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October 18, 2021

October 18, 2021

Publishing News

Publishers to Discuss Newsstand's Status During Virtual Conference
MBR's Virtual Conference is underway, running through Oct. 28. Registration still open. Wed., Oct. 20 features a publisher panel on the status of the newsstand and ways to increase its relevance with executives from Bauer, Centennial, Garden & Gun, PWX, Trusted Media Brands, moderated by Rich Jacobsen (2-3 pm), followed by an update on ecommerce and the opportunities and challenges for the magazine category from Syndigo (3:30-4:30 pm). Thurs., Oct. 21 features IAG Group presenting on the Canadian marketplace (1-2 pm), followed by a retailer spotlight with Presse Commerce (2-3 pm). Tues., Oct. 26 features presentations on U.K. newsstand trends that may be heading for the U.S. (12-1 pm), followed by an LSC presentation on logistics in a pandemic world (1-2 pm). Wed. Oct. 27 is reserved for one-on-one meetings between publishers, distributors and retailers. Thurs., Oct. 28 features a roundtable discussion on what the industry has learned so far from the pandemic (11 am-12 pm), followed by breakout discussion sessions. Contact Jose Cancio at for the full agenda and to register. For MBR members, the fee for all sessions is $125; for non-members, $250.

Latest Plan for Reviving Rolling Stone: Journalism With Teeth
In the Washington Post, media columnist Margaret Sullivan notes that Rolling Stone last week exposed Eric Clapton as the financial backer of an anti-vax band, a sign of its latest effort to reinvent itself. "Financially troubled for years, and plagued by a major journalism scandal after its flawed University of Virginia rape-case reporting a few years ago, it’s been crawling out of that hole for a while. The print magazine now publishes monthly instead of every other week but is profitable by itself, with a circulation of about 500,000; Rolling Stone as a whole — now owned by Penske Media, which also owns Variety, Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter — started turning a profit in 2019. It reaches about 60M people a month on various digital platforms, the company says. The next challenge, said president and CEO Gus Wenner... the other day, is “journalism with teeth” and “a real place in the zeitgeist... Our North Star is reestablishing Rolling Stone as the bible for young people. That’s not true now, but we’re on the road.” A milestone came this summer when Wenner, the 30-year-old son of magazine co-founder Jann Wenner, hired a new editor, Noah Shachtman, who had previously been the top editor at the Daily Beast. Shachtman has a plan. “We are 100% going to shine a light on bad actors,” he told me... In doing so, he wants Rolling Stone to stand apart from much of entertainment journalism, which “tends to be either fawning and borderline embarrassing, or pure gossip"... But it’s not just tougher stories that Shachtman wants. It’s a “more immediate, more visceral” presentation, the kind of approach that the Internet demands... When Lindsey Buckingham was out promoting his new memoir, Rolling Stone’s interview was more provocative than most — and Shachtman’s team sold it hard on Twitter: “Lindsey Buckingham compares Stevie Nicks to Trump and his former Fleetwood Mac bandmates to timid Republicans.” Success: Matt Drudge picked it up on his heavily trafficked website, and the piece found hundreds of thousands of readers. Magazines haven’t always been so forthright in flagging the best parts of a story... But...for online readers, if the good stuff isn’t in a headline and part of an intense social media push, they might never see it. More significantly, Rolling Stone wrote a critical piece about country singer Morgan Wallen, reminiscent of Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s Pulitzer-winning investigations of Donald Trump’s claims of his munificent charitable donations... The magazine also has been working hard to appeal to a younger audience while retaining its loyal readers. It’s rolling out four related cover stories in which new artists are paired with more established ones, such as Olivia Rodrigo with Alanis Morissette, and Kehlani with Alicia Keys. Shachtman wants to expand the boundaries beyond traditional rock and pop; he’d love to be covering the best rap artists from Africa, for example"....
Washington Post (paywall)

Graydon Carter on the Future of Magazines
W Magazine: Asked about the future of magazines, Graydon Carter, the longtime Vanity Fair editor-in-chief who now publishes the Air Mail newsletter, says: "I don’t think magazines are going to go the way of VHS tapes. I think they may go the way of vinyl, in the sense that young people love magazines. They’re beautiful artifacts, and if they’re really put together well, with high production values, people love having them, reading them, looking through them, and keeping them."Carter also reveals that his longest-lived hobby is canoeing.

Rakuten TV Adds Conde Channels
Streaming video-on-demand service Rakuten, which operates in a dozen European countries, announced the addition of four Condé Nast channels to its free programming. Iconic brands Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair and Wired are now available on the platform, bringing the latest in fashion, culture and entertainment to enjoy for free in 42 European countries.Condé Nast’s content offering also includes Bon Appétit, available now in the UK, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, alongside an extensive culinary line-up. The channel presents a unique content concept where food and culture meet, covering food through the lens of cooking, fashion, travel, technology, design and home.

S&S to Publish Book on Conde Nast by NYT Writer
NY Post: "The New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum has sold a book on the history of Condé Nast to Simon & Schuster, Page Six has exclusively learned. The tome will be called “Empire of the Elite.”It was sold by Aevitas Creative Management’s David Kuhn. Kuhn and Simon & Schuster had no comment on the sale and it’s unclear when the book on the storied media giant will hit shelves. Grynbaum is a media, TV and politics writer known for reporting in 2007 that Michael Bloomberg was driven in a chauffeured SUV 22 blocks to the subway to ride public transit to work as mayor, among other stories. He has also covered Condé Nast, Hearst and other publishing companies. The tome would come at a time of continued, sweeping changes at Condé Nast — where Vogue veteran Anna Wintour was last year named chief content officer for the publishing behemoth. The media landscape is rife with former Condé Nast staffers as some former fixtures — from Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter to Glamour’s Cindi Leive — have left the fold in recent years, leaving a potential pool of sources to dish. It remains to be seen who will talk for the upcoming book"...


Retail News

Grocery Sales Up 7.5% in September
SN: "Lifted in part by inflation, grocery sales grew 7.5% year over year in September amid a double-digit gain in overall U.S. retail sales, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. In advance estimates released Friday, September U.S. retail and foodservice sales totaled $625.4B (seasonally adjusted), up 0.7% from August and 13.9% from September 2020. Retail trade sales — excluding motor vehicles and parts stores, gas and repair stations — grew 0.8% sequentially to $553B in September and rose 12.2% YoY. Grocery stores saw an 0.7% month-to-month sales increase to $67 billion (adjusted) in September 2021, the Census Bureau said. Sales at all food and beverage stores edged up 0.7% to nearly $76.78B, with the sector up 7% YoY. The September results marked lower sequential growth but a higher year-to-year gain versus August, when grocery store sales (adjusted) rose 2.3% from July (+2.2% for all food and beverage stores) but increased 6.6% from August 2020 (+6.3% for food and beverage stores). Year-to-date through September 2021, food and beverage store sales were up 2.8% to $661.74B (unadjusted), including a 2.1% uptick to $590.99B at grocery stores over the nine-month period. The National Retail Federation (NRF) said Friday that U.S. retail sales grew again in September despite industry and shopper concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant, supply chain disruptions and rising inflation. During the month, consumer spending shifted toward merchandise from services such as dining, entertainment and travel, NRF noted. “The reopening of the economy was interrupted by COVID-19, and consumer spending other than retail hit a speed bump toward the end of summer. Consumers remained active, but retail sales didn’t reflect as much of a shift away from goods to services as expected,” according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “That was a plus for retail because consumers still have a hyper-ability to spend, thanks to wage and job gains and the household savings built up during the pandemic. In addition, some back-to-school spending may have spilled over from August into September because of school districts that delayed opening until after Labor Day. Overall, the September report is very promising for a strong finish for the year""...

Walmart Launches Text-to-Shop Beta Test
SN: "Dominique Essig, vice president of conversational commerce for Walmart’s Store No8 incubation arm, said in a blog post Thursday that her unit and the retailer’s global technology team have launched a beta test of Walmart Text to Shop in selected markets. With the solution, customers can send Walmart text messages naming products to add to their shopping list or virtual cart on or in the Walmart mobile app. “We’re learning a lot about when and how customers prefer a conversational experience, and we look forward to making this more widely available in the future,” Essig said. Walmart Text to Shop builds on the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant’s multiyear efforts to enable voice commerce, including through partnerships with Google via the Google Assistant and Alexa virtual assistant and with Apple via its Siri virtual assistant"...

Congressional Committee Members Question Honesty of Amazon Testimony
WSJ: "Members of a congressional committee questioned whether Amazon . com Inc. executives misled them during an investigation of the company’s business practices and if they may have lied under oath. In a letter sent to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Sunday, five members of Congress asked the company to provide “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate the sworn testimony that several leaders, including then-CEO Jeff Bezos, provided to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in 2019 and 2020. The letter was signed by Reps. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), Ken Buck (R., Colo.), Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) and Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.). The subcommittee probed Amazon’s use of data from third-party sellers as it has developed private-label products"...
Wall St Journal (paywall)

Walmart+ Members to Get Early Deals Access
USA Today: "Walmart announced Monday that it is bringing back its monthlong “Black Friday Deals for Days” in November. Instead of one sale that has traditionally started on Thanksgiving, there will be three different events online and in stores like last year. Walmart stores also will be closed this Thanksgiving for the second time since the late 1980s because of the coronavirus pandemic. The three November sales will all start online first and continue in stores. The first sale starts online at 7 p.m. ET Nov. 3 and then in stores at 5 a.m. local time Nov. 5. But Walmart is offering paying members of its Walmart+ membership program program early access this year. Members can start shopping four hours ahead of the scheduled online start times. The program costs $98 a year or $12.95 a month and includes free delivery and shipping with no order minimum. Those on free trials of the membership program do not get early access... The second starts online Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET and then at 5 a.m. local time Nov. 12 in stores. Walmart didn’t provide dates for the third sale but said it “will wrap up a month of savings with a third event that will bring its biggest, best savings of the season for the most exciting shopping day of the year""...

Albertsons Sees Second-Quarter Rebound; Tech Is Forward Focus
SN: "Albertsons Cos. topped the high end of Wall Street’s earnings forecast for its fiscal 2021 second quarter as net and identical sales surpassed last year’s pandemic-driven gains. For the 12-week quarter ended Sept. 11, net sales and other revenue rose 4.7% to nearly $16.51B, from $15.76B in the comparable period a year earlier, Albertsons reported Monday. The Boise, Idaho-based grocer said the increase reflects a 1.5% uptick in identical sales and higher fuel sales. The net and identical sales gains came atop growth of 11.2% and 13.8%, respectively, in the fiscal 2020 second quarter and marked a rebound from decreases of 6.5% in net sales and 10% in identical sales in the 2021 first quarter"... Grocery Dive: "Albertsons will be stepping up investments in technology across its operations during the coming months in an effort to improve efficiency and boost its results going forward, executives of the supermarket chain said during its earnings call on Monday morning... Albertsons will be heavily focusing on upgrading outdated systems as it looks to capitalize on the strong sales momentum it has seen during 2021, Sharon McCollam, the company's newly appointed president and chief financial officer, said during the call"...


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