MBR Conference: Common Sense Lessons for Today's Print Media
Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, refuted myths about print magazines and offered winning strategies for print in the age of integrated multichannel media.
Meredith on Track to Close Sale of Time Titles by Fall
WWD: "Meredith Corp. is looking to close the sale of the Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money titles by fall, WWD has learned. The Iowa-based media company held presentations for interested buyers between late May and early June and is now in the process of providing follow-up information to those still interested, with a final round of bids coming in by the end of this month. As for who exactly is interested in the magazines, that’s still unclear, but it looks like all of the titles won’t be going individually, as the company is said to be zeroing in on the highest one or two bids and moving forward with a buyer, or buyers, by early July. It’s only expected to take two or three months for any deal to close, which would put the closing around the end of Meredith’s first fiscal quarter. WWD has also learned that another round of layoffs is expected sometime between Meredith accepting a bid and the sale closing. Shortly after the company revealed plans to sell Time, sans its photo archive, along with Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money, an internal reorganization started that is set to cut about 1,200 staff over the rest of the year. Hundreds have already been laid off. Meredith’s stock has been trending down since it acquired Time Inc. at the start of the year, but will surely tick back up once a sale is formalized..."
Amy Conway Named Chief Editor of Health
Meredith Corp. has named Amy Conway editor-in-chief of Health. She had been EIC of Martha Stewart Weddings since January 2016 Her previous roles included editor at large and executive editor of Martha Stewart Living; editor of the cookbooks "Martha Stewart's Cookies" and "Martha Stewart's Cooking School"; and executive editor of Everyday Food. Conway succeeds Lori Leibovich, who worked across several Meredith brands, including Health and Real Simple, and is pursuing a return to digital media.
High Times Launches IPO To Expand Video, Events Business
MediaPost: "High Times took its first major steps Tuesday to launch its IPO, with an 'equity crowdfunding campaign' that allows investors to buy shares of the company at a discounted rate before it lists on the Nasdaq. The 40-year-old company distinguishes itself as a business focused on media and events tied to legal cannabis culture. It does not distribute cannabis or cannabis-infused products. Under the SEC’s Regulation A+, High Times's shares are set at a value of $11, a 10% discount from the anticipated opening price on the Nasdaq. 'Given the fan base that we've created, it's important that we allow our loyal brand followers the opportunity to become equity owners of the company...[and] not just those with big brokerage accounts,' said Adam Levin, CEO, High Times... The campaign gives investors an early opportunity to participate in what will be one of the first cannabis-related stocks on the Nasdaq, and allows dedicated readers to own common stock in High Times's business. The response so far has been 'great,' Levin said, with checks coming in for amounts ranging from $11 to $100,000, mostly from individuals. Investors can also buy stock using their credit cards. (Shares are available for purchase at hightimes.com/invest.) The company will see how much money is raised over the next four to six weeks, then list on Nasdaq, Levin said. High Times plans to use the capital from the IPO to expand its publishing, events and licensing businesses, as well as invest in video and audio content and add product lines and brands. Most of its revenue comes from events, such as its popular Cannabis Cup, one of the world’s biggest marijuana-focused trade shows. There will now be an “Investor’s Village” at the Cup, Levin said. High Times closed two acquisitions this year. It bought Green Rush Daily in April, and another acquisition will be announced 'in the next few days,' Levin reports. The Reg. A+ filing has a $50M cap. High Times will also meet with investors throughout the month. Levin said he's curious to see how High Times's engagement rates may be affected by consumers who are also shareholders... High Times has expanded its business since Hightimes Holding Co. took controlling interest in the portfolio of brands in April 2017. The new ownership also expanded monthly digital impressions by 425%. Its total brand portfolio reaches over 275M monthly digital impressions, as well as 10M monthly uniques. High Times's ad sales process previously 'lacked structure' and relied primarily on endemic ads, says Levin. But it now reaching out to non-endemic advertisers. Chrysler recently took out ads on High Times--a sign that clients are recognizing the publication as a 'brand-safe environment,' says Levin.
MBR Elects Jim Miller to Board; Drew Wintemberg as Chairman
The membership of Magazines & Books at Retail (MBR) has elected Jim Miller, VP/retail sales, Hearst Magazines, to the organization's board of directors. Drew Wintemberg, president and CEO of Time Inc. Retail/Meredith, has been elected chairman of the board.
Spire, Condé Nast’s Two-Year-Old CDP, Is Ready for Its Close-Up
Folio: "In 2015, when data and analytics expert Karthic Bala first sat down with Condé Nast executives to discuss his approach to 'models,' the two parties clearly came to the table with different definitions of the word; Condé’s was more aligned with Gigi Hadid than with statistics and regression analysis. 'I realized we were totally not connecting,' Bala tells Folio:. Three years later, Bala has been promoted to become Condé’s first chief data officer—a testament not only to the new role the 109-year-old publisher sees for data, but to just how important Bala’s Spire project has become to the company’s future. In common digital parlance, Spire is a CDP—a customer data platform—that tries to build a unified profile of all of a customer’s activities, intent signals, and interactions across channels. For Condé Nast, however, it represents a radical departure from its traditional portfolio of siloed magazine titles with their own personalities, audiences, and data. The Spire project seeks to focus on real-time optimization of user experiences across, in and out of the various Condé Nast properties. This is a far cry from traditional segmentation of audiences around specific magazine brands or big categories against which brands launch major campaigns and just 'hope for the best,' says Bala. Rather, it is a more people-based approach that builds highly detailed profiles of users online and mobile behaviors as well as their transactional behaviors. Every Condé Nast visitor gets a unique “Infinity ID” upon entering one of its sites. To build up that profile, a number of additional data points are added. Spire works with partners like 1010data (acquired by Condé parent Advance Publications in 2015) to aggregate segments of credit card data, Jumpshot to track e-commerce activity, Condé Nast’s own acquisition, CitizenNet, to target people across social media, and TapAd and Drawbridge to knit desktop and mobile identities together.Most important, though, may be “Sparrow”—Bala’s analytics suite that understands, in granular detail, what these ID’ed users are doing on Condé Nast’s sites. 'There are microtrends within a piece of content, like hovering over an image, or scrolling half a page,' Bala continues. Spire can see, for instance, how certain content types actually impact transactions among specific demographics within a certain level of income, or by gender. Using the platform, Bala can see how a certain combination of people viewing spa-related content correlates with buying a specific beauty product. Similarly, Bala recounts, his team found a segment of women with a white-collar background from the middle of the country buying certain kinds of more expensive bottled water at a much higher rate than other segments.Bala’s team is even using advanced computer vision technology to analyze the content of items like runway videos that users are consuming with an eye towards selling them other similar items. 'We can look at dresses on that video and categorize them. We can break it down into sub-parts into a database. Then we can match that up to people who are consuming content around that kind of dress and suggest more content or directly trigger an e-commerce opportunity.' The technology is being applied as well to database food elements within videos produced by Bon Appétit and Epicurious, the two largest brands in Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group. Ultimately, the capability will help Condé Nast better match ads against content and understand what content and ads are resonating best with users.In serving advertisers, Spire also aims for higher levels of transparency. Each client on the agency or brand side receives access to a dashboard on their campaign. In it, they can see what content the targets are consuming: their location, gender, age, how the campaign is being optimized—all in near-real-time (next day). There is even a predictive component that uses AI/machine learning against transactional data to suggest how the campaign may impact actual sales.While the magazines brands remain important to Spire, Bala believes this people-based and data-driven approach opens up unforeseen affinities for audiences. A major tech brand wanted to advertise computers, for instance, and the natural thing would have been to place ads on Wired and Ars Technica properties.But the data showed Condé Nast actually could find some of the most interested in-market consumers in Bon Appétit or Epicurious—foodies who also happen to be interested in creativity and music. This enabled 23 Stories, Condé’s in-house branded content studio, to craft campaigns around creativity rather than tech. The end result was a 30% increase in sales, according to the company.Following the data also allowed Condé Nast to explore new content categories and expand their notion of being contextually relevant. 'It isn’t about just endemic,' says Bala. Using the audience lens recognizes that your readers 'aren’t looking for one thing.' GQ, Vogue, and Bon Appétit readers are also curious about health content if it can be addressed creatively and within the context of their favorite fashion or food brandsAn entire Condé Nast Health division has been launched as a result, but the data team brings these areas of opportunity directly to all of the magazine brands to leverage on their own. Publishers now have their own dashboard, so they can better see how people are behaving on site and what they are looking for. Editors have the opportunity to build content to satisfy audience desire and perhaps even monetize it more effectively. 'That is what data can do for you,' says Bala. 'It can tell you what you need to do.'"
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Market Force: Wegmans Still Best-Loved U.S. Supermarket
PG: "Rochester, NY-based Wegmans Food Markets has once more been crowned America’s favorite grocer in an annual consumer study of 12,800-plus shoppers conducted by Market Force Information. Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, which tied with Wegmans for the #1 spot last year, was a close second, followed by Trader Joe’s, Aldi and H-E-B. This is the third straight year that Wegmans has come in first in the study, having unseated longtime favorite Trader Joe’s back in 2016. This year, Wegmans garnered a 77% score on Market Force’s Composite Loyalty Index. Publix earned a score of 76%, while Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s was right behind with 75% percent. Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi moved up a notch from 2017 to capture fourth place with a score of 70%, and San Antonio-based H-E-B rounded out the top five by once more earning a 69% score. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market landed in the middle of the rankings, with 60%, but Safeway, a division of Albertsons Cos. and Walmart were at the bottom, at 42% and 34%, respectively. When it came to the six customer-experience attributes most important to consumers, Publix and Wegmans tied for two of them: store cleanliness and item availability. Wegmans once more ranked first for its specialty department service, while Publix led for ease of finding items. Trader Joe’s had the fastest checkouts and scored high for its friendly cashiers, beating second-place Publix in that category by almost 10 percentage points. Why do shoppers spend the majority of their grocery budget at a particular store? According to the study convenient location (62 percent) is the main driver, although good sales and promotions (60 percent), and value for money paid (55 percent) are almost as crucial to shoppers. Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion ranked first in convenience, while ShopRite, the main banner of Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer cooperative Wakefern Food Corp., did best in good sales and promotions. Aldi was lauded by its customers for delivering good value for money, in which category it came in first for the eighth year in a row, with Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco in second place and Boise, Idaho-based WinCo Foods third.
Shareholder Vote Set for Albertsons-Rite Aid Merger
SN: "Nearly six months after being announced, and more than four months after clearing a key regulatory hurdle, the proposed Albertsons-Rite Aid merger will come to a shareholder vote.Rite Aid said Thursday that it has scheduled an Aug. 9 special meeting of stockholders for a vote on the $24B deal, which the companies unveiled Feb. 20. If approved, the agreement would take privately held Albertsons Cos. public, and its shareholders would hold a majority stake in the combined company. The merger has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies, and the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) waiting period expired March 28. Pending approval of Rite Aid shareholders, regulatory clearance and other customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close early in the second half of 2018. In recent weeks, media reports have surfaced about opposition to the merger by some Rite Aid shareholders. They claim the proposed deal greatly undervalues Rite Aid--notably its health care assets, led by its EnvisionRx pharmacy benefit manager--and would meld the drug chain with a supermarket company at a time when the grocery industry is under attack from a slew of traditional and emerging competitors. Opposing shareholders also said Rite Aid stock has dropped 30% since the merger was announced, and they have objected to the Rite Aid board of directors’ approval of retention bonuses for top executives if the deal falls through. Rite Aid investor Chris Komatinsky, who with his family owns approximately 1.5M Rite Aid shares, has been rallying other company stockholders to vote against the deal. 'We've received a flood of additional individual shareholders with like views on the proposed merger in the past few days and have breached the 34M share count against the proposed merger,' Komatinsky said last week. 'We're still working to engage with large institutional shareholders for their support against the merger as well. We're real, we're rational, we've assembled a large block of shares and we're ready to have a discussion on maximizing Rite Aid shareholder value.' Under the merger pact, Rite Aid shareholders — in exchange for every 10 shares of Rite Aid common stock--can elect to receive one share of Albertsons Cos. common stock plus about $1.83 in cash or 1.079 shares of Albertsons Cos. stock. Depending on the results of cash elections, Rite Aid shareholders would own a 28% to 29.6% stake, and current Albertsons Cos. shareholders would own a 70.4% to 72% interest in the combined company on a fully diluted basis. Plans call for Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley to become chief executive of the merged company, with current Albertsons Chairman and CEO Bob Miller serving as chairman. The company would be managed by executives from both organizations and have dual headquarters in Boise, Idaho, and Camp Hill, Pa. The transaction would join the nation’s second-largest supermarket operator with its third-largest drug chain. Overall, the company would generate pro forma revenue of about $83B and operate roughly 4,900 stores, 4,350 pharmacies and 320 in-store health clinics across 38 states and Washington, D.C., serving more than 40M customers per week. If the deal is completed, most Albertsons Cos. pharmacies would be converted to the Rite Aid banner, the companies said"...
FMI: SCOTUS Online Sales Tax Ruling Levels Playing Field
PG: "The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) greeted with approbation the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a 1992 ruling that prevented states from collecting sales tax on remote transactions unless the taxed company has a physical presence in the state. In the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, the court voted 5-4 to overturn Quill Corp v. North Dakota, which was handed down when the internet was in its infancy and restricted states’ ability to create tax regimes reflecting the current state of commerce, costing them billions in annual sales tax revenue. 'Quill established two different sets of rules governing the collection of sales taxes that left traditional retailers badly disadvantaged against their online peers,' noted Andrew Harig, senior director, tax, trade and sustainability for FMI. "Today’s ruling sets the stage for states to begin leveling the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers by treating online transactions in the same way they treat in-person ones'... He added that the trade group would work with the states and Congress on establishing the terms under which states can collect the sales taxes."
Southeastern Grocers Launches SEG Media Hub
PG: "Southeastern Grocers (SEG), parent company of Bi-Lo, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie stores, has joined forces with Quotient Technology to introduce SEG Media Hub, a media platform designed to provide shoppers with more relevant digital ad messages and savings.Through the platform, a consumer packaged goods brand can target shoppers at SEG banners with digital advertising that ties back directly to sales... The new joint project builds on the current partnership between the companies. Already, SEG’s digital savings program is powered by the Quotient Retailer iQ platform, which links to point-of-sale systems and employs a combination of proprietary purchase data and online behavior data to deliver relevant e-coupons to shoppers at the right place and right time, mainly via their smartphones.Using the SEG Media Hub, brands can customize their ad campaigns to target the right shopper across all of the grocer’s digital properties, Quotient’s flagship consumer brand, Coupons.com and third-party properties across the web, among them major digital publishers and social media channels. This capability will enable CPGs to drive trials, boost repeat purchases, increase sales and gauge impact--what Quotient calls Retailer Performance Media"...
SpartanNash CFO: Decline of Independents 'Overblown'
SN: "While players have come and gone amid the disruption in the retail grocery sector, SpartanNash Co. Chief Financial Officer Mark Shamber sees independent supermarkets holding their own. 'I think the expected death of the independents has been way overblown,' Shamber said Thursday at the Jefferies Global Consumer Conference in Nantucket, Mass. Through its core food distribution business, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash serves about 2,100 independent retailers, primarily in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. The grocery wholesaler also supplies 142 corporate-owned supermarkets under multiple banners. 'When you look at our [independent grocery] customers from a geographical perspective, they're not necessarily competing in many of those markets with regional players or international players. They may be competing with a deep discounter like Aldi, they may be competing with Walmart or--certainly in the Midwest--with Meijer, who we compete with on a regular basis,' Shamber explained. 'But in many of those areas, they've been competing with those folks for years, and there's not enough demographic demand to allow for an entry of another competitor into the space.' In the question-and-answer session with Jefferies food retail and distribution analyst Chris Mandeville, Shamber dismissed a recent report projecting that 25% of retailers will close in the next five years. 'There may be some additional competitive openings, but I don't see a wholesale dynamic shift to where they're going to be forced out of the market,' he said. 'I don't see anywhere near that level for our customer base in the markets they serve.' Amid news headlines about regional retailer bankruptcies, independent grocers have demonstrated an ability to operate with financial flexibility in a changing business climate, according to Shamber. 'They operate within a very reasonable level of leverage because they're positioning themselves to be able to survive downturns or higher interest-rate environments that we're now seeing for the first time in a decade,' he said. And though competitive pressures or generational ownership turnover may lead some independents to exit the market, others are looking to branch out. “Within our customer base, we've got independents who are looking to grow and expand,” said Shamber, who joined SpartanNash last September. “And so, in many of those instances, they may acquire one of their competitors — who are also one of our customers in the market — and look to grow their base.' For its fiscal 2018 first quarter ended April 21, SpartanNash reported total sales of $2.39B, a YoY gain of 1.3%. Food distribution sales rose 3.7% to nearly $1.13B. Revenue for corporate-owned stores fell 5% to $566.2M, primarily due to the closure and sale of retail stores and to a 2.2% decrease in same-store sales (excluding fuel). During the quarter, SpartanNash closed three retail stores and ended the period with 142 owned retail stores, down 153 stores a year earlier. Its primary banners include Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market. Since the merger with Nash Finch in 2013, SpartanNash has continued to rationalize its base of retail stores, which totaled 177 at the deal’s completion"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: