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September 23, 2020

Publishing News

Variety Owner Penske to Operate MRC's Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Vibe
Yahoo Finance: "Penske Media Corporation, parent of Variety, Rolling Stone and WWD, among others, will operate The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe in a new partnership with MRC, effective today with a transition period through the end of 2020.The joint venture will be known as PMRC, whose other brands will include Variety, Rolling Stone and Music Business Worldwide. PMRC’s day-to-day operations will be led by PMC, whose brands also include Deadline, WWD, SHE Media, Sportico and Robb Report, among many others. The Hollywood Reporter, Vibe and Billboard will going forward leverage the PMC infrastructure and will be part of PMC’s tech platforms, the companies said. The two companies also announced a second joint venture – a content partnership that will produce television, film and other formats with access to intellectual property across the portfolio of brands. That “long-form content alliance” will be overseen by MRC, which already has produced award-winning titles including the Emmy-nominated “Ozark;” “The Outsider;” “The Great,” and “The Golden Globe Awards,” as well as the films “Knives Out,” “Ted” and “Baby Driver.” “These are all brands I’ve long admired. Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and Vibe have created some of the finest content in their respective industries and have contributed immensely to the heightened quality of journalism covering entertainment and music today,” said Jay Penske, chief executive officer of PMC. “We feel very fortunate for this valuable partnership with the exceptional MRC team and the opportunity to continue the legacy of these tremendous brands for the next many decades.” In other news, digital news veteran William Earl has been named editor of, overseeing online editorial operations for the venerable entertainment business news brand.
The Hollywood Reporter joint ventures
Variety (Earl named editor)

Barnes & Noble CEO Committed to Carrying Magazines
Publishers Lunch: During BISG's (online) annual conference earlier this month, in an interview with BISG executive director Brian O'Leary, Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt said the chain remains committed to carrying magazines. “I think the newsstand is one of the great glories of Barnes & Noble and we need to continue to invest in it and ensure that we do it really well…. I would be really devastated if we didn’t have a really good newsstand offer for forevermore," he said. The Bookseller: Daunt, who is changing the chain's U.S. business model to let individual store managers shape their stores to local needs -- the model he has used successfully for the U.K.'s Waterstones chain -- says B&N, known in the past for taking huge amounts of promotion monies, has ceased that practice. "We can’t take that co-op when we don’t know what the individual stores are going to do," he said... He reported that just 23 of B&N's 613 stores (it opened three this summer, but closed others) continued to operate through the pandemic lockdown. But during that time, 350 stores got substantial updates in layout and section flow to customize to the local market, and others got minor fixes. Some updates are still underway... He said that many of B&N's stores are too large -- 20,000-25,000 square feet as opposed to Waterstone’s 15,000-18,000 – and unjustifiable "in the age of Amazon." Daunt expressed "a moral obligation" to try to put in a replacement somewhere nearby when closing a store, but said it would be smaller, akin to the Waterstone’s model... He said that while B&N's $25-per-year membership program has 6M members, that's not large enough for the number of stores. He described it as belonging to "another era." He added: “The Waterstones model of a free membership I think is the one that we will almost certainly want to adopt,” to develop connections and extract data well beyond the 6 million or so current members. While they will retain a higher-value paid membership, “we need to make absolutely sure that if people are giving us money for a membership, that we reward them for that proportionally.” Daunt also discussed the new system of initial frontlist (and some backlist) orders being made centrally, except for a small number of very niche local-interest books, and stressed that initial book roll-outs will no longer be in "vast numbers", except for a very few books. That will automatically force returns down. In addition to the article links, see link to video of the interview below.

The Nation Redesigns, Ups Pages, Reduces Frequency
MediaPost: "The Nation will unveil a redesigned print magazine, with a new look and logo, in the October 5/12, 2020 edition. The print magazine will reduce its publishing schedule from weekly to twice a month, with 20% more pages in each issue. Four times a year, The Nation will publish special 64-page double issues for deeper reporting, long-form analysis and investigations. The updated design is live today online, featuring a clean, more modern look. The classic Nation logo is now layered with a red square. In-house creative director Robert Best oversaw the redesign. A digital overhaul is planned for 2021.“Why change the way the magazine looks? Because our relationship to our readers and to the world we cover has changed,” writes D.D. Guttenplan in his editor’s letter. “From 1865 until some point in the last decade, The Nation functioned partly as a weekly news magazine — and looked it"...Now, with The Nation publishing news and articles every day online, it needed a face-lift. “When we asked print readers what they wanted more of, their answers were clear: more investigative journalism, more political news unavailable elsewhere, and more analysis from The Nation’s distinctive progressive perspective,” Guttenplan wrote"...

Wired Senior Editor Claims Strike Underway
iTWire: "Journalists at... Wired have walked off the job to protest against the delay by its owner, publishing giant Condé Nast, in allowing staff to form a union. Senior editor Anthony Lydgate said in a tweet thread that he was joining his colleagues from Tuesday onwards, pointing out that the company had been notified five months ago about the plans to form a union with the NewsGuild of New York. "... in those five months we’ve continued to do the quality work Wired is known for. We’ve put out four issues of the magazine. We’ve published ~1,800 articles online"... iTWire has contacted Condé Nast for its take on the issue.

Playboy in Talks With Chinese Investor
NY Post: "Playboy Enterprises is in exclusive talks with Mountain Crest Acquisition Corp. a blank check company headed by Chinese national Suying Liu, that would enable the once-iconic brand to return as a publicly traded company. A key ambition of the firm, which in March dropped the print version of the magazine founded by the late Hugh Hefner, would be to expand into sexual wellness products, including those that treat erectile dysfunction. The company also hopes its media holdings will help it branch into other areas, including liquor and cannabis, and has already begun marketing a CBD product. Playboy still offers articles aimed at the male lifestyle market on its web site,, which is now a safe for work site. But it offers a premium site behind a paywall for racier pictorials featuring full nudity. Mountain Crest, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, raised $50M in June, selling 5M shares at $10 each. It has a year to find a suitable target which would trade on the open market. Its stock price jumped to $10.75 on Sept. 18 and has been trading in the $10.35 range on Sept. 21"...


Retail News

Grocery Sales Dip As Restaurant Sales Rise
Grocery Dive: "The U.S. restaurant industry saw its fourth straight month of sales acceleration in August, with sales up 3.7%, as major grocery chains saw their sales drop 7% from July, according to new data from M Science, a data analytics firm. The grocery brands that saw the greatest sales deceleration in August relative to the industry average were Smart & Final, Stop & Shop and Food Lion. Also witnessing decelerating sales were Fairway Market, ACME, Randalls, Food 4 Less, Fry’s, Ralphs, Roundy’s and online delivery service Instacart. Lidl and Wegmans both saw sales growth accelerate in August. The online segment of the grocery industry saw a particular month-on-month deceleration in its August sales, while the natural and organic subsector saw relative sales growth, according to M Science. While year-over-year dollar growth in the grocery industry continues to trend above historical growth rates, last month witnessed a decline in basket growth for groceries, while the restaurant industry saw a sales acceleration from July. These trends, though only a small snapshot on a longer trajectory of largely positive performance for the grocery industry, indicate that Americans are starting to spend more of their income allocated for meals in restaurants rather than at grocery stores, at least in comparison to earlier in the summer"...

Partial Stimulus Deal Stresses Food for Children, Includes SNAP
Washington Post: "The House overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill late Tuesday to keep the government funded through early December and avoid a shutdown just before the November election. The 359-to-57 vote sends the legislation to the Senate, which could take it up later this week and send it to President Trump. Congress needs to pass a spending bill by Sept. 30... or large portions of the government would begin to shut down. White House officials say they don’t want a shutdown, and Trump is expected to sign the bill, though he’s wavered at the last minute in such scenarios in the past. The deal was negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin... The sticking point was demands from the Trump administration and Republicans — along with a handful of largely farm-state House Democrats — for an infusion of money into a farm bailout program that Trump has used to repay farmers hurt by his trade policies. In exchange for agreeing to the bailout money, Pelosi secured about $8B for nutrition programs, including for schoolchildren affected by the coronavirus pandemic — a significantly larger sum than had been on the table Friday... NY Post: "Pelosi said the deal includes a continued boost in food stamp spending amid an increase in unemployment linked to the coronavirus. “To help the millions of families struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic, Democrats have renewed the vital, expiring lifeline of Pandemic EBT [electronic benefit transfer] for a full year and enabled our fellow Americans in the territories to receive this critical nutrition assistance,” Pelosi said. “Democrats secured urgently needed assistance for schoolchildren to receive meals despite the coronavirus’s disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expanded Pandemic EBT access for young children in child care. We also extended key flexibility for states to lower administrative requirements on SNAP [food stamps] for families in the middle of this crisis.”

Walmart Hiring 20K Fulfillment Workers for Holidays
Arkansas Online: "Walmart Inc. plans to hire 20,000 workers to staff its U.S. e-commerce fulfillment centers during the Christmas shopping season. The retailer said in a release Tuesday that it made the decision after noting the increase in online shopping over the past six months. Walmart said it expects the trend to continue as people shop for Christmas gifts... A variety of positions are available, the company said, such as order fillers and power equipment operators. Starting hourly pay ranges from $15.75 to $23.75 based on location, position and schedule. Walmart has filled more than 500,000 new jobs in stores and its supply chain since March to help keep essential items available to shoppers during the pandemic. Employment will begin immediately upon hiring and continue through Jan. 1. However, Walmart said many seasonal workers will have a chance to convert to regular employment...

Giant Eagle Adds Frictionless Pickup Technology
PG: "Giant Eagle has partnered with FlyBuy Pickup by Radius Networks to launch a new and improved contactless curbside pickup experience for all stores where Giant Eagle Curbside Pickup is available. The proprietary location technology optimizes the experience by letting supermarkets, as well as restaurants and other retailers, know exactly when a shopper is going to arrive. Giant Eagle has made a number of innovative changes during COVID-19, with three physical locations' transition to curbside pickup centers dedicated to servicing online orders"...

Southeastern Grocers Expands On-Demand Delivery Via Uber
SN: "Southeastern Grocers has teamed up with Uber to offer online grocery delivery service in Florida through its Cornershop-powered e-grocery marketplace. Starting today, customers of Southeastern Grocers’ Winn-Dixie and Fresco y Más supermarkets can order groceries via the Uber Eats and Uber mobile apps and online and have them delivered to their doors on demand or through scheduled delivery. The companies said that, so far, the service is available through the two chains’ stores in the Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville markets"...


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