Mediatel: The Media Leader: 100% Media Roundup: 21 March-25 March


This is a daily digest of news stories from around the media world, updated by The Media Leader team, to ensure you’re 100% up-to-date.Friday 25 March

News Group Newspapers records £51m pretax loss

News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun and The Times, recorded a pretax  loss of £51.1m last year, its latest accounts have revealed.

The News UK division recorded a revenue of £318.6m (down 2% year on year), with Covid-19 cited as a major reason for a “challenging environment” due to falling Monday-Friday print sales and the temporary closure of non-essential retailers during lockdown.

After tax, NGN’s loss was £51.8m.

The business also spent £49m (down from £164.1m in 2020) on legal fees and damages relating to historical phone-hacking allegations in 12 months to 27 June 2021.

Russia blocks Google News

Russia blocked Google News yesterday following an announcement from Google that it would move to ban content that “exploits, dismisses, or condones” the invasion of Ukraine.

The new policy bars any website, app, or YouTube channel – even potentially those in the west supporting Russian aggression without clear ties to Russia – that speaks in favour of the invasion from receiving advertising revenue through its services.

In the hours following, Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, announced a retaliatory ban, blocking Google News from internet users in Russia.

Google previously suspended advertising in Russia on 3 March after Roskomnadzor accused Google-owned YouTube of running advertising campaigns with what it called false political information about Ukraine.

Metaverse Fashion Week kicks off

Paris, Milano, New York, London, and… Decentraland?

High fashion has gone virtual this week as the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week kicked off yesterday, running from 24-27 March.

The event is being hosted across several virtual neighbourhoods in Decentraland’s new Fashion District, filled with catwalks, panels, galleries, and more.

Over 60 designers have agreed to show off their virtual stylings, including Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabbana.

Decentraland is a web browser-based platform which uses the Ethereum blockchain. It was opened to the public in February 2020 and is overseen by the nonprofit Decentraland Foundation

Netflix swoops for third video game studio

Netflix has acquired its third video game studio, Boss Fight Entertainment, as the streaming giant continues its expansion into gaming.

Boss Fight Entertainment, which employs 130 people, has previously released two mobile games, Dungeon Boss (2015), a collectible-based RPG, and myVEGAS Bingo (2021), a social casino.

Netflix bought Oxenfree developer Night School Studio in September and mobile developer Next Games earlier this month.

Thursday 24 March

Dorries calls Channel 5 the ‘levelling up broadcaster’

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries praised Channel 5 during DCMS questions in Parliament today.

Drawing on Ofcom figures from November’s House of Lords Future of Channel 4 report, Dorries said: “A fifth of all Channel 5’s commissioning spending goes to those smaller companies, which is a larger spend than BBC, C4 and ITV.”

“It’s the levelling up broadcaster – those statistics alone bear that out.”

BBC receives additional funding to counter Russian disinformation

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the government will provide an additional £4.1m in funding for the BBC World Service to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine.

Disney sells out Oscars ad inventory despite ratings woes

Disney sold all 60 of its commercial slots around the upcoming Oscars broadcast, according to a report by Variety.

Ratings of the Oscars have dipped dramatically in recent years – last year’s broadcast on ABC garnered an average of 10.4 million viewers, the smallest audience on record and a 56% drop from 23.6 million the year prior.

Ad support has begun dipping in response, from $129.2m in revenue in 2020 to $115.3m in 2021 (a 10.7% drop), though advertisers still remain interested in the event.

The Oscars will be broadcast 27 March, hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes.

Andrew Neil to launch his first podcast with Tortoise Media

Andrew Neil is joining Tortoise Media to produce a new 12-part series called The Backstory.

Neil, the former Sunday Times editor and veteran broadcast interviewer, will speak to leading figures from politics, business, entertainment and academia.

“This new series is about giving people the time and space to explain their ideas, decisions and beliefs,” Neil said. Through conversations with people from all sorts of backgrounds we’ll hopefully come to a better understanding of what’s happening in the UK and around the world. It’s going to be fascinating and I can’t wait to get started.”

Neil famously left as chairman of start-up channel GBNews in September, just three months after appearing as its figurehead in June ahead of a launch plagued with production problems.

HBO Max adds shuffle button

HBO Max is adding a shuffle button almost a year after a similar feature was added to Netflix.

Unlike Netflix’s Play Something feature, which is only available when watching on TV, phone, or tablet, HBO Max’s shuffle button is available globally on desktop.

HBO Max’s feature is also limited to choosing from episodes of only 45 shows, rather than everything offered on the platform.

Shows in the shuffle include some of the service’s most popular selections such as Friends, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Rick & Morty, and Sesame Street.

HBO shows are shown exclusively on Sky in the UK until 2025.

Netflix promos new Bridgerton series with live LA experience

The Queen’s Ball, a new in-person Bridgerton experience opens today in Los Angeles.

The 90-minute experience allows US fans to partake in a Regency-era debutante ball as part of Netflix’s marketing campaign for the popular show, which premieres its second series tomorrow.

The Queen’s Ball is also set to open in Washington DC on 30 March, Chicago in April, and Montreal at an unannounced date in the near future.

A similar experience in London debuted in February in Wembley and was extended through April due to high demand.

Wednesday 23 March

The Guardian reports 19.7m monthly audience

Today’s PAMCo data show that 19.7 million adults access The Guardian on average per month across digital and print, the newsbrand announced today.

The Guardian said this makes its title the most-read quality newsbrand with a “half million lead” over the nearest quality competitor The Independent (which is online only).

For almost two years, The Media Leader (previously Mediatel News) has been unable to comprehensively report news brand’s digital and print audience after ABC members were allowed to opt out of making the data public. 

Aside from individual newsbrands like The Guardian choosing to share their numbers with us, PAMCo provides macro numbers as the table below shows (click to enlarge in a separate window):

NOW READ: Today’s comment by Newsworks’ Denise Turner which puts the topline PAMCo numbers into context: “Turning to trusted sources in troubling times”

Zenith hires Coulson as group strategy director

Publicis Groupe media agency Zenith has hired a new group strategy director, Tom Coulson, reporting to chief strategy officer Richard Kirk.

He has joined Zenith from Omnicom’s Hearts & Science, where he most recently held the role of client partner.

At Zenith Coulson is tasked with leading media strategy on Aviva, Molson Coors, and Edrington Beam Suntory.

Instagram allows all US users to tag products

Instagram is expanding its product tagging feature to every US user over the next few months.

Previously only users with business accounts could tag products.

Business owners will be notified when someone tags their product(s) and can manage who is allowed to do so in their preferences.

The move comes as Instagram continues to expand its ecommerce platform following the 2020 redesign of its Shop tab.

BBC files UN complaint about online violence to women journalists in Iran

The BBC World Service filed a new urgent appeal to the UN against Iran over online violence faced by its women journalists at BBC News Persian.

Women journalists in Iran have faced consistent harassment online, the complaint charges, including threats of rape and death directly at them and their families, gendered and defamatory attacks on their credibility and personal lives, and hacking and phishing of personal information that can be used for interrogation of family members.

The appeal calls on Iran to act by investigating and prosecuting offenders of online violence.

Justin and Ben Smith name their media start-up Semafor

Justin and Ben Smith have chosen a name for their media start-up, according to a report by Axios.

“Semafor”, spelled “semaphore” in English, literally means “apparatus for signalling”, from the Greek sema (sign) and phoros (bearer).

The word is used in reference to beacon systems, such as smoke signals, lighthouses, flags, traffic lights, and railway signals.

Apart from its connection to communications, the name was chosen as it sounds roughly the same across dozens of languages, representing the global ambitions its founders have for the company.

Though they share surnames, the duo is unrelated – Justin Smith served as CEO of Bloomberg Media Group from 2013-2022, and Ben Smith served as founding editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News before joining The New York Times as a columnist in 2020.

Last week the Smiths named Gina Chua, previously a top editor at Reuters, as the founding executive editor.

WOO to reveal new audience measurement guidelines 

The World Out of Home Organisation has announced is set to reveal new global guidelines for audience measurement at its 2022 Global Congress in Toronto in May.

The new guidelines are the result of an extensive research exercise among 11 audience measurement bodies, working with international media owners and media buyers.

The guidelines will be presented by researchers Gideon Adey of GUROOH and Neil Eddleston of Runor Data Consulting, working under WOO auspices.

MediaCom UK appoints new head of consumer apps

WPP’s MediaCom UK has appointed Dave Wallace as head of consumer apps, a new role in which he is tasked to help clients better understand how applications fit within their digital strategy.

Wallace has over 25 years of experience in technology and media, having founded digital marketing agency Mirum (now Wunderman Thompson) and HeathWallace in 2001, which worked to develop online customer experiences for brands.   

He will work alongside the Technology, Ecommerce, Social and Google Practice and report to directly to chief digital officer Richard Davies.

Tuesday 22 March

Australian indie publishers launch ‘news freeze’ protest

Independent news outlets in Australia have initiated a “news freeze” today by refusing to publish any news stories during the 24-hour period in protest of big tech failing to adequately pay smaller publications for their content.

The Australian Government introduced the News Media Bargaining Code in March 2021 to address the power imbalance between big tech and indies, but the campaign argues that not enough has been done to make big tech “pay for the independent journalism that they have benefited from”.


Titled #WaitingOnZuck, the campaign’s website asks visitors to download an action kit, email Treasurer of Australia Josh Frydenberg, and to try to get in touch with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg by “email, tweet, direct message, or maybe meet Zuck in the Metaverse”.

WhatsApp is beta testing message reactions on Android

WhatsApp is rolling out emoji message reactions on Android to beta testers, according to a report by WABetaInfo.

The Meta-owned encrypted messaging service boasts over 2 billion active users, who may soon be able to react with hearts, thumbs-ups, and more to messages ala Facebook Messenger and iMessage.

Sky offers 3 months of free Apple TV+

Sky is offering three months of free access to Apple TV+ to its Sky Q and Sky Glass customers, according to a report by Advanced Television.

After the free quarter, Apple TV+ will cost an additional £4.99 per month.

The offer is open until 13 May and is not eligible for existing Apple TV+ subscribers.

BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine podcast reaches 1m downloads 

BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine‘s podcast has been downloaded more than more than 1 million times in just over a year from launch.  

Produced by the editorial team at Immediate Media behind BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and, the weekly podcast launched in November 2020, and has about 40% of listeners overseas. 

Havas Media Group promotes Buckley to chief client officer

Havas Media Group has promoted Ailsa Buckley to the position of chief client officer after three years as deputy MD.

In her new role, Buckley will drive the “client experience” agenda and will be responsible for introducing a new and continuous programme of client leadership training and thought leadership, designed to provoke new modes of thinking amongst the agency group’s teams and clients.

Buckley will continue to report to Stephanie Marks, MD of Havas Media, and will manage a team of seven client leads.

Monday 21 March

TripleLift acquires 1plusX

Ad-tech company TripleLift announced the acquisition of 1plusX, a first-party data activation platform that focuses on privacy-centric solutions to digital advertising.

TripleLift’s scaled media marketplace will seek to benefit from 1plusX’s privacy-friendly solutions, and the acquisition will also allow both companies to speed their current roadmaps and bring new products to market.

ITV’s Better Health campaigns inspire 5.1 million

A new report from ITV announces the network’s progress on several of its social impact goals.

ITV research undertaken by YouGov shows that 5.1 million people have taken at least one action to support their health as a result of ITV’s Better Health campaigns.

Meanwhile, through Britain Get Talking, over 100 million new or more meaningful conversations have occurred since launch.

Regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, ITV noted an increase in representation of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic staff at all levels and aims to hit targets for gender, ethnicity, disability, and LBGTQ+ representation.

ITV also announced it has reduced carbon emissions in its control by 44% and the emissions it influences by 6%.

Telegram’s ban in Brazil lifted

Telegram’s short-lived ban in Brazil has been lifted after the encrypted instant messaging service made several changes to prevent the spread of misinformation, including promising to label posts with false information and promoting posts with factual information.

The Brazilian Supreme Court announced on Friday that the app had been suspended in the country due to not removing accounts spreading disinformation on its platform and for refusing to comply with Brazilian law.

The app is a favourite of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has 1.1 million followers.

Media industry’s musicians launch concert for Ukraine

Some of the UK media industry’s musical talent is playing a charity gig in London next moth to raise money for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Cover band The Breaks have announced the charity gig for 13 April and hopes to raise £10,000 in ticket sales and donations.  The band, which features Pintarget MD Charlie Makin and former Active International MD Mark Chippendale, will be supported by supporting acts including media auditor and DJ Kevin Waller.

The Breaks hope to raise £10,000 in ticket sales and donations.

Charlie Makin is managing director, Pintarget, part of What’s Possible Group. He was a co-founder and chief strategy officer of BLM (Booth Lockett Makin), which sold to Havas and became Arena Media

Nielsen Board rejects acquisition offer

Nielsen has rejected a $15bn bid offer from a consortium of investors including Elliott Management Corp and Brookfield Asset Management, stating that the offer “significantly undervalues” the market measurement giant.

Rumours of the acquisition, which were originally reported by The Wall Street Journal had sent Nielsen’s stock soaring nearly 40% over the past week.

McDonald’s brings back Szechaun sauce for app users

Fast food giant McDonald’s is bringing back their popular Szechaun sauce in a limited run beginning on 31 March.

The sauce will only be available to customers that order through the McDonald’s app, as it looks to get more individuals using the service.

The sauce originally debuted in 1998 to coincide with the release of Disney’s Mulan before seeing a fan revival in 2017 thanks to its featuring on the Adult Swim comedy Rick and Morty.

David Beckham lends Instagram account to Ukrainian doctor

Football star David Beckham has lent his Instagram account to a Ukranian doctor in an attempt to spread awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

On the account’s stories, “Iryna”, who is a maternity doctor in Kharkiv, led viewers through the hospital, showing how everyday doctors and nurses work in times of war, especially those caring after pregnant women and newborns.

In Beckham’s announcement video, he pleaded with his viewers to support frontline heath workers in Ukraine by donating to UNICEF.

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