicious, and defamatory statements.” He filed a petition in district court in Travis County, Texas, seeking a court order that would require Gab to unmask them.

At the same time, Torba found himself on the defensive after banning Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious Internet troll also known as Weev. "Jews have cornered the whole Internet, and I really think the only way we'll have any freedom of speech here is if someone teaches them a lesson," wrote Auernheimer on Sept. 17. Gab said this violated its guidelines against threats and terrorism. It banned Auernheimer.

This prompted protests from users who said Torba was punishing hyperbole, even though such speech was perfectly legal, just because he had been pressured by his domain registrar. Torba took to Gab to plead his case, saying he was working hard to come up with a way to police user content that would be acceptable to everyone. “This isn’t an easy problem to solve,” he acknowledged. Some Gabbers were unmoved. “There’s not going to be some ‘nice middle ground’ for you to hide in,” wrote one user.

bloomberg.com

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From: Ron10/13/2017 12:14:35 PM
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Facebook doesn't want to be seen as a media company even though they
distribute news to millions
wired.com

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From: Ron10/18/2017 12:00:21 PM
1 Recommendation   of 2335
 
Netflix now spends more on original programming than all rivals, except for ESPN.


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